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Diastases Recti, What It Is and What To Do

Jolie Bookspan, M.Ed, PhD, FAWM
Reader Fun Steve previously wrote with his success losing weight and getting in shape with Fitness Fixer. Then he moved from Thailand to Japan. What happened next?

Steve writes:
"I 'done did' something to my stomach. Without having visited any doctors here, my own diagnosis is/are hiatal hernia or tearing of the linea alba area of my stomach muscles.

"No 'pain' but constant discomfort. Constant but mild indigestion. Shortness of breath. Here is the real kicker... If I do leg lifts while doing 'slight' crunches, I have a 2-2.5 inch vertical band of 'something' that reaches from my xiphoid process down to below my belly button. Feels like a strip of weak muscle. I normally don't do full crunches. Perhaps I lift my shoulders 2-3 inches at most.

"My rectus abs are solid. Rock hard .. but the area between left and right side is soft now. This odd strip of 'something' doesn't protrude unless I do leg raises and crunches (so I'm not doing them!) but if I use my hands to press it inward, I can do the crunches or leg raises without that strip pressing up. It's as if the rectus abs, once contracted, hold it in.

"So... what have I done to myself? Besides not doing any crunches and leg lifts, what shall I do to heal myself?"

I answered that (using my e-mail x-ray machine) it sounded like a diastasis, full name Diastasis Recti.

The vertical muscle fibers pull apart, leaving an area between them. This is popular in pregnant women and men with bellies. The 'rock hard' belly is often the large amount of fat (or pregnancy) pushing against the covering muscle, stretching it tightly. Weight loss will let it rejoin and heal. It's not surgical, meaning it can heal if you lose the belly.

I reminded Steve that crunches are not functional exercises, meaning they do not use your abdominal muscles the way you need them to function during any real activity in your daily life. Crunches repeat the bent forward posture that people already spend too much daily time in, and that he already new I had developed a method called The Ab Revolution™ that solves the counterproductive nature of crunches and leg lifts. For the time needed to heal, he could stop belly stretches - back bends, yoga cobra, and updog, and stretching the belly with too much food and weight gain. Continuing to do crunches and leg raises using hands as manual splinting has turned out to make things worse - since the muscles atrophy more.

Steve replied:
"How could I be pregnant?!? Actually, I have 6-pack abs! (Well, really two 3-packs right now. Unfortunately there is a thick layer of blubber covering them.) Under them too.
">>Dr. Bookspan wrote: Sorry to hear.
"Yes... me too. I came back from Thailand having lost almost 20 kilos, and due to McDonald's introduction of the 'Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese' into Japan and a side of trans-fat potatoes, I put it all back on."

I reminded Steve that weight loss will let the split area rejoin and heal, and that a diastasis was not surgical, meaning it can heal if you lose the belly and stop pulling it open with Pilates style leg lifts and crunches.

Steve wrote:
"Lose the belly. Lose the belly. That's all anybody says. Lose the belly. Hey, Buddha had a big belly and he didn't have this problem!?! Humpty Dumpty had a big belly and all that happened to him was that he fell off a wall. Well I don't sit on no walls!!! No sir! Not me. I sit on a couch doing bicep curls with the TV remote! I do full presses with bags of Doritos! Pectoral presses crushing my beer cans! Lose the belly?!? Oh well... I guess I gotta..."

I had developed The Ab Revolution™ to solve one common source of lower back pain - a slouching posture of too much inward curve in the lower spine. The Ab Revolution™ retrains function. Conventional ab exercises are often mistakenly prescribed for back pain. Conventional strengthening does not make people stop the actual cause, the slouch. They are just stronger people who slouch. Doing crunches also perpetuates another cause of back pain. It is an irony of pop fitness that without understanding causes, counter productive exercises are prescribed, then repeated by reporters then repeated by trainers and so on. The same is true for hamstring stretches, covered separately. What was interesting was all the documentation I received from people with diastasis and hernias who could use The Ab Revolution™ without pain and with benefit to build abdominal wall strength without pushing things out further with crunches. It made sense. I am looking into it further.

Steve wrote again:
"I follow the the Ab Revolution™. That's what's made my back feel so much better. I haven't had so much as a twinge in my back in the past year or so! It's been your work that made the difference. As my stomach gets smaller so does the diastasis. I'm not worried... now :o) Just PO'd. Thanks for the info about my (larger than necessary) stomach."

Steve went back to healthier eating and was easily losing weight following the healthier, smaller, traditional Japanese meals without fast food.

Related Fitness Fixer:
My Web Site information on how abdominal muscles work: Random Fitness Fixer:

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