9 tips on testing for abdominal separation
9 TIPS ON TESTING FOR ABDOMINAL SEPARATION
To improve your confidence, technique or just to brush up your skills for testing clients for separation, here are my top 9 tips:
1 – CUT YOUR NAILS
I know that might sound ridiculous, but it is important!
I tend to use the old-fashioned method of testing where you literally poke the client’s tummy with two fingers.
The tips of your fingers need to be able to palpate your client’s linea alba, and if you’re sporting a set of fancy acrylics, two things will happen:
- You won’t be able to feel your client’s tummy accurately, and
- You’ll leave two finger nail dents in your patient’s abs – slightly embarrassing.
2 – EXPLAIN / GIVE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST
So, you’ve got your client on their back with their legs bent, your fingers are in position, and before you know it, your client’s done a sit up, without you really being prepared.
So, I always say: “Right, I’m going to give you some instructions – DON’T do the movement yet, just listen”.
And then, once I’ve listed what I’m asking them to do, I give them the cue: “Ok, I’m ready”.
You don’t really want your client doing too many sit up-type movements – maximum of 5 or so in one go should give you all the information you need to test at various sites along the linea alba, so get your client prepared first, before she takes you by surprise.
3 – TEST ABOVE AND BELOW
Diastasis recti can appear above and below the navel, and actually on the navel site itself, so, nowadays, I test twice above, twice below (just moving my fingers up/down a few millimetres in between sit ups) and then do a final check of the navel site itself.
It makes sense that the belly button site is the weakest point of whole chain of events, doesn’t it?
So, checking above, below and on the navel itself will give you the best information to work with.
4 – PELVIC FLOOR
Were you aware that 66% of women who have pelvic floor dysfunction also have abdominal separation?
No? Well – you do now!
So, with that statistic in mind, it’s vital that once you’ve checked your clients for abdominal separation that you follow it up immediately with this question: “And, how’s your pelvic floor? Any issues there?”.
Bear in mind, some clients may not necessarily answer this question honestly with you, so if you’re good at reading people, I’d suggest you then keep it nice and informal and say: “Well, if you do find you have any problems or have friends who chat to you about weakness etc, I’m more than happy to help, because I’m a bit of a pelvic floor geek, alrighty?”.
As long as clients know that you’ve opened up the channels of communication, you can keep building rapport as you take your client your course of classes.
5 – EXTRA ADIPOSE TISSUE
I’m not going to lie here, for clients with more adipose tissue (abdominal fat), to test their abdominals accurately, you’re going to have to dig your fingers in deeper than a client who has less abdominal fat.
I know in my early days of testing mummies’ tummies, there were a few clients here and there that I tested, that I wasn’t entirely confident about whether I felt a definite separation or not.
Don’t worry – my next point will help you with that.
I’ve tested 100’s of sets of linea albas now, but I’m passing this tit bit of information on about this delicate situation, to help you help your clients.
6 – PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Pretty obvious, isn’t it? But, put simply, testing abdominals for separation gets easier, simpler and quicker the more you do it.
You develop your own style of dealing with Everyone has a separation of sorts, so just rope anyone, male or female, big or small, young or old, postnatal or not (but not pregnant, obviously!), to be your guinea pig and see what findings you come up with.
Treat your clients as science experiments. I’m kidding!
7 – PREPARE YOUR SPEECH
Ok, that might be a slightly dramatic title, but it’s all I could come up with!
What I’m referring to here is your bedside manner.
So, say for example you find a separation of vast proportions, how exactly are you going to break the news to your client?
Remember: a new mum who’s offering up her tummy for testing with you is a lot like being at the Doctor’s having a check of some other sort, so you want to be prepared with some words here and definitely don’t do that thing where your eyes pop out of your head in shock, ok?
That is totally not cool.
I run my postnatal tummy clinics in an open, friendly, relaxed environment, and I take this same tack when informing clients of my diagnosis of their tummyy and what they need to do to fix and/or avoid their diastasis getting worse.
8 – TO CLOTHE OR NOT TO CLOTHE
When it comes to postnatal women, and I really don’t want to put ALL postnatal women in the same basket here, but….ummm….they’ve kind of lost a fair amount of dignity by the time they’ve come to you.
They’ve just had a baby come out of their privates if they’ve delivered vaginally, and when you ask them to lie down on a mat to check their belly, it’s not uncommon for them to get into a slight state of undress right infront of you, and start pulling up and shifting down various layers of clothing in order for you to see their entire abdominal region!
Simply, all you need to do is locate your client’s belly button with a quick peek under their t-shirt, then pop your fingers above their navel ready for them to do a sit up type movement.
You might need to ask your client to just move their waistband down a bit to test below the navel, but you can do this all with the shield of their own t-shirt and keep their privates private, alrighty?
9 – BENCHMARKING
If and when you do find a distension in a postnatal set of abdominals, what I’d suggest you do is set your client some homework, discuss any exercises you think might be best avoided whilst they’re in your care etc, and ask them to come back to you in 4-5 weeks time and at which point you can perform the ‘Rec Check’ test again.
I wouldn’t perform the test again much sooner unless you’re really confident your client has managed to follow all of your advice.
It’s likely they’re quite busy caring for their newborn, and although they may have a real desire to fix their abdominal separation, it may not be practical, because her needs come after her baby’s really.
Keep tabs on what the gap was like on your class register, or ask your client to do that, and when you test again, you’ll know if an improvement has been made or not.