Postpartum Recovery for Diastasis Recti
The Importance of Post-Partum Recovery to Get You Back on Your Feet
Congratulations on the new addition to your family! We know that you are going over everything you need to do to care for your baby including reviewing all of those books you bought or classes you took. But we can’t stress enough how important it for guided postpartum recovery, especially for conditions such as diastasis recti.
Remember that your body just went through one of the most difficult and exhausting processes to exist; giving birth to another human is no small feat. As a result, your body is going to need months – not a few days or weeks – to completely recover and get back to normal.
Let’s take a look at the most common conditions you may experience post-partum as well as how physical therapy can promote healing and get you back on your feet.
Post-Partum Conditions and How to Fix Them
The following are several post-partum conditions that you should be aware of. We’ll also review how physical therapy can help to avoid the worst symptoms of these conditions and get you back to feeling like your normal self.
Take a look at your stomach. This is known as the abdominal wall and there are two sides to it. If you look at bodybuilders, you can see how both sides of the stomach are separated and defined by hard muscle with a small gap in the middle. During childbirth, the gap in between the two sides of the stomach may widen, resulting in a condition known as diastasis recti or abdominal separation.
Diastasis recti is the most common condition following childbirth, especially for women who are over the age of thirty-five or have given birth multiple times. We know it sounds intense, but don’t worry as this is completely normal and expected.
How to Care for Diastasis Recti
The best way to heal from diastasis recti is with physical therapy and an emphasis on doctor-recommended core exercises.
Your chiropractor or physical therapist will primarily focus on targeting a deep abdominal muscle called the transverse abdominis. This ab muscle wraps around the torso like a corset, and when strengthened, it can pull the abdominal wall back into place, helping you avoid a belly bump from diastasis recti.
If you follow the physical therapy program as instructed, you can expect to fully recover within three months. Some women try to let diastasis recti heal on its own, and while the muscle tissue itself might heal, it usually does not go back into place, resulting in an abdominal bulge. In the end, this may require cosmetic surgery to correct, which isn’t guaranteed.
Physical therapy can ensure that your body completely heals from diastasis recti without the aesthetic concern of belly bulge.
The term core refers to all of the muscles in your torso – abdominal wall, obliques (side of your abs), and lower back – as well as your hip flexors and glutes. Following childbirth, your core is going to be weak in some places and overworked in others.
A weak core can lead to poor posture such as slouching or walking with an anterior pelvic tilt, which is when your butt goes back and your stomach goes forward. Over time, a weak core and poor posture can result in poor movement patterns. In other words, your body will move incorrectly and this can increase muscle strain, incorrect bone and muscle development, and risk of injury.
The strain of poor posture due to a weakened core can manifest in other ways as well including tension headaches or headaches caused by poor blood flow. Constant soreness can also become an issue.
How to Care for a Weakened Core
Visiting with a physical therapist or chiropractor, you’ll be placed through a physical assessment to determine the weak areas and overworked parts of your core. From here, you’ll be given a routine of daily stretches and exercises to complete in order to loosen tight muscles and strengthen the weak ones.
Your physical therapist or chiropractor may also recommend spinal manipulation in order to encourage proper movement patterns. Deep tissue massage can also help alleviate tight muscles and reduce risk of injury from straining.
Post Cesarean Delivery (C Section)
Cesarean deliveries are only given when medically necessary. In other words, when your life or the life of your baby is at risk, doctors will make an incision in the abdomen to safely deliver the baby.
If you will have or have had a c-section delivery, the recovery time can be several weeks longer than a vaginal birth. Left untreated, a cesarean delivery can result in improper healing of the abdominal wall, mimicking many of the same symptoms as abdominal separation or a weakened core.
How to Care for a Cesarean Delivery
Following up with a physical therapist or chiropractor following a cesarean delivery is highly recommended. Since the abdominal muscles were cut to allow for the baby to be born, it’s essential that you follow a program that promotes healing while strengthening the muscles, allowing them to return to their proper place.
Your physical therapist or chiropractor will recommend exercises that focus on the transverse abdominis, the muscles mentioned above, as well as the pelvic floor muscles. Following a pregnancy and as women get older, the pelvic floor muscles tend to get weaker. As a result, loss of bladder control is common. By learning how to activate and strengthen these muscles, you’ll quicken your rate of recovery while significantly decreasing the risk for injury.
Different Types of Back Pain
Seeing as how the weight of the baby is carried in the front of the body, throwing off balance and proper posture, it’s no wonder that mother-to-be constantly look for ways to relieve back pain.
Following a pregnancy, back pain may not go away because of the new movement patterns and posture you adopted during your pregnancy. The anterior pelvic tilt we talked about above is an excellent example. Here are three common types of back pain that can all be treated with physical therapy and chiropractic care.
Sacroiliac Joint (SI) Pain and Pelvic Pain
Sacroiliac joints are located in the lower back and they play an important role during childbirth: these joints stretch and allow for the safe delivery of the baby. However, following childbirth these joints may not return to their proper position resulting in pain in the lower back and butt. If left untreated, this can lead to a condition called SI Joint Dysfunction, which can cause severe pain and injury.
There is a large nerve that begins at the lower back, splits in two, and runs down each of your legs. If something pushes against this nerve, it can cause severe pain and discomfort. As mentioned above, since you carry the weight of the baby in the front, you may develop new movement patterns. Moving improperly can result in a bulging disc that puts direct pressure on the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain that runs down your lower back into your butt and legs.
Upper Back Pain
During the third trimester, it’s common to develop pain in the upper back. This is when the baby will be at its heaviest, putting a great deal of weight in the front of the body. As a result, some muscle groups become overworked, leading to muscle tension in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. This type of pain can also be a cause of headaches.
How to Care for Back Pain
Untreated back pain can lead to a dangerous dependence on prescription medication. Physical therapy and chiropractic can directly address the cause of the back pain, correcting it and eliminating the source of the pain.
Your physical therapist or chiropractor will examine your movement patterns and see where the source of the pain is coming from. The doctor may request a series of treatments including spinal manipulation, deep tissue massage, and acupuncture. The corrective treatment will most likely be coupled with preventative measures in the form of stretching and exercises.
Experiencing Post-Partum Pain? Let Us Help!
If you’ve recently given birth and you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we mentioned above, or if you’d like to prevent post-partum conditions from happening, Ravenswood Chiropractic & Wellness Center can help you recover. Chiropractic, specialized massage, and physical therapy all work together to help repair and replenish your body postpartum.
Give us a call at 773-878-7330 to learn how we can help you achieve optimal wellness, giving you the freedom to enjoy more pain-free time with your newborn.
Dr. DeFabio D.C. is a highly regarded chiropractor in Chicago who focuses on helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness. He takes a holistic approach to care, treating symptoms and addressing underlying issues to promote long-term healing. Dr. DeFabio D.C. is passionate about empowering his patients to take control of their health and live their best lives. You can find him surfing, skateboarding, and volunteering at the Lakeview Food Pantry when he’s not in the office.