Diastasis recti is a medical term for abdominal separation of the right and left rectus abdominis muscles. This happens when the linea alba, a type of the sheath-like connective tissue, becomes stretched. Diastasis commonly occurs during pregnancy in women, but also develops in both men and women with excess weight gain. Pregnant women are more likely to develop diastasis recti if they are over the age of 35, have a high birth weight baby, multiple-birth pregnancies, or repeat pregnancies.
Both men and women may develop diastasis recti if they carry excess weight and have weakened abdominal muscles, which often occurs with a sedentary lifestyle.
Abdominal diastasis has the appearance of a ridge or protrusion along the midline of the abdomen from the bottom of the sternum (breastbone) to the umbilicus (belly button). The bulge may become more prominent with straining and may disappear when the abdomen is relaxed. A physician may diagnose this problem by physical exam. Patients who have had abdominal surgery may need an ultrasound to rule out an incisional hernia that may also present with a midline abdominal protrusion.
What is the treatment for diastasis recti?
No treatment is needed for women who are still pregnant, and typically the separation of the abdominal muscles will decrease within the first 8 weeks after childbirth. Any separation after that point is most likely permanent, and the stretched and weakened abdominal muscles may cause lower back pain and difficulty in lifting heavy objects.
Weight loss may improve the appearance of the diastasis in patients who are overweight, and exercise may help strengthen the supporting abdominal muscles.
There is insufficient evidence showing that physiotherapy will reduce the size of the diastasis in postpartum women; however, exercises that improve abdominal strength may relieve lower back pain associated with weakened abdominal muscles. Consultation with a licensed physiotherapist (PT) is recommended for corrective exercise routines that focus on pulling in the abdominal muscles rather than pushing out to ensure that the diastasis does not increase in size.
Diastasis recti that persists after childbirth or weight loss is permanent and may be treated by an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck surgery). An abdominoplasty removes excess skin and fat and also tightens the abdominal wall using sutures (a technique known as plication). During the procedure, Dr. Steven Holzman, our board-certified plastic surgeon, will lift the skin and fatty tissue off the abdominal muscles, tighten the underlying muscles, and remove the saggy excess skin to create a more toned waistline. Excess fat in the area is removed, sometimes using liposuction techniques, to create more proportional contour.
Our patients who have undergone a tummy tuck are generally thrilled with the results and are amazed with the dramatic transformation of their midsection. This is where experience counts. Dr. Holzman has over 20 years experience, and his extensive surgical training and knowledge of anatomy will ensure that your new contours are as perfect a fit as possible.
Contact us for more information about abdominoplasty to correct diastasis recti.