1. What are your core muscles?

Your core muscles consist of your diaphragm, your lower back extensors, abdominals and pelvic floor muscles. 

These groups of muscles work to maintain optimal intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) and decrease compressive loading on your spine. Your pelvic floor especially, plays a significant part in your core. It contracts simultaneously with your deep abdominal muscles and your back to provide strength and support to your spine and organs whenever you move. Core stability is compromised if you are unable to maintain optimal IAP.

Very often, mommies develop a divarication of recti or diastasis recti after pregnancy that does not heal completely. Thus causing what is commonly known as the mummy tummy. This can also lead to a slew of other issues such as lower back pain, pelvic girdle pain and incontinence. 

  1. How are your core muscles important? 
  • Preventing back injuries

Good core strength and stability is important for cushioning the spine during exertion, especially during exercise. It is also pivotal in performing day to day activities such as walking, twisting, lifting and even breathing. 

With a condition such as diastasis recti abdominis (DRA), lower back pain is very common. Weakened and separated abdominals provide insufficient support and lead to poor posture and spine fatigue over time. This will eventually lead to spine degeneration if the root of the issue is not treated. Therefore, it is key to treat diastasis recti as soon as possible to protect your spine. 

  • Maintaining healthy pelvic floor function

Another condition that commonly presents itself with diastasis recti is pelvic floor weakness, resulting in incontinence. When your abdominal wall is unable to support your organs, the additional stress is often transferred to your pelvic floor muscles. This can lead to incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders. 

Additionally, when a diastasis recti occurs together with pelvic floor weakness, even more stress is put on the spine. This lack of support radiating from the coccyx and poor intra-abdominal pressure will cause wear and tear to the spine.

  1. Why it’s important to also strengthen your pelvic floor when treating diastasis recti

A diastasis recti weakens the abdominal wall and in turn, compromises pelvic floor function and makes it less efficient. 

Pelvic floor weakness can present in several ways:

  • Stress incontinence is where urinary leakage occurs with physical exertion such as laughing, sneezing, coughing or sexual activity. 
  • Overflow incontinence is when you experience frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to an inability to empty the bladder completely.
  • Urge incontinence is when you feel a strong urge to urinate even when your bladder is not full. This may be related to an overactive bladder 
  1. Holistic healing: Effective core breathing

Effective core breathing is one of the key pillars to healing a diastasis recti and restoring pelvic floor function. This breathing method effectively fires up your transverse abdominal muscles as well as your middle, upper back and spinal muscles. 

Follow these steps for effective core breathing:

  • Lie flat with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Ensure that your spine and pelvis are neutral. 
  • Breathe slowly, drawing the breath into your back and abdomen. Feel your back and the sides of your ribcage expand outwards.
  • Avoid lifting your ribs and upper chest forwards as you inhale.
  • Breathe out slowly and make sure your rib cage moves back to your starting position (your rib cage shouldn’t be elevated or raised forwards)
  1. Exercises to work your core

Always exhale on exertion, feel as though you are blowing on candles to engage your deep abdominal muscles (transverse abdominals)

  • Heel taps

1. Lie down on the mat with your feet up in a table top position and your hands firmly planted on the mat. 

2. Engage your abdominals and push your lower back into the mat.

3. Inhale to lower one foot down to tap the mat while keeping your pelvis stable.

4. Exhale as you pull from your lower abdominals and bring the foot back up.

5. Repeat 10 times, alternating on each side.

  • Dead bug

1. Lie down on the mat with your feet up in a table top position and your hands perpendicular to the mat. 

2. Engage your abdominals and push your lower back into the mat.

3. Exhale as you lower an alternate leg and arm down to the floor. 

4. Ensure your ribcage does not flare up as you do this. 

5. Inhale to return back to starting position. 

6. Repeat 10 times, alternating on each side. 

  • Bridge

1. Lying down in a neutral spine position, legs parallel, knees bent, arms by sides.

2. Exhale. Draw the pelvic floor up and abdominal wall inward, and slowly curl pelvis, lower, middle and upper back off the mat sequentially.

3. Inhale. Lift trunk to form a straight line and feel the stretch along the hip flexors. Ensure your knees do not splay outwards.

4. Exhale as you lower your trunk, articulating the spine through each vertebra to return to start.

5. Repeat 10 times.

  • Back support

1. Sit on the mat, legs straight and feet pointed. Arms extended on the mat with fingertips facing the front.

2. Exhale. Lift pelvis off the mat, bringing the body into a straight line. 

3. Inhale. Lower your pelvis to tap the mat.

4. Repeat 10 times.

  • Half side plank

1. Sit sideways with your knees bent,  rest your weight on your supporting arm and pelvis. Top arm against the hip.

2. Exhale as you engage your obliques and lift your hip up towards the ceiling. 

3. Keep your shoulders, hips and knees aligned with each other.

4. Inhale as you lower your hips to tap the mat. 

5. Repeat 10 times on each side. 

Rebuilding your core from the inside out is important to build strength that will support your daily activities, prevent injuries and take you through life’s journey from pregnancy to old age. 

At Orchard Clinic, we often advise floorwork exercises along with advanced medical devices to help with the rapid strengthening and recovery of muscles. Get in touch to find out more. 

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Orchard Clinic is a specialised centre for Postnatal and Postpartum conditions, helping clients achieve healthy and pain-free lifestyles.

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