Women's Hospital

Breakthrough Treatment Rebuilds Baby Belly Damage

For some women, no matter how much they exercise, their stomach is never flat. There may be a medical reason why and all of that exercise is actually making it worse.

The condition is called Diastasis Recti. It occurs when the stomach muscle separates because organs press against it. The problems start because the gap does not close for all women.

Kimberly Emerling is in the best shape of her life, but for years her stomach did not match the rest of her body. “I looked like I was nine months pregnant”, she said. She does CrossFit almost every day, “All the crunches, planks anything that was thrown my way. I was trying to flatten my stomach.” Those were all the wrong exercises because she had Diastasis Recti.

Doctor Daniela Carusi of Brigham and Women’s Hospital said it happens to almost all women during pregnancy, but about 30 to 40 percent of women have permanent separation after having their baby. Diastasis Recti can cause lower back pain, urinary incontinence, and constipation. Surgery can fix it.

Emerling did not want to go under the knife. In February, she found Caroline Johnson of “Belly Rebuild” in South Weymouth.

Johnson said, “It offers people a way to heal the Diastasis Recti non-surgically”.

Johnson teaches the “Tupler Technique”; it involves wearing a splint. The purpose of the splint is to reposition the muscles back to wear they should be. The splint needs to be worn 24/7. Breathing and abdominal muscles are necessary for six to eighteen weeks, depending on the size of the Diastasis. It took Kim fifteen weeks.

It is not a permanent fix so you have to avoid exercises like crunches or planks. Another option is seeing physical therapists who specialize in closing the gap.

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