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Diastasis Recti Abdominis: A Survey of Women's Health Specialists for Current Physical Therapy Clinical Practice for Postpartum Women

Keeler, Jessica DPT1; Albrecht, Melissa DPT1; Eberhardt, Lauren DPT1; Horn, Laura MPT2; Donnelly, Chantal MPT2; Lowe, Deborah PT, PhD2

Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy: September/December 2012 - Volume 36 - Issue 3 - p 131–142
doi: 10.1097/JWH.0b013e318276f35f
Research Reports

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine and describe intervention techniques used by physical therapists to address diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) in postpartum women.

Study Design: Descriptive survey.

Background: Diastasis recti abdominis is defined as a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle as a result of partitioning at the linea alba, and it occurs in 60% of postpartum women. Despite this high prevalence, information regarding therapeutic approaches for DRA is scarce.

Methods and Measures: The survey was distributed to 2200 members of the Women's Health Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. The survey contained 18 multiple-choice questions on clinician experience, patient presentation, evaluation, interventions, and estimated success. The survey was distributed via Survey Monkey. Descriptive statistics were collected.

Results: The response rate was 16.4% with 13.45% used in the final data analysis. All of the 296 respondents incorporated therapeutic exercise into their plan of care, such as general transverse abdominis (TA) training (89.2%), TA training with functional activities (82.8%), and the Noble technique (62.5%). Fifty-nine percent of the physical therapists use manual therapy techniques, and 81.2% use therapeutic modalities. The average number of visits per week was 1.56. The most common length of treatment was 4 to 6 weeks. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents reported a success rate of 41% to 100%.

Conclusion: The focus of conservative treatment for postpartum women with DRA is therapeutic exercise, specifically TA training. Current practice for postpartum DRA includes multiple intervention techniques. Future studies should assess the effectiveness of individual interventions to refine and advance treatment on the basis of evidence.

1Physical Therapy Program, Mount St Mary's College, Los Angeles, California

2Department of Physical Therapy, Mount St Mary's College, Los Angeles, California.

At the time of this research project, Jessica Keeler, Melissa Albrecht, and Lauren Eberhardt were completing the requirements for the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program at Mount St Mary's College under the mentorship of Laura Horn, Chantal Donnelly, and Deborah Lowe.

The authors declare no funding or conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2012 Section on Women's Health, American Physical Therapy Association
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