woman carrying a heavy basket of laundry - body alignment and dra

Aligning Yourself to Recover from DRA

Almost half of new mothers will experience diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA) after their pregnancy ends. It’s no wonder—baby puts a lot of outward pressure on your abdomen as it grows. And the rapid change in your centre of gravity can mean changes in your posture and the alignment of your body as you deal with the new shape and additional weight. In many cases, DRA corrects itself postpartum, but often enough, it does not. We’ve discussed the benefit of core fitness before and described ways to correct DRA with minimal effort. In this blog, we talk about how your everyday activities and movements can make it more difficult to recover from DRA.

Recapping, what is DRA?

DRA is characterized by a greater than normal separation of the two front abdominal muscles along the midline of the abdomen. The muscles are never joined together, and they are connected by soft tissue called fascia. When the core system is functioning optimally, the space between the muscles should be small—less than the width of 2 fingers. During pregnancy, the distance increases in order to accommodate the growing uterus.  The tissue is incredibly adaptive. While DRA is not painful, it throws your body’s core out of balance and can affect how you move and how you look.

The Dreaded DRA Bulge

One of the hallmarks of DRA is the ‘mummy tummy’ that some women struggle to eliminate after pregnancy. Many people bristle at the term mummy tummy as it has often been used to negatively describe body shape after pregnancy. However, it describes a common condition and for which no one should ever be made to feel ashamed.    

The trademark bulge results from abdominal tissue being pushed against the tissue between the abdominal muscles by internal abdominal pressure. The greater the pressure put on the tissue by activities like lifting heavy objects (including babies, strollers and overstuffed diaper bags) aggravates the tissue.  These tasks require core control, otherwise the pressure produced from the effort of the task is excessive. Even the way in which you move to get in and out of bed, rise to a standing position from sitting, or bend over to pick up objects from the floor can create excessive pressure. Ab exercises such as crunches, planks and twists also cause abdominal pressure, aggravating DRA. These exercises can make it more difficult to heal, even though many new moms are told that they need intense ab workouts to recover their pre-baby body.

Regaining Alignment is Important

How good do you feel about your posture and the alignment of your body? Are the three main cavities of your body perfectly stacked at all times? If you’re like the vast majority of us, they are not. And even if your alignment was ‘good’ before pregnancy, it’s pretty likely to have changed over time. Improper alignment of your pelvis, abdominal cavity, and thoracic cavity (bum tucked under, tummy pushed out, shoulders rounded) leads to all kinds of imbalance and internal pressure on your abdomen and pelvic floor. Note the connection to pelvic health, which we’ll discuss another time!) Proper or better alignment reduces pressure and gives DRA (and pelvic dysfunction) a chance to heal. If the pressure is continual and becomes more intense, serious conditions such as hernias and organ prolapse can develop.

Incorrect body alignment alone is not responsible for DRA. Conversely, adjusting your body’s alignment may not necessarily help with DRA. Fortunately, there are new treatment options available such as Emsculpt, that have been proven to help. Emsculpt stimulates the abdominal muscles with electromagnetic energy. The result is the reactivation of the abdominal muscles to help them become stronger and more flexible. Combined with awareness of your body’s alignment and avoiding the everyday motions that increase abdominal pressure, DRA resolves quickly and easily.

DRA is not only a postpartum problem. It can also develop as the result of other conditions such as rapid weight gain, surgery or abdominal trauma. Regardless of the cause, talk to a core fitness expert or physiotherapist to help you understand your condition and how best to resolve it. Find out more about our Venus Ab Rehab using Emsculpt and incorporating education and training on proper body alignment and movement to speed healing and maintain results long after treatment.

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