/ June 13, 2023

What Men Need to Know about Diastasis Recti

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The Tummy Team is a group of physical therapists who specialize in Functional Core Rehabilitation and specifically the treatment of diastasis recti.  We have been helping clients heal abdominal wall damage and restore their core for over a decade and have designed several online rehab programs to help clients around the world.  After years of clinical work, we are now launching our online course Core Foundations for Men to exclusively address the issues that uniquely affect men and diastasis recti. But first! We want to clarify what every man needs to know about diastasis recti!

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is a medical condition where the abdominal wall stretches down the midline (at the linea alba) and causes separation and bulging or trenching in the tummy. Although it is more common in women due to the hormonal and physical demands of pregnancy, Men suffer from diastasis recti too

What Causes Diastasis Recti in Men?

Diastasis recti is caused by consistent forceful forward pressure on the abdominal wall (specifically the linea alba that runs down the center of the abdomen). In men, the consistent forward pressure is in fitness with repetitive crunch and crunch like movements as well as any time men use bracing, bulging, bearing down or breath-holding as a stabilization strategy.

Ultimately, diastasis recti is directly connected to ongoing Functional Core Weakness – the inability of the muscles of the core to effectively function and support the body for everyday physical demands without pain or dysfunction.  As a result of this weakness, our body is forced to use ineffective compensation strategies such as breath holding, bulging, bracing and tensing of the tummy to stabilize the spine. These strategies create consistent forward forceful pressure on the abdominal wall and can cause the linea alba to stretch and bulge.

In addition, a weak and inactive internal core muscle can contribute to poor posture and muscle imbalances throughout the body that interfere with effective functional core activation.  The combination of an inactive internal core, collapsed postures, compensation patterns and muscle imbalance set the stage for the abdominal wall to separate and become uncoordinated and ineffective.

What does diastasis recti look like in men?

Everybody is different so diastasis recti can look very different as well. There are 4 most common presentations of diastasis recti in men…

The first looks like a bulging or tenting of the abdominal wall when doing a sit-up like movement or even is noticed with coughing or straining in some way. With diastasis recti, this is always right down the midline of the abdominal wall and often is at and above the belly button.

The second presentation looks more like a trench or a gap in the midline of the abdominals.  Depending on how over-developed the outermost abdominal muscles are this can be very pronounced  (as in this picture) or only noticeable when lying on your back and you see a dip in your midline.

The third common presentation looks more like a distended or bloated belly.  The bulge is not as noticeable in the midline but the entire abdominal wall is constantly pushing out attempting to stabilize the weakened abdominal wall with breath-holding or bracing. This can look more like a “beer belly” in an otherwise trim man.

The fourth most common presentation of diastasis recti in men is when the tummy resembles a deflated balloon around your torso. In this presentation, the core muscles are pretty inactive and the tummy is collapsed and relaxed all of the time.

What Does it Feel Like to Live with Diastasis Recti?

Every person has their own combination of symptoms when they have diastasis recti and functional core weakness.  You could have 1 or several of the most common symptoms below:

  • A trench or football-shaped bulge down the midline of your tummy when you do crunch like movements or cough
  • Bulging tummy that gets worse with traditional abdominal exercises
  • Back pain (lower, mid or even upper back)
  • Overall weakness in your core – affecting your posture, your ability to lift or exercise
  • Lower back or SI joint instability – where your back randomly “goes out”
  • Sluggish intestinal function, constipation, the need to bear down to go
  • Flared rib cage or barrel chest

How Can You Check Yourself for a Diastasis Recti?

The good news is that you can check yourself for a diastasis recti. It is a pretty simple check, but do not be frustrated if it is hard to feel. Palpation skills take practice but this test should help you get an idea if you have a diastasis.

How Do you Fix Diastasis Recti in Men?

The Tummy Team addresses diastasis recti and Functional Core Weakness Functional through a comprehensive functional core rehab process.  Unlike what most people are told, diastasis recti does not require surgery and can be corrected with specialized rehabilitation. Our Functional Core Rehabilitation will strengthen the core, minimize movements making the diastasis worse, reconnect you to your body, close the separation, flatten your belly, relieve back pain and other symptoms, as well as retrain your body mechanics, posture, and alignment for long-term success.

The Tummy Team will help you regain neuromuscular control of your abdominal muscles and relearn how to use them correctly in all aspects of your life. Regardless of how severe your diastasis is, you can still rebuild your core muscles and eliminate that bulge. We aim for functional use of muscles. Our goal is not to get you stronger for exercises, but stronger for living life. 

We will take you step by step through the rehab process and help you reclaim a strong lifestyle with a strong core. Check out Core Foundations for Men HERE.