Abdominal Separation: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Exercise, Epidemiology

One of the medical conditions where the belly sticks out because of the fact that the space between the left and the right belly muscles has widen up due to some defect; is known as the Abdominal separation. This is also known as Diastasis recti which are most commonly seen in the pregnant women and newborns; though men population also suffer from this type of condition. Abdominal separation, also known as Diastasis recti is not linked with any mortality, yet treatments and proper awareness is essential so as to get rid of the condition. In this current article of ours, we will know about abdominal separation, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and specific exercises for the condition of Abdominal separation.

Abdominal Separation

Overview on Abdominal Separation:

  • Abdominal separation is also known as Diastasis recti.
  • Abdominal separation is mostly not associated with any morbidity or mortality.
  • It is a medical condition which is defined as a gap of around 2.7 cms or more in between the two Rectus abdominis muscles, mostly seen in pregnant women and newborns. However it is also know to be experienced by men.
  • Abdominal separation may appear as a ridge that runs down the midline of the abdomen or the belly. Usually it becomes more prominent with straining and may also disappear once the abdominal muscles get relaxed.
  • Treatments in pregnant women are usually not required as the condition disappears after childbirth in a gradual way. However, in newborn or young children it is essential to be alert with the early signs of Abdominal separation and follow up essential treatments under an expert medical professional.
  • Exercises, physiotherapy etc can treat Abdominal Separation in an effective way.

Epidemiology of Abdominal Separation:

  • Abdominal separation is more common in pregnant women and newborns.
  • It is mostly seen in premature and African-American newborns.
  • Women get more susceptible to grow up with the condition of abdominal separation after crossing the age of 35 years, or if the birth weight of the child they carry is high or in case of multiple birth pregnancy or multiple pregnancies.

Symptoms of Abdominal Separation:

Below we will take a look on few signs and symptoms of the condition of abdominal separation.

  • In women the condition appears as a ridge running down the midline of the abdomen or the belly.
  • In infants Abdominal separation appears as an apparent “bubble” under the skin of the abdomen or the belly, somewhere below the breastbone.
  • Signs of vomiting, redness and pain in the abdominal area are some of the early signs of abdominal separation in infants which must be informed to the child doctor for carrying out further diagnosis tests and proceed with the necessary treatments.

Complications Associated with Abdominal Separation:

There can be some complications associated with Abdominal Separation if the condition is left untreated. Below are some of the complications linked with abdominal separation.

  • Chronic lower back pain is one of the complications of abdominal separation.
  • As there are weak abdominal muscles in abdominal separation there will be altered postures in the affected person and this would in turn weaken the back muscles and lead to back pain.
  • In children the abdominal separation can bring complications like growing of umbilical on ventral hernia.

Causes for Abdominal Separation:

There can be some underlying causes for the appearance of abdominal separation. Below are some of them.

  • Abdominal separation in newborn occurs mostly because their rectus abdominis is not fully developed and may not be properly sealed together at midline; especially if they are premature in their birth.
  • The condition of abdominal separation occur in pregnant women because of the stretching of the rectus abdomenis muscle due to the growing uterus in pregnancy.
  • Abdominal separation is more common in women with multiple pregnancies because there are repeated episodes of stretching of the rectus abdominis.
  • Excessive abdominal exercises done after the first trimester of pregnancy can lead to abdominal separation in women.
  • In infants a minor defect of the Linea alba present between the rectus abdominis muscles can cause the condition of Abdominal separation.

Diagnosis of Abdominal Separation:

  • The condition of Abdominal separation is usually diagnosed by physical examination.
  • The examination is performed with the person lying on their back, knees bent at 90 degrees and keeping feet flat, head slightly lifted and the chin on the chest.
    With tensed muscles, the examiner now places their fingers in the ridge that is presented.
  • The number of fingertips that can fit within the space between the left and the right rectus abdominis muscles; would tell about the measurement of the width of the abdominal separation. A separation that is more than 2 fingertips, i.e. approximately 1 ½ cms, is the determining factor for diagnosing Abdominal separation in a person.

Treatments for Abdominal Separation:

Usually women who are in their pregnant conditions and suffer from abdominal separation do not require any treatment. However, in other cases treatments are essential and it is highly mandatory in the infants to treat the condition. Apart from the medical treatments there are also some alternative treatments for abdominal separation which includes physiotherapy and exercises. In fact exercises prove very much effective in treating abdominal separation. In this section we will take a look on some of the essential ways to treat abdominal separation along with the most effective exercises for the condition.

Medical Treatments for Abdominal Separation:

Some of the medical treatments for abdominal separation are the following.

  1. Treating Abdominal Separation by means of “Abdominoplasty”: This is a surgical treatment for abdominal separation which is also known as a “Tummy tuck”. In this type of operation the surgeon folds and sews together the weak central ridge present over the abdomen or the belly in the affected person.
  2. “Laparoscopy” to Correct Abdominal Separation Surgically: One more treatment for abdominal separation is known as Laproscopy which is again a surgery that is done for correcting the condition. In this type of surgery there are only small cuts and not the large ones like any other surgical treatment procedure. There can be some side effects involved with such a type of treatment for abdominal separation and they may include infection, scarring etc.

Exercises for Abdominal Separation:

“Exercise can do wonders to everything that looks sick!” Below are some of the most essential exercises for abdominal separation.

  1. Core Contraction Exercise for Abdominal Separation: This is one of the exercises for abdominal separation that is done in seated position. Follow the steps as explained below.

    • Be in a seated position and place both your hands on the abdominal muscles.
    • Now, take small and controlled breaths.
    • Slowly contract the abdominal muscles by pulling them straight back towards your spine.
    • Now, try to hold on the contraction for about half a minute, while maintaining the controlled breathing.
    • Complete at least 10 such repetitions for best results.
  2. Head Lift Exercise for Abdominal Separation: This is another exercise for abdominal separation which is done in a lying position. Steps for doing the exercise are explained below.

    • Begin the exercise by lying down with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet being flat.
    • Slowly lift your head and get your chin straight towards your chest.
    • Now, move your abdominal muscles towards the floor
    • Hold this for 2-4 seconds and return back to normal position again for 2-3 seconds
    • Go for 10 such repetitions for best results.
  3. Seated Squeeze Exercise for Abdominal Separation: This is an exercise done in seated position for correcting abdominal separation. Below are the steps for doing the exercise.

    • With seated position, place one your hand above the belly button and other below the belly button.
    • Next thing to do is, with controlled breaths, with a mid-way starting point, pull your abdominals backwards towards your spine.
    • Hold the position for 2 seconds and return to the mid-way point.
    • Complete 100 such repetitions in Seated squeeze.
  4. Squat Against the Wall Exercise for Correcting Abdominal Separation: This is one form of a seated squat which is done to treat abdominal separation. Follow the below mentioned steps for doing the exercise effectively.

    • Stand with your back against the wall, and feet out in front of the body.
    • Slowly, lower your body to a seated position so that knees are bent at a 90 degree angle and contract your abs towards spine as you raise your body back to the standing position.
    • This exercise can also be optionally done by using an exercise ball to be placed against the wall and your lower back.
    • Complete 20 repetitions of the squat for appropriate results.
  5. Squat With Squeeze Exercise for Abdominal Separation: This is a slight variation to the “Squat against the wall” exercise for correcting the condition of abdominal separation.

    • Here you need to place a small resistance ball between the knees and squeeze the ball as you lower your body and come to a seated position.
    • Complete at least 20 repetitions of squat with squeeze.
  6. Upright push-up exercise for correcting abdominal separation: This is a standup pushup against the wall done to correct abdominal separation. Below are the steps to do this exercise.

    • With your feet together arms-length away from wall, place your hands flat against the wall, and go for a stand-up push-up against the wall.
    • Contract the abdominal muscles towards spine, lean your body towards the wall, keeping elbows bent downward close to the body, pull the abdominal muscles further in with controlled breathing all throughout.
    • Finally push back to the starting position and release the abdominal muscles.
    • Go for 20 repetitions of the upright push-up exercise for correcting abdominal separation.

Dos and Don’ts in Abdominal Separation:

Check out some of the Dos and Don’ts in order to keep away from the condition of abdominal separation go even worse.

  • Do remain careful while exercising with abdominal separation. Some exercises like sit-ups, pushups, front planks, etc along with swimming and specific yoga asanas like downwards dog asana, can make the condition worse. So, be careful while choosing your fitness routine if you suffer from abdominal separation.
  • Do not strain in case you suffer from abdominal separation. This can again, make the condition worse. Be noted that lifting heavy weights, constipation etc can make the abdominal separation worse. So keep away from all these.
  • Do keep in mind to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise during or after pregnancy if you are looking for correcting abdominal separation caused due to pregnancy.
  • Remember, intense coughing without abdominal support can make the condition of abdominal separation worse. So, be careful in this.


Now that we are known to some of the exercises and treatments for abdominal separation; and also know about the things to avoid in such a condition; it is essential to follow the same.

It must be noted that it is highly essential to consult with your doctor and take up the prescribed treatments and follow the exercises as advised by the professional.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 23, 2019

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