Diastasis Recti (separation of the abdominal muscles)
This is a common issue found in both men and women when the rectus abdominus muscles (six-pack abs) pull apart centrally allowing the abdominal contents to push forwards. It can be painful but is often associated with no pain and can be more of an aesthetic problem. This is because when sitting upon straining the stomach can bulge and a ridge can appear at the mid line of your stomach.
This is especially common after pregnancy, as the connective tissue gets stretched out during the pregnancy and can pull apart. Once a mother has given birth, this connective tissue can struggle to repair, and often physiotherapy is the favoured approach as it can not only help conservatively improve the diastasis recti and often resolve the issue, but also it can fix the lower back pain than can come in association with the issue. The problem is also found in men, again characterised by a bulge in the mid line of the abdomen. Treatment takes very much the same approach in both men and women.
The issue is reversible in many cases with the correct intervention, but in the worst cases may require surgery. Surgery should be avoided if possible as it often requires a large incision site, and will leave a large scar behind. The best form of treatment is conservative rehabilitation with a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist.
This specialist physiotherapy consists of working with the trans-abdominal muscles. Strengthening these offloads the work being done by the rectus abdominus muscles. Flexion activities should be avoided whilst the diastasis recti is attempting to heal to prevent the increased stress on the connective tissue which can further exaggerate the problem.
A series of pelvic stability exercises, appropriate for your specific needs should be used with your physiotherapist. These can easily be continued at home and will maximise the chance of resolving the issue.
The sooner you seek the attention of a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist like myself to help with this issue, the greater your chance of success.