Rectus Diastasis / Abdominal Separation

Rectus Diastasis / Abdominal Separation


What is Rectus Diastasis / Abdominal Separation?

Rectus Diastasis which is also known as Abdominal Separation is the separation of the two halves of the rectus abdominus or six pack muscle. The rectus abdominus muscle has a right and left component that is joined in the middle by a fibrous structure called the linea alba and travels vertically along the abdominal wall. During pregnancy a separation of this muscle can occur due to the increased and prolonged pressure placed on the abdominal wall as the baby grows. 

What Causes Rectus Diastasis / Abdominal Separation?

As mentioned above, the main factor that can lead to abdominal separation is pregnancy due to the increased and prolonged pressure on the abdominal wall. To enable room for the baby to grow safely, the muscles and various hormones allow for additional stretch in the structures of the abdominal wall. The amount of separation can vary and is affected by the following factors:

  • Age
  • Large fetal birth weight
  • Obesity
  • Weight gain through pregnancy
  • Consecutive pregnancies
  • Multiple births e.g.twins
  • Heavy lifting throughout pregnancy, especially in the last trimester

What are the Symptoms Rectus Diastasis / Abdominal Separation?

The symptoms of Rectus Diastasis may include:

  • Observable or palpable separation of the abdominal muscles
  • Observable or palpable bulge in the middle of the abdomen when activating the abdominal muscles
  • Possible low back pain

How is Rectus Diastasis / Abdominal Separation Diagnosed?

Rectus Diastasis can be diagnosed through the information that you provide as well as a physical examination. During the physical examination, your physiotherapist will need to observe the abdominal muscles when relaxed and gently activated to see if there is a separation present. The physiotherapist will also need to measure the degree of separation using their fingers, a tape measure, ultrasound or dial callipers. 

What Treatment Options are Available for Rectus Diastasis / Abdominal Separation?

Often, physiotherapy is considered the first line of treatment for rectus diastasis, and can include:

  • Education
  • Advice to modify or manage lifting habits
  • Advice to modify exercise habits
  • Lifestyle recommendations e.g. rolling onto your side to assist with getting out of bed
  • Advice to assist with the management of respiratory conditions that result in regular coughing / sneezing
  • Advice to assist with the management of constipation
  • A progressive home exercise program to assist with narrowing the separation of the abdominal muscles, increasing trunk / core stability and posture  
  • Application of support garments if required: e.g. pregnancy recovery shorts, abdominal binders, or support belts

What Results Can You Expect?

A large proportion of people with rectus diastasis will experience improvement or resolution of their symptoms through physiotherapy treatment. 

Will You Need Surgery?

There is a small percentage of people who may not experience enough improvement with physiotherapy alone and may need to go on to have surgery to resolve their symptoms.

For more information please consult your physiotherapist with a special interest in pelvic floor conditions.

Women’s Health Physiotherapy incorporates the assessment and treatment of a large number of women-specific conditions including:  

Q: What Do You Need To Bring To Your Women's Health Appointment?

A: Please bring any information regarding your condition from your GP, medical specialists or other health care providers with you to your appointment. You will also need to arrive 10 minutes before your appointment to fill out some paperwork. Alternatively, we can email information to you before your appointment.

Q: What Do You Wear To Your Appointment?

A: Please wear clothing that you can move around freely in.

Q: Will the Information That You Provide During Your Appointment Remain Confidential?

A: Yes. All the information that you provide in your appointment will remain confidential, and your physiotherapist will only communicate with other healthcare providers involved in your care with your consent. We also conduct your appointment in individual rooms to ensure that what you say remains confidential. The one exception to this is cases of rectus diastasis, which we may treat in the general physiotherapy curtained consulting area unless otherwise requested.

Q: How Long Will Your Appointment Be?

A: The length of the appointment can vary depending on the condition that we treat. Please see the table below for further information. Your initial women's health appointment will normally take 1-hour. Mastitis and rectus diastasis appointments will normally take 30 to 40-minutes. For information specific to your needs, please call our receptionist.

Q: What Will Your Women's Health Physiotherapy Appointment Cost?

A: The cost of the session can vary depending on the condition that will be treating. Please call our reception staff at Sandgate (Ph: 3269 1122) or Ashgrove (Ph: 3366 4221) for further information.

Q: Is Your Women's Health Physiotherapy Appointment Claimable Under Private Health Insurance?

A: Yes. Please bring the private health insurance card with you to your appointment so we can process your claim on the spot.

Q: Is Your Appointment Covered Under An EPC/Medicare Referral?

A: Yes, we do accept GP referrals under EPC guidelines. However, but due to the extended time allocated by your women's health physiotherapist, there will be a gap payment to cover the total cost of your consultation after the Medicare rebate is applied. Please call our reception staff at Sandgate (Ph: 3269 1122) or Ashgrove (Ph: 3366 4221) for specific information.

Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS)

EMS Machines

Electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) may help you to strengthen weak muscles. ems-electronic-muscle-stimulation

How Does Electric Muscle Stimulation Assist Strengthening?

There are several theories on how an EMS Machine may assist in muscle strengthening. One potential reason is that when you maximally contract a muscle, at best, only 30% of all your muscle fibres are in a state of contraction. The remaining 70% are dormant and awaiting recruitment when the contracting fibres fatigue. With EMS, you can potentially electrically stimulate these resting muscle fibres to improve their strength. Clinically, EMS appears to be more effective when the muscles are frail, and you have difficulty performing regular anti-gravity exercises. Another reason that EMS potentially works is via an improvement in the recruitment of nerve conduction rates. Explained simply, it takes approximately 10000 repetitions for your brain to learn how to quickly send a message to your muscles via the quickest nerve pathways. This contraction pattern becomes your "memory engram". The more frequent your muscle recruits, the better your body becomes at finding the fastest way to recruit that muscle. EMS can potentially provide you with repeated contractions to accelerate this learning process. To achieve your best outcome, we recommend that you seek professional advice on how to best utilise your EMS machine from your local physiotherapist who has a particular interest in EMS muscle retraining.

Important EMS Machine Information

Use your machine only as directed. A TENS machine and EMS machine are electronic medical devices. Always read the label and instruction manual. A TENS machine may assist you in modest short-term pain relief. Consult your doctor/healthcare professional before use and if symptoms persist.

EMS Machines

Due to the large variety of stock and size items, only a limited range of products is available directly from PhysioWorks clinics, where we mainly treat clients. Most online store products are held within our warehouse system and are sent directly to you when ordered online. This allows us to keep our product costs low. Some products may be ordered into your nearest PhysioWorks clinic for collection. However, additional freight and handling fees will apply. Please phone PhysioWorks to see if they have the product you'd like in stock.

Sandgate Physio Works

The most extensive product range is held atSandgate Physio Works.

18 Bowser Pde


Phone 07-32691122

Why Do Physiotherapists Prescribe You Exercises?

The prescription of exercise appropriate to you and your injury or fitness level is one of the many professional skills of a physiotherapist. Whether you have suffered an acute injury, chronic deconditioning or are recovering from surgery, the correct exercise prescription is essential. That's why your physiotherapist's knowledge and skills will personalise your exercise dose. Your physiotherapist not only is educated in injury diagnosis but also exercise physiology or the science of exercise. This training enables your physiotherapist to assess and diagnose your injury, plus also to prescribe injury, fitness or age-appropriate activities targeted to you now.

What Exercises Should You Do?

Your exercises shouldn't be painful. Please take caution with some overzealous exercise prescribers who believe that the more painful the activity, the better. Thus simply isn't true—notably, the frail, immunosuppressed, deconditioned or post-operative person. You'll find that your physiotherapist will thoroughly examine you and prescribe a series of exercises suitable for you in quantities that will not injure you further. Please seek an exercise expert, such as your physiotherapist, when you are planning your rehabilitation.

What Happens When You Stop Exercises?

Without some simple exercises, we know that specific muscles can become weak. When these supporting muscles are weak, your injured structures are inadequately supported and predispose you to linger symptoms or further injury. You can also over-activate adjacent muscles that may lead to further damage. It is also essential to understand that even if you are "in good shape", you may have crucial but weak localised or stability muscles. When you have an injury, you should perform specific exercises that specifically strengthen the muscles around your injury and the adjacent joints. Your physiotherapist will assess your muscle function and prescribe the right exercises specific for your needs. The exercises prescribed will usually be relatively simple, and do not require any special weights equipment, and can be performed safely at home.

Would You Stop Your Daily Prescription Drugs?

Your physiotherapist will prescribe your individualised dose or exercises. They are using their professional expertise to optimise your exercise dose. Would you just stop taking your regular blood pressure medication because you were too busy or didn't think it was working? We would hope not! Exercise, when prescribed by an expert such as your physiotherapist, should be treated as your recommended dose. Just like when you don't take your blood pressure medication, you can't expect the drugs to work of you don't take it as prescribed by your health professional. So, next time you skip your "exercise dose" just remember that you are not putting your health first. If you have any questions, please contact your Physio Works physiotherapist for your best care.

Private Health Insurance Rebates

PhysioWorks Physiotherapy and Remedial Massage are more affordable than you think. Your Private Health Insurance (PHI) usually pays for the majority of your treatment fees, leaving you with only a small gap payment.

However, Private Health Funds do vary their rebates payable depending upon the level of cover that you have taken. Some funds have kept up with the costs of modern medicine whereas, sadly others haven't, with rebates similar to what they were a decade ago.

HICAPS - Instant Health Fund Claims

Most health funds are members of the HICAPS instant claims system.  Swipe your health insurance card at our reception counter, and you can instantly claim your physiotherapy treatment via our online Hicaps System. Remedial Massage is claimable via Hicaps for some but not all funds. For more information, please visit Hicaps for the latest funds which can use their instant claiming system.

Private health insurance rebates are available for all of our physiotherapists. Instant claims are possible via our in-practice Hicaps system.

Third-Party Insurers

PhysioWorks practitioners are registered providers for government, Workcover and insurance companies including:

  • Workcover
  • InjuryNet
  • Australia Post; Coles Myer; Woolworths
  • Medicare
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • CTP & Sports Insurers
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