Reflections on my chaotic life of minivans, tantrums, deadlines, and diets ... a life I wouldn't trade for the world.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Update on Diastasis

Well, after 3 weeks of sitting at my desk and in my car trying to discreetly flex my transverse abdominal muscles, I am happy to report that my diastasis is down from 3 1/2 fingers to 1 1/2 (1 is considered "closed"). I am not out of the woods yet--my posture still needs work (apparently, I am a tail-tucker), and I still occasionally fall back into old, slouchy sitting patterns, but I've made a big improvement.

Now if only my new internal six pack were visible on the outside ...

Monday, October 8, 2012


As many of you know, I have been suffering from lower back pain for the past few months, and from sciatic pain on and off since my first pregnancy. I've tried everything from rest to massage to exercise, and nothing has relieved the pain. Exercise only made it worse, so my frustration about the pain was compounded by my lack of ability to reduce my stress through exercise. I became an immobile ball of stress.

A few weeks ago, at my first chiropractor visit, I was told I have diastasis recti. This came as no surprise, having birthed two behemoths. What did surprise me, after some research, was the correlation between the diastasis and all of my other symptoms: lower back pain, pelvic pain when running, sciatica. Basically, the muscles designed to hold me together were falling apart themselves.

Diastasis recti, before rehab and after
A friend referred me to The Tummy Team in Camas, WA, a group that specializes in diastasis rehab. I read their website, front to back, and decided it was worth their exorbitant fee to possibly feel better. I made a series of appointments with Kelly Dean, the founder and physical therapist.

My first appointment last week confirmed by belief that I'd done the right thing. The entry of the office in Camas has a store dedicated to new and expecting moms, complete with nursing supplies and natural maternity-care items. It didn't have the clinical environment I'd feared. Kelly walked out soon after I arrived and greeted me. After some initial paper work, we got started.

Kelly assessed my diastasis to be 2 fingers wide at top, 3 in the middle, and 3 down low. Basically, like a zipper that was only zipped down to my sternum. That meant she could essentially push into my internal organs with most of her hand, as the muscle was no longer there to stop her. I gasped at the size of the opening, but Kelly assured me it was not bad--she'd seen up to 10 fingers of separation (!!).

Self portrait
As a result, my upper body is essentially disengaged from my lower body. The "girdle" provided by the transverse abdominals was weak and not functioning, causing my body to behave like one of those inflatable promotional things at car dealerships. My pelvis and lower body is literally clinging to my upper body, using other muscles to try to hold it in place. I slouch when I sit because I have nothing holding me up. Enter, back and hip pain.

The first thing Kelly did was tell me to forget everything I'd learned about ab exercise. Crunches, planks, everything that caused those external ab muscles to contract, were useless and did nothing to strengthen the muscles that really mattered--the transverse abdominals. And crunches in my condition basically mean pushing my internal organs out of the wide opening in my muscles. Appetizing, eh?

Kelly then showed me simple things to engage the transverse without taxing my other muscles--ways to get into and out of bed, carry the kids, etc. I learned strengthening exercises to practice throughout the day while sitting up (straight) at my computer.

I also received an abdominal splint, which is basically a new-school girdle designed to make me conscious of how I go through my day. I can no longer lean over to pick up the kids; I have to use my legs to crouch. Hunching over my desk is out of the question.

So far, I can say I have no back pain, but then I haven't done much to test it out. I have 3 weeks until my next appointment, during which I will increase the strengthening exercises. While I may not have a six-pack at the end of these 5 sessions, I will have a core that can support my workouts and daily life. I am OK with that; I threw my bikini out after the second kid, anyway. ;)