Diastasis Recti In Men: You may have heard about diastasis recti in postpartum women, but the condition can affect anyone, including men. The most notable symptom of diastasis recti is a noticeable pooch in your stomach.
This pooch is caused by weakness and separation of the muscles in the mid-abdomen. The mid-abdomen is commonly called your abs. Keep reading to learn more about this condition and the available treatments.
Symptoms Of Diastasis Recti
If you have diastasis recti, you’ll likely notice a pooch or bulge in your stomach. It may be more noticeable when you strain or contract your abdominal muscles, such as when you sit up. In addition to the stomach bulge, you may also experience:
- lower back pain
- poor posture
Causes Diastasis Recti
Diastasis recti occurs when too much pressure is put on your abdominal muscles. This can cause them to stretch and separate. The separation in the muscles allows what’s inside of the abdomen, mostly the intestines, to push through the muscles. This forms a bulge.
The most common cause for diastasis recti is pregnancy. This is because the growing uterus puts pressure on the abdominal muscles, causing them to stretch and separate. The condition can also occur in men or in women who have never been pregnant.
Obesity can cause diastasis recti because the excess fat deposits put additional pressure on the stomach muscles. Additional causes include:
- frequent or rapid changes in weight
- some abdominal exercises
- long- or short-term swelling of the abdomen related to fluid inside of the abdominal cavity from conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver or cancer within the abdomen
- advanced age
Diastasis recti also occur in newborns babies, particularly those born prematurely, because their abdominal muscles aren’t fully developed. It usually resolves without treatment.
A few case reports discuss diastasis recti occurring in men with HIV. This is because HIV alters the way the body stores fat and relocates some of it to the abdominal cavity. The relocation of fat in the abdomen may cause increased intra-abdominal pressure. The increased pressure can put people who have HIV at an increased risk for diastasis recti.
Risk Factors For Diastasis Recti
You’re at risk for diastasis recti if you regularly put an increased amount of pressure on your abdominal muscles. This includes people with excess abdominal fat, those who perform exercises that stress their abdomen, or pregnant women.
Even everyday moves done incorrectly can weaken the abdomen, says Beth Jones, a certified athletic trainer in Parker, Colorado. For example, you should avoid bending over to pick up heavy packages. Instead, you should pick up heavy objects, including weights, by squatting and lifting.]
Researchers in one study looked at men with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and found that this condition might increase your risk for diastasis recti. An AAA occurs when the large vessel that carries blood to your abdomen swells. This can be a life-threatening condition.
According to the study, diastasis recti was present in about two-thirds of men with an AAA. Furthermore, they found that diastasis recti was present in four times more men with an AAA than in the control group made up of men with a different vascular condition. The connection between diastasis recti and AAA isn’t fully understood. Some researchersTrusted Source believe a collagen disorder could be responsible for the connection.
Diastasis Recti Exercises
While each person’s situation is unique, incorporating specific core-strengthening exercises into your day may help to resolve your diastasis recti symptoms. A 2015 study in the International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research found that abdominal bracing exercises were able to effectively reduce the muscle separation associated with this condition. There are several diastasis recti exercises that you can include in your workout routine.
Do Some Pelvic Clocks
This initial core exercise helps you engage the various muscles in your abdomen using the face of a clock as a visualization.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your feet on the ground and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Imagine a clock on your stomach and squeeze your abdominal muscles as your pelvis rocks backward toward 12 o’clock. Then, arch your back and allow your pelvis to rock forward toward 6 o’clock. Continue to move clockwise along diagonals (1 o’clock to 7 o’clock, 2 o’clock to 8 o’clock, and so on) until you complete a full rotation. Try five to seven repetitions of the exercise, and do this twice daily.
Practice Plank Position
Planks are another great way to activate the abdominal muscles while helping to reduce the degree of abdominal separation after diastasis recti.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your stomach with your elbows beneath your chest and your forearms on the ground. Keeping your knees straight, lift your pelvis and stomach off the floor as you rise onto your toes and forearms. As you do this, keep your stomach muscles squeezed and be sure not to hold your breath. Hold the pose for 10 seconds before relaxing and try to complete two to three sets of 10 repetitions each day.
Add Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are great for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles that support the bowel and bladder and provide your core with stability.
HOW TO DO IT: While they can be performed in any position, Kegel exercises are easiest to do while lying down in a quiet environment. Without holding your breath, squeeze your deep pelvic muscles like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine or avoid passing gas. Maintain this contraction for five to 10 seconds before relaxing, and attempt two to three sets of 10 repetitions at least three times daily. As this gets easier, you can progress to doing your Kegels while you move around throughout the day.
Try Quadruped Tilts
Quadruped pelvic tilts are another easy way to engage your stomach muscles and heal your diastasis recti.
HOW TO DO IT: Get onto your hands and knees. Begin by inhaling and squeezing your ab muscles as you draw your stomach in and flatten your back. Hold this position for a second or two before you exhale, and allow your back to sag and your stomach to drop toward the ground again. Repeat the exercise 10 times, and do two to three sets daily.
What About Bracing?
There are a number of corsets and braces available for sale that claim to decrease the separation between the portions of your rectus abdominis and to improve your overall pain. Unfortunately, these benefits may be overblown. According to guidelines published in the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy in 2019, wearing abdominal braces to treat diastasis recti has yet to be supported by research and should not be recommended as a primary treatment for this condition.
Warnings and Precautions
While diastasis recti exercises may help improve mild cases of this condition, it’s important to communicate with your doctor if your symptoms are not improving. Be sure to report worsening pain, incontinence of the bowel or bladder, or sexual dysfunction to your physician so your abdominal separation can be properly cared for.