Today, I’m talking to you about ‘abdominal splinting’. This might be the first time you’ve heard of such a thing, but perhaps, when you were bored online one day, you came across the term whilst searching for safe and effective exercise for the abdominals.
In some cultures, abdominal splinting is widely used. As soon as a new mum has had her baby, her tummy is wrapped up in fabric (or perhaps ‘bound’ might be a more accurate term to use) to help protect it.
‘Binding’ is sometimes suggested to new mums to help re-align abdominal separation. Diastasis recti, it’s official name, can occur in postnatal women for many reasons. Some new mums carry on as normal symptom-free with abdominal distension and others have pelvic floor dysfunction, back and/or pelvic pain as a result of this separation.
Here’s my take on abdominal binding, and/or any form of ‘splinting the abdominals together’ in an effort to fix diastasis recti:
- Loss of feeling
When it comes to exercising the abdominals safely after birth and/or fixing abdominal separation, in my opinion as an Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert, I believe you’re better of strengthening the abdominals via functional Pilates/core-based training. Wearing a tight band around the abdominals performing exercises doesn’t really allow correct muscle recruitment. With Pilates, you should be able to ‘feel’ a drawing in or slight tightening of the abdominals. Wearing a splint may or may not enable you to have the same sensation.
If back pain is present, wearing an abdominal splint is, in my eyes, just masking the problem, not actually fixing it. It’s a bit like taking painkillers when you have shoulder pain. Sometimes popping a few pills takes the edge of the pain, but it’s only short term relief, isn’t i? If you want to fix that dysfunction in your shoulder once and for all, you’ll need to seek advice from a Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Chiropractor. The same goes for doing Pilates to help realign the abdominals.
- Skin irritation
Women I’ve researched who’ve worn an abdominal splint, for several hours a day, can cause irritation/chaffing in the skin, particularly in warm weather. And, obviously, if the make up of the material used is of synthetic origin it doesn’t allow the skin to breathe effectively.
- One size doesn’t fit all
When selecting an abdominal splint, another problem new mums encounter is that the splint purchased may/may not be the right size/shape/length for you. If you have a long torso, but a small waist, you might find the splint is wide enough, but not the right depth, and it rides up/down which requires constant adjustment.
- Start from the ground up
When addressing abdominal separation, you’re actually best to assess things from the ground up. What I’m talking about here is your pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor isn’t strong, strengthening it first is the best thing you can do. There’s a formula that we follow as Ante/Postnatal Specialists to help fix abdominal separation, and it starts with the pelvic floor first, and then correct recruitment of the right abdominal muscles second eg Pilates-based exercise addresses both of these.
And there you have it. My take on whether wearing a splint and training the abdominals is effective. Obviously, every new mum is different, and you yourself may have a positive experience of abdominal splinting.
If you’d like a more effective, step-by-step, progressive workout to perform to realign any distension in your tummy muscles, click here to exercise with other new mums and get support from a working out in a group.
Or, click here to download a series of exercises specifically for postnatal women to follow to help fix abdominal separation.