What Really Causes DRA & the Best Ways To Treat It

What Really Causes DRA & the Best Ways To Treat It

DRA is a common condition that affects many women during pregnancy.  In fact, as many as 60% of women will develop DRA during the childbearing years.  Although extremely prevalent, most physicians do not address or refer patients out for diastasis recti due to lack of knowledge.  Fortunately, you do not need a referral to make an appointment with a pelvic floor therapist who can successfully treat this condition.  But to begin your journey, it helps to understand what exactly is DRA and what causes it.

DRA is the separation of rectus abdominis due to hormonal changes, positional changes of back and pelvis, and/or laxity of muscles and joints.  

DRA (Diastasis Recti)

Several muscular changes occur during pregnancy, particularly in the trunk, secondary to postural changes, weight gain, and joint laxity.  The muscular changes most frequently include pelvic floor and rectus abdominis.   These muscles become overstretched and stressed particularly in the later stages of pregnancy – 3rd trimester.  Research demonstrates that the incidence and severity of DRA increases as the number of pregnancies increases.

To truly understand what is happening to the body during pregnancy, there needs to be a clear understanding of the underlying anatomy as shown in the below diagram.  The rectus abdominis attaches from pubic symphysis and travels up to the xyphoid process and ribs.  Linea alba travels along the entire full length of the rectus abdominis.  A common misunderstanding is that the abdominal wall splits during the development of diastasis recti when in reality, the muscles and fascia in the diagram are being pulled apart from stiffness in the thoracic and lumbar spine.

The resulting weakness of the abdominal and trunk muscles will often lead to the following symptoms for postpartum mothers:

  • Low Back Pain
  • Coccyx pain, constipation, pain with sitting
  • Distended abdomen
  • Weak abdominal and trunk muscles
  • Neck pain
  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Fatigue and decreased breathing capacity

Unlike most protocols found online to treat diastasis recti, the pelvic floor therapists at ProTouch Physical Therapy use an internal & external custom developed DRA protocol that takes into account the stiffness of thoracic and lumbar spine, decreased motion in pelvis, weakness of muscles, and miscoordination of muscles during activities of daily living.  Treating the whole trunk of women suffering from diastasis recti and not just the abdominal wall results in a much higher success rate and reduction in the possibility of redeveloping.

When making an appointment with ProTouch, you can expect a very thorough evaluation of diastasis recti & strict measurements for progress throughout treatment every four weeks, followed by special stretches and a specific strengthening routine.  In addition, our therapists spend a significant amount of one-on-one time in private rooms utilizing hands-on manual techniques to increase mobility in the joints, muscle, and connective tissue.  These techniques can include myofascial release, soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, and/or neuromuscular education.

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