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By: Amy Stuart, PT, MPT
Do you still have a poochy belly despite exercising and eating well? You could have a condition called Diastasis Recti Abdominus, or DRA. DRA is caused by an increase in abdominal pressure and occurs when the rectus abdominus, the abdominal muscle that runs down the center of your stomach, separates.
Men, women, and children can all develop DRA, since conditions such as obesity and chronic constipation can cause an increase in abdominal pressure. People who have a history of abdominal surgeries across the midline are also at risk for DRA. However, DRA is most common in women who are pregnant or postpartum. Almost all pregnant women will have some kind of separation of their rectus abdominus muscle during pregnancy. Most separation resolves on its own after delivery, but approximately 33 percent of women still have DRA six months after giving birth.
To see if you have DRA, simply lie down with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hand on your stomach so that your fingertips are pointing downward into your belly button. Lift your head and neck of the floor and see if you feel a space you can sink your fingers into. Repeat this above and below the belly button. If you can sink at least two or three fingers into this space, DRA is present. If you do have diastasis recti, therapy is important to prevent future injuries such as low back pain.
Many websites and articles claim you can do one exercise every day to fix your “mummy tummy,” but no one magic exercise can correct DRA; minimizing or healing DRA requires a multifaceted approach. You can’t strengthen only the abdominals and expect a “cure” if you aren’t performing other everyday tasks properly such as lifting, walking, breathing, sitting, eating, standing, carrying children, squatting, and exercising. Similarly, you are not limited to certain types of exercises because you have DRA as long as you are performing helpful exercises correctly and are strong enough to do so without increasing abdominal pressure even more.
If you have a poochy belly and suspect you have DRA, call us at (804) 764-1000 or click here to request an appointment. Your evaluation with a Sheltering Arms physical therapist will not only include an assessment of your abdominal muscles, but we will also assess your posture, gait, body mechanics, breathing, and diet as well as an evaluation of your back, hip, pelvic floor, and leg strength. Treatment will include a customized exercise plan to address your specific problems and lifestyle changes that will improve all of these areas.