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Debunking Diastasis Recti Myths: Evidence-Based Insights on Abdominal Health

Diastasis recti, a condition characterized by the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, has garnered significant attention in recent years, particularly among postpartum women. While the visual concern of a "mommy pooch" often leads individuals to associate diastasis recti with pain and dysfunction, the existing evidence suggests a more nuanced understanding of this condition. In this blog, we'll explore the current state of knowledge surrounding diastasis recti, addressing the lack of evidence linking it directly to pain and dysfunction.

Contrary to popular belief, a growing body of research challenges the notion that diastasis recti is a direct cause of pain or functional impairments. Studies such as the work by Chiarello et al. (2016) and Parker et al. (2009) have failed to establish a consistent association between the severity of diastasis recti and pain levels or functional limitations. These challenge the widely held belief that closing the gap through targeted exercises is a panacea for resolving discomfort.

One area of consensus in the literature is the safety of abdominal strengthening exercises, including those targeting the rectus abdominis. Contrary to concerns that such exercises may exacerbate diastasis recti, evidence from studies like the one conducted by Benjamin et al. (2014) supports the safety of abdominal strengthening exercises, provided they are performed with proper form and attention to individual capacities.

While abdominal exercises may be deemed safe, a critical aspect often overlooked is the need for progression. The work of Lee and Hodges (2016) emphasizes that an individualized, progressive approach to exercise is crucial for promoting optimal muscle function and minimizing the risk of injury. A gradual increase in intensity and complexity helps the body adapt and strengthen without placing undue stress on the abdominal muscles.

Despite widespread claims on social media touting the benefits of pelvic floor exercises and specific transverse abdominal training for diastasis recti, recent research challenges these assertions. Studies such as the systematic review by Sperstad et al. (2016) found no conclusive evidence supporting the effectiveness of isolated pelvic floor exercises or transverse abdominal training in diastasis recti management.

Considering the evolving evidence, current recommendations for managing diastasis recti focus on a holistic approach that includes overall core strengthening, posture awareness, and individualized exercise programming. Healthcare professionals and fitness experts advocate for tailored rehabilitation programs that consider the unique needs and abilities of everyone, as outlined in the guidelines from the International Consortium for Diastasis Recti Abdominis (ICDRA, 2021).

As we navigate the evolving landscape of diastasis recti research, it becomes evident that a nuanced understanding is crucial. While diastasis recti may not be the direct culprit for pain and dysfunction, safe and progressive exercise remains a key component of rehabilitation. By dispelling myths surrounding pelvic floor and transverse abdominal training, individuals can make informed choices about their fitness routines. The emphasis on individualized care, evidence-based practices, and a holistic approach defines the current recommendations for diastasis recti management.

1.Benjamin, D. R., van de Water, A. T., & Peiris, C. L. (2014). Effects of exercise on diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle in the antenatal and postnatal periods: a systematic review. Physiotherapy, 100(1), 1-8. 2. Chiarello, C. M., Falzone, L. A., McCaslin, K. E., Patel, M. N., & Ulery, K. R. (2016). The effects of an exercise program on diastasis recti abdominis in pregnant women. Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy, 40(1), 11-16. 3. International Consortium for Diastasis Recti Abdominis (ICDRA). (2021). Consensus statement on the definition and management of diastasis recti abdominis. Retrieved from 4. Lee, D., & Hodges, P. (2016). Behavior of the linea alba during a curl-up task in diastasis rectus abdominis: An observational study. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 46(7), 580-589. 5. Parker, M. A., Millar, L. A., & Dugan, S. A. (2009). Diastasis rectus abdominis and lumbo-pelvic pain and dysfunction—Are they related? Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy, 33(2), 15-22. 6. Sperstad, J. B., Tennfjord, M. K., Hilde, G., Ellström-Engh, M., & Bø, K. (2016). Diastasis recti abdominis during pregnancy and 12 months after childbirth: prevalence, risk factors and report of lumbopelvic pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(17), 1092-1096.


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