June Sullivan, DMSc, MHS, MPH, PA-C
Multiple studies have demonstrated that antepartum and postpartum abdominal exercise can effectively prevent and treat diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) in women. While studies have shown a statistically significant reduction in measurements of DRA and associated symptoms with the use of abdominal exercise, the protocols followed for exercise vary greatly between studies. Further research is needed to develop a universal exercise program to include specific abdominal exercises with the number of sets and repetitions along with the duration of the program for clinicians to prescribe for the prevention and treatment of DRA. DRA is associated with many secondary conditions such as thoracolumbar pain, ventral hernias, urinary incontinence, and constipation. Clinicians should include assessing for separation of the rectus abdominis when patients present with these secondary conditions, especially in antepartum and postpartum women. Mental health disorders including depression and low self-esteem are also associated with DRA due to the social pressures placed on body image. These findings support early intervention and education for women in the clinical setting when discussing family planning or early antepartum to optimize preventative medicine.
Helming-Sauter CJ. Defend the Rectus Abdominis: Prevention and Treatment of Diastasis. Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science. 2023; 5(1).
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