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Diastasis Recti in Men: What You Need to Know

Diastasis Recti in Men What You Need to Know
Dr. Garrett Stroup. Physical Therapist in Roseburg Area.

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Dr. Garrett C. Stroup

DPT, VRC - Owner and Founder

We help athletes and active adults regain control of their injury without expensive surgeries or medications, so they can keep going.

Diastasis recti, commonly associated with postpartum and pregnant women, is a condition that also affects men, albeit less frequently and often under different circumstances of abdominal separation. This condition involves the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, commonly known as the “six-pack” muscles, which can lead to a variety of health issues if left untreated. Understanding diastasis recti in men, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, is crucial for maintaining overall physical health and well-being.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is a condition characterized by the separation of the two parallel bands of the rectus abdominis recti muscles along the midline of the abdomen. This separation occurs when the connective tissue (linea alba) that holds these vertical muscles together becomes stretched and weakened.

How It Differs from Other Abdominal Issues

Unlike hernias, which involve a protrusion of organs or tissues through a weakened spot in the abdominal wall, diastasis recti is specifically the widening of the gap between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle, a common condition in postpartum women. It does not involve a hole or tear but rather a thinning and stretching of the connective tissue. This distinction is important as it influences the approach to treatment and management.

What Causes Diastasis Recti in Men?

Diastasis recti in men can be attributed to several factors, including:

  1. Abdominal Pressure: Excessive or repeated strain on the abdominal muscles, such as from heavy lifting or intense abdominal exercises, can cause the connective tissue to stretch and weaken.
  2. Obesity and Weight Gain: Excess abdominal fat, often referred to as a beer belly, increases pressure on the abdominal muscles, contributing to their separation.
  3. Aging: Natural loss of muscle tone and elasticity in the connective tissues with age can also lead to diastasis recti.
  4. Chronic Coughing: Persistent coughing, often due to respiratory conditions, can exert continuous and excess pressure on the abdominal wall.
  5. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA): Studies have shown that men with AAA are more likely to have diastasis recti, affecting areas from the pubic bone upwards. Diastasis recti was present in two-thirds of men with the condition, occurring four times as often compared to men with other medical conditions. AAA involves swelling of the large vessel carrying blood to the abdomen, which can be life-threatening if untreated.

What Are the Symptoms of Diastasis Recti in Men?

What Are the Symptoms of Diastasis Recti in Men?

The symptoms of diastasis recti in men can vary, but common signs include:

  1. Visible Bulge: A noticeable bulge or ridge running down the middle of the abdomen, especially when straining or contracting the stomach muscles.
  2. Weak Core: A feeling of weakness in the core, making it difficult to perform specific movements or exercises.
  3. Lower Back Pain: Chronic lower back pain is common, as the weakened core muscles are less able to support the spine properly. According to a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, approximately 66% of men with chronic lower back pain also suffer from diastasis recti.
  4. Poor Posture: Difficulty maintaining good posture due to the lack of core stability.
  5. Digestive Issues: Some men may experience bloating, difficulty breathing, excess skin, constipation, or other digestive problems.

What Does Diastasis Recti Look Like in Men?

In men, diastasis recti often presents as a ridge or vertical bulge running along the midline of the abdomen. This bulge is usually more pronounced when the abdominal muscles are contracted, such as during a sit-up or when lifting heavy objects. Understanding one’s medical history can provide valuable insights into potential risk factors for developing this condition. The gap between the muscles can sometimes be felt with gentle palpation.

What Does it Feel Like to Live with Diastasis Recti in Men?

Living with diastasis recti can be challenging. The condition can affect daily activities, such as keeping feet flat during exercises, exercise routines, and overall quality of life. Men with diastasis recti often report:

  • Limited Mobility: Difficulty performing activities that require core strength, such as lifting, bending, and twisting.
  • Physical Discomfort: Persistent back pain and discomfort in the abdominal area.
  • Self-Consciousness: Concerns about physical appearance, especially if the bulge is noticeable.
  • Reduced Athletic Performance: Inability to engage in particular sports or exercises without discomfort or risk of further injury.

How To Treat Diastasis Recti in Men?

Exercises and Physical Therapy

Specific core exercises can help strengthen the core muscles and reduce the gap caused by diastasis recti. Treatments like the Tupler Technique® involve diastasis recti in men exercises that target the deep core muscles to restore core strength. Physical therapy, such as the services provided by Oregon Mobile Physical Therapy, can also be highly effective, with a physical therapist providing tailored exercise programs and guidance.

Correct Breathing Habits

Proper breathing techniques can alleviate pressure on the abdominal muscles. Diaphragmatic breathing, which involves breathing deeply into the diaphragm rather than the chest, can support core stability and muscle function.

Reforming Bad Workout Habits

Avoiding improper exercises that exacerbate diastasis recti, such as heavy lifting, traditional sit-ups, and crunches, is crucial. Instead, focus on low-impact exercises that strengthen the core without putting excessive strain on the abdominal muscles.

Non-Invasive Treatments

Some non-invasive treatments, like wearing an abdominal binder or brace, can provide support to the abdominal muscles during the healing process. These devices help to reduce the gap and support the core.

Surgery

In severe cases where conservative treatments are ineffective, a cosmetic procedure like surgery may be considered. The surgical procedure for repair involves stitching the separated muscles back together and reinforcing the connective tissue. This option is usually reserved for men who experience significant functional issues or pain.

How To Prevent Diastasis Recti in Men?

How To Prevent Diastasis Recti in Men?

Proper Exercise Techniques

Engage in exercises that strengthen the core without causing excessive strain. Planks, pelvic tilts, and other stabilization exercises are beneficial.

Avoid Certain Exercises

Avoid heavy lifting and exercises that put undue stress on the abdominal muscles, such as traditional sit-ups and crunches.

Healthy Weight

Maintain a healthy weight to reduce abdominal pressure. Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, increases the risk of diastasis recti.

Proper Lifting Techniques

Use proper lifting techniques, such as bending at the knees and engaging the core muscles to protect the abdominal area.

Regular Exercise

Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to strengthen the core and improve overall muscle tone. A balanced exercise program that includes both weightlifting exercises and cardiovascular activities is ideal.

Conclusion

Diastasis recti in men is a condition that, while less commonly discussed, can significantly impact the quality of life. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for managing and preventing this condition. Through proper exercise techniques, lifestyle adjustments, and, when necessary, medical interventions, men can effectively address diastasis recti and improve their overall health and well-being.

FAQs

Can you fix diastasis recti in men?

Yes, diastasis recti in men can be treated through specific exercises, physical therapy, proper breathing techniques, and lifestyle changes. In severe cases, surgery may be required.

What does diastasis recti look like on a man?

Diastasis recti in men often appear as a bulge or ridge running down the midline of the abdomen, especially noticeable when the abdominal muscles are contracted.

Who is prone to diastasis recti?

Men who engage in heavy lifting, have excess abdominal weight, suffer from chronic coughing, or have an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) are more prone to developing diastasis recti. Family history, aging, and lack of core strength also contribute to the risk.

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