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Bulging Stomach When Sitting Up - Diastasis Recti Information & Exercises

  • Published: 2014-03-27 (Revised/Updated 2017-05-24) : Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Information and exercises regarding Diastasis Recti which generally presents as a mid-line domed or bulging stomach when rising from a lying position but is not a hernia.
Diastasis Recti

Also known as abdominal separation or recti split - is a disorder defined as a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle into right and left halves. Normally, the two sides of the muscle are joined at the linea alba at the body mid-line. It is essentially a cosmetic condition, with no associated morbidity or mortality. A diastasis recti may appear as a ridge running down the mid-line of the abdomen, anywhere from the xiphoid process to the umbilicus. It becomes more prominent with straining and may disappear when the abdominal muscles are relaxed.

Main Document

"Diastasis Recti often reveals itself with pooching or doming of your stomach, sometimes making you appear as if you are pregnant - men included."

A Diastasis Recti looks like a ridge, which runs down the middle of your belly area. The protruding bulge can stretch from the bottom of your breastbone to your belly button, and increases with muscle straining. Diastasis Recti is not a hernia - a umbilical hernia and diastasis recti can co-exist, but are not related.

Many people have a diastasis recti and don't know it. A Diastasis Recti, also referred to as Divarication of the Recti or Rectus Distension, is the widening of the gap between the 2 sections of the Rectus Abdominis (or 6 pack) abdominal muscle at the Linea Alba (mid-line connective tissue) at the front of the abdomen. The rectus abdominis muscle, also known as the "abs and lower abdominals," is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of the human abdomen. There are two parallel muscles, separated by a mid-line band of connective tissue called the linea alba (white line). Diastasis Recti often reveals itself with pooching or doming of your stomach, sometimes making you appear as if you are pregnant - men included.

The condition is common in newborns. Women who are pregnant may develop Diastasis Recti due to increased tension on the abdominal wall, (The risk is higher with multiple births or many pregnancies), however, no treatment is needed for pregnant women with this condition. Males can also develop the condition, often caused by heavy lifting, weight lifting, sudden weight gain, etc. When men have significant pain or associated hernias, a mesh repair can be performed, but typically with a scar placed from the breastbone to the umbilicus. Some cases of diastasis recti in men can be treated with physical therapy alone. You should discuss this with your doctor, who may be able to refer you to a physical therapist who can suggest strengthening exercises for your abdominal muscles. If exercises do not work, then you should talk to a plastic surgeon about a possible abdominoplasty, or "tummy tuck", procedure.

Fig 1. Diagram of the Human Rectus Abdominis muscle.
About This Image: Fig 1. Diagram of the Human Rectus Abdominis muscle.
Performing a Quick Test for Diastasis:

Diastasis Recti Repairs

Healing the connective tissue is all about putting it in a better (narrow) position, bringing blood flow to it and protecting it when doing any type of activities so it is not being stretched nor does it have any intra-abdominal force or pressure on it.

A study in 1988 was conducted to determine if exercises could reduce the amount of separation in the rectus abdominis muscles. After a six week trial, results were shown that exercising greatly reduced the amount of the distasis.

Exercises Shown to Reduce Distasis Recti Separation

NOTE: Incorrect exercises, including crunches can actually increase the distasis recti separation. All corrective exercises should be in the form of pulling in of the abdominal muscles rather than a pushing of them outward. Consultation of a professional physiotherapist is recommended for correct exercise routines.

Various Exercises for Females and Males with Diastasis Recti:


In extreme cases, diastasis recti can be corrected during a cosmetic surgery procedure known as an abdominoplasty by creating a plication or folding of the linea alba and suturing together. This creates a tighter abdominal wall.

The skin is lifted near the pubic hair, and elevated to the level of the breast bone. The muscles are tightened in the mid-line where the tissue had been stretched. Permanent stitches are often used. In the most severe cases, mesh is used to reinforce the central repair area.

Splints, Belly Binders and Abdominal Wraps

Postpartum abdominal binding has also been traditional practice in many parts of the world for generations. This is the process of wrapping or binding your mid-section to draw the split recti muscles back together. Belly binding may 'hold you in' and provide support to your lower back. But wearing a splint or binder won't strengthen or tighten the muscles.

( Engelhardt, Laura (1988). "Comparison of two abdominal exercises on the reduction of the diastasis recti abdominis of postpartum women". ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. UMI Dissertations Publishing. )

Facts: Diastasis Recti

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