Understanding Diastasis Recti: Physical Therapy and The Path to Recovery

Understanding Diastasis Recti: Physical Therapy and The Path to Recovery

Our bodies, particularly the female form, undergo numerous transformations during life events such as pregnancy. One of the changes that isn’t talked about as often, yet affects a significant number of women postpartum, is diastasis recti. This condition, characterized by the separation of the abdominal muscles, can have physical as well as emotional implications. Physical therapy stands as one of the primary means of addressing and healing diastasis recti. In this blog, we’ll delve deep into how diastasis recti physical therapy can be a guiding light on the journey back to a stronger core and improved well-being.

Can You Fix Diastasis Recti With Physical Therapy?

Can You Fix Diastasis Recti With Physical Therapy?Diastasis recti, a condition where the large abdominal muscles separate, is commonly experienced by postpartum women. However, it can also affect others, including men. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in addressing this issue. Guided, targeted exercises provided by physical therapists can strengthen the core muscles and facilitate the narrowing of the gap between the separated muscles. Emphasis is often placed on enhancing the function of the transverse abdominis, the deepest of the abdominal muscles. This acts like a natural corset for our midsection.

Furthermore, physical therapy not only focuses on muscle strengthening but also educates individuals about proper posture. While severe cases of diastasis recti might require surgical intervention, many individuals find significant improvement. And in some cases, complete recovery, with consistent and appropriate physical therapy. It’s essential, however, to approach recovery with patience and under the guidance of a trained professional to ensure safe and effective results.

What Techniques Are Used In Diastasis Recti Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy for diastasis recti incorporates a variety of techniques, tailored to the individual’s condition, to effectively address the separation of the abdominal muscles. Here are some commonly employed techniques:

Deep Core Activation Exercises

The deep core, specifically the transverse abdominis, serves as our body’s internal corset. It wraps around our torso, offering stability and support. In diastasis recti physical therapy, emphasis is placed on activating and strengthening this muscle layer. An often-used exercise is the “drawing-in” maneuver. In this, the individual is guided to gently pull the belly button inward, towards the spine, while ensuring they breathe normally. This exercise, when done consistently, can help in approximating the separated abdominal muscles, enhancing core strength, and providing better trunk stability.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Breathing is fundamental, yet its role in diastasis recti rehabilitation is often underrated. Diaphragmatic breathing involves deep inhalations through the nose, allowing the diaphragm to descend and the abdomen to expand. Upon exhalation, typically through pursed lips, the diaphragm rises, and the core muscles are gently engaged. This breathing technique not only ensures optimal oxygen exchange but also trains the core muscles to activate and work in harmony with the respiratory system. Over time, it aids in improving muscle tone and function.

Functional Training

Activities of daily living, whether it’s picking up a child, bending over to tie a shoe, or simply sitting at a desk, all involve the use of our core. Functional training in physical therapy focuses on teaching patients how to engage their core muscles during these everyday activities. By maintaining a neutral spine and correctly using the core, individuals can avoid putting undue stress on their abdominal muscles, promoting faster healing and preventing further separation.

Postural Education

Correct posture is foundational in managing and healing diastasis recti. Slouched or hyper-extended postures can strain the weakened abdominal tissue. Physical therapists work diligently to educate patients on maintaining an aligned posture, where the head is positioned over the shoulders, and the shoulders are aligned over the hips. Regular postural checks, mirror feedback, and sometimes even posture-correcting devices can be utilized to instill good habits.

Avoidance Techniques

Avoidance TechniquesWhile strengthening and retraining muscles is crucial, it’s equally essential to recognize and avoid activities that could worsen diastasis recti. Certain movements, particularly forward flexion exercises like traditional crunches or certain types of planks, can place excess pressure on the separated abdominal muscles. Physical therapists guide patients in identifying these problematic exercises and provide them with modifications or alternative exercises that are safe and effective for their condition.

Therapeutic Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound is a modality that utilizes sound waves to penetrate soft tissues. It can promote tissue healing, increase blood flow, and reduce inflammation. While its use for diastasis recti isn’t as common as other interventions, in some instances, especially if there is associated soft tissue pain or discomfort, a therapist might employ ultrasound to provide relief and aid the healing process.

Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)

For some individuals, especially in the early stages of rehabilitation or if the muscle separation is significant, activating the core muscles can be challenging. NMES involves using electric currents to stimulate muscle contractions. It can be beneficial in initiating muscle activity. Ultimately, enhancing strength, and retraining the abdominal muscles to contract efficiently.


Kinesiology taping can be a useful adjunct in diastasis recti rehabilitation. When applied over the abdominal region, the tape offers tactile feedback, helping individuals become more aware of their core engagement. Additionally, the tape can provide a gentle approximation of the separated muscles, supporting them during activities. While it’s not a standalone solution, in combination with exercises and other interventions, taping can enhance the rehabilitation process.

It’s essential to note that the effectiveness of each technique can vary among individuals. The key to successful diastasis recti rehabilitation is a personalized approach under the guidance of a qualified physical therapist.

What Are The 5 Best Exercises For Diastasis Recti?

Certainly! When approaching diastasis recti, the goal is to strengthen the deep core muscles without placing undue stress on the linea alba, the tissue between the rectus abdominis muscles. Here are five of the best exercises for diastasis recti:

Heel Slides

  • How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your deep core by drawing your navel toward your spine. Keeping this engagement, slowly slide one heel along the floor, extending the leg, then slide it back to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Benefits: This exercise helps activate the transverse abdominis while maintaining stability in the pelvis and spine.

Pelvic Tilts

  • How to: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Flatten your back against the floor by tilting your pelvis and engaging your core. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Benefits: Pelvic tilts help to engage both the transverse abdominis and the pelvic floor muscles, promoting synergy between these two crucial muscle groups.

Wall Sits with Core Engagement

  • How to: Stand with your back against a wall. Walk your feet out slightly and slide down the wall into a squat position, ensuring your knees are above your ankles. Engage your core, drawing your navel toward your spine. Hold for 20-30 seconds while breathing steadily.
  • Benefits: This exercise challenges your core stabilization while also working your lower body.

Quadruped Toe Taps

  • How to: Start on all fours in a tabletop position, hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Engage your core. While maintaining this engagement, lift one foot off the ground and tap the toe behind you, then return to the starting position. Repeat with the other foot.
  • Benefits: Quadruped toe taps challenge the transverse abdominis to stabilize the pelvis and spine in a dynamic position.

Side-Lying Leg Lifts

  • How to: Lie on one side with your legs stacked and your body in a straight line. Rest your head on your bottom arm and place your top hand in front of you for stability. Engage your core and lift the top leg upward, keeping it straight. Lower it back down with control.
  • Benefits: This exercise targets the oblique muscles. This also plays a role in core stabilization, without putting direct pressure on the linea alba.

Remember, while these exercises can be effective in managing and improving diastasis recti, it’s essential to consult with a physical therapist or trained professional to ensure they’re executed correctly. Proper form is vital to prevent further separation or injury.

How Long Does It Take To Fix Diastasis Recti With Physical Therapy?

How Long Does It Take To Fix Diastasis Recti With Physical Therapy?The time required to rehabilitate diastasis recti through physical therapy varies significantly among individuals. It is influenced by factors such as:

  • The severity of the muscle separation
  • The quality of the connective tissue
  • Overall physical condition
  • Consistency in following the recommended exercises
  • and even genetic factors related to healing

Generally, many individuals notice an improvement in muscle function and a reduction in the gap width within a few weeks to a few months of consistent, targeted exercises. However, fully “fixing” or achieving optimal functional recovery might take longer, anywhere from a few months to a year, or even longer in some cases. It’s important to note that while the goal is to reduce the gap and improve function, complete closure of the diastasis isn’t always necessary or achievable for everyone.

The primary aim is to restore core function and strength. This can often be achieved even if a small gap remains. Seeking guidance from a physical therapist throughout the rehabilitation process ensures a tailored and effective approach to recovery.


Diastasis recti, a common yet often overlooked condition, particularly in postpartum women, can impact core functionality and overall well-being. Through targeted exercises and personalized interventions in physical therapy, it’s possible to significantly improve or even fully rehabilitate this condition. While recovery durations vary, with patience, consistent effort, and expert guidance, individuals can regain core strength, function, and confidence in their bodies.

As with many health journeys, the emphasis should be on consistent progress, understanding one’s body, and seeking professional support when needed. Physical Therapy helps patients recover from pain. If you’re experiencing Back, Shoulder, Knee, Neck, Elbow, Hip, or Arthritis pain, a physical therapist at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.