Massage Therapy for Diastasis Recti
Massage Therapy for Diastasis Recti: a case study of 8 sessions with Debbie J
Massage therapy for Diastasis Recti can be very helpful to rebuild proper abdominal tone. As long as you are also working with a physical therapist who specializes in this issue. An experienced massage therapist can open stuck tissues that are pulling on the abdominals. In addition, you’ll need physical therapy exercises knit the torn abdomen muscles back together.
First, a brief review of what diastasis recti is, and what issues having it can create. Here’s what WebMD has to say about it:
“Diastasis” means separation. “Recti” refers to your ab muscles called the “rectus abdominis.” “Diastasis recti” means your belly sticks out because the space between your left and right belly muscles has widened. You might call it a “pooch.” (ad. the space between the left and right belly muscles is called the ‘linea alba’)
It’s very common among pregnant women. About two-thirds of pregnant women have it.
The condition also can cause lower back pain, constipation, and urine leaking. It can even make it harder to breathe and to move normally. It’s rare, but in extreme cases, the tissue may tear, and organs may poke out of the opening — that’s called a hernia.
The muscle opening often shrinks after giving birth, but in some studies of women with diastasis recti, the muscle wasn’t back to normal even a year later.
Why “ab” exercises don’t work for you now…
It’s counter-intuitive, but doing “ab” exercises such as sit ups, or pilates, can often make the problem worse, not better. Without proper firing of the correct support muscles, these exercises often pull outwards on the linea alba. This can either increase the separation, or keep it from knitting back together.
That’s where working with a specialist physical therapist comes in. They can create a custom program of exercises for your body that will slowly but surely allow the linea alba to rebuild.
Massage therapy for diastasis recti, in and of itself, won’t be able to do that on it’s own. However, it can speed up the process considerably. And in many cases it will open up stuck tissues that would keep physical therapy exercises from working. They synergy between the two modalities is worth more than the sum of the parts.
Integrating your abdominals with the rest of your support muscles
Massage therapy is an “opening” practice. Our training is in releasing tissues that are either tight (ie over-firing) or stuck (ie glued with scar tissue). We also work to retrain the nervous system to allow muscles that are over-firing to relax and settle into a balanced tone.
Physical Therapy is a “closing” practice, ie strengthening and tightening muscles that are weak (ie under-firing). In addition, repeated repetitions of movements draws blood flow to areas that need it. This allows the body to heal and reconstruct itself in a more balanced way. However, if there are older scarred-over injuries impeding movements, the client often is unable to access the proper muscles for the exercises. When this is the case the client sees little to no results from physical therapy on its own.
So, for Diastasis Recti (and many other issues), neither massage therapy nor physical therapy alone may have desired results. It’s the synergy between the the two therapies that will produce fantastic results.
You can’t isolate your abdominals…
A common misconception is to look at the abdominals in isolation from the rest of the musculature. In reality, the abdominal muscles have direct fascial connections to muscles up through the neck and shoulders and down through the hips and thighs. If these areas have scar tissue though older injuries, proper firing of the abs will likely pull on these older injuries and cause pain or discomfort. In order to get the core muscles to fire properly, the older injuries need balancing and opening work to allow them to move again.
This is where working with a Bodyworks DW Advanced Massage Therapist really makes the difference!
As the older stuck injuries find movement again, the abs will seem to magically start working properly. All those physical therapy and pelvic floor exercises that didn’t seem to be doing anything will noticeably alter and improve.
What will it take?
The honest truth is that Diastasis Recti is not a one-time fix situation. It takes a coordinated effort, diligent homework, and focused effort for 8-12 weeks. It is next to impossible to self-heal without a minimum of a few guided sessions. Most clients will need the following:
- 4-7 sessions with our team of massage therapists, preferably working with owner David Weintraub for the first session
- 3-5 sessions with a physical therapist who specializes in working with it (see our resources page for our faves)
- 15 minutes a day of homework exercises
If you’d like to know if massage therapy for diastasis recti can help you, don’t hesitate to call us and arrange a phone consultation with David Weintraub. Or book an initial session online!