Hospital for Special Surgery Clinical Trial Finds Every Mother's EMbody Program Effective at Healing Diastasis Recti, Urinary Leaking, and Back Pain
Every Mother’s EMbody Program is already a clinically proven program that enables and equips women in every stage of motherhood to resolve diastasis recti. Our core is key for our overall health, and how we move and exercise directly affects its function. An initial 2014 study conducted by Weill Cornell examined the effect of postnatal exercise on abdominal separation, with results showing 100% resolution of diastasis recti in women who followed Leah Keller’s 12-week exercise protocol that would become EMbody Reclaim. We are thrilled to be part of a new study led by Hospital for Special Surgery that utilized the precision of musculoskeletal ultrasound to measure the impact of our video-based core exercise program on healing diastasis recti. The study also found a significant reduction of related symptoms, including urinary incontinence and lower back pain.
Diastasis recti, or DR, is a condition that occurs in almost 100% of prenatal women and approximately 60% of women after childbirth where the two sides of the abdominal muscles (often called the “six pack”) stretch sideways or separate as the baby grows during pregnancy, causing damage to the connective tissue and resulting in the commonly described “pooch” in the midsection. DR can also cause functional pelvic floor issues, as well as the aforementioned urinary incontinence and back pain.
“As evidenced by the large number of women who expressed interest in our study in a short period of time, as well as by many of my own patients, DRA [diastasis recti abdominis] is a huge area of concern for postpartum women,” said Ellen Casey, MD, a sports medicine physiatrist at the Women's Sports Medicine Center at HSS and lead investigator in an HSS press release on the study. “It can have a major impact on quality of life.”
The study was published online ahead of print in the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy, and followed 43 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 45, that were 12 weeks to 36 months postpartum. In this study, a gap of more than ¾ of an inch was defined as diastasis recti. Hospital for Special Surgery investigators used the gold standard musculoskeletal ultrasound (different from a pregnancy ultrasound) to measure the inter-rectus distance (IRD), or gap between the abdominal muscles, before the women started the program and again after 12 weeks of participation. This method of assessment is significant because it leads to more quantifiable and precise study results than the finger-width measurements often used in clinical and at-home DR checks.
“The primary aim of our study was to assess changes in IRD following participation in the program,” said Dr. Casey in the HSS press release on the study. “The secondary aim was to investigate whether the program improved DRA-related symptoms, including lower back pain, stress urinary incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction, and body image.”
And the results? The study found that women experienced a statistically significant reduction in their abdominal separation (IRD measurement) after following Every Mother’s EMbody program for 12 weeks! There were also statistically significant improvements in lower back pain and incontinence among participants.
A subset of 19 women continued on with the program for an additional 12 weeks, with their outcomes assessed at 24 weeks. This group saw even further reduction of their abdominal gap. And when participants were asked if they would recommend the program to a friend, a whopping 95% said yes, they would!
“Our findings suggest that a video-based core strengthening exercise program offers an accessible and effective treatment strategy for postpartum women with DRA,” said Dr. Casey in HSS’s press release on the study.
Furthermore, the average participant stage was over a year postpartum at 66 weeks, with the base ranging from 12 weeks all the way to 36 months (3 years) postpartum. It’s clear from the results of the study that diastasis recti can be resolved at any point in your journey, even if you’ve had it for years and are only learning about it now.
This new HSS study not only replicates Weill Cornell’s finding that Every Mother’s Core Compressions can improve or resolve diastasis recti and related symptoms, but it also demonstrates that you can achieve healing effectively from the comfort of your own home, without any specialized equipment, through our easily accessible videos via the Every Mother app and online. The right kinds of exercises are key to the success of Every Mother’s program and resolution of diastasis recti.
“The program focuses on isometric activation of the deep abdominal muscles with coordinated breathing and pelvic-floor muscle engagement,” explained Leah Keller, Every Mother’s founder. “Forward-flexion exercises such as sit-ups and crunches were excluded, as they can be counterproductive and may even make diastasis recti worse.”
Offering more than a therapeutic exercise prescription, the EMbody Program provides holistic education and support, including video instruction and coaching on alignment, posture, and proper core engagement while performing daily activities; education on how to optimally engage the core muscles during exercise; and specific low-impact weekly workouts with aerobic and resistance exercises to promote core engagement.
In addition to the 43 participants in the Hospital for Special Surgery study, Every Mother has been helping thousands of women resolve diastasis recti and alleviate the complications and symptoms that come with it for years. We hope to continue in our mission to reach as many women as we can with this knowledge and to empower our community to make evidence-based, life-altering changes.
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 12th consecutive year), No. 4 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2021-2022), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2021-2022). HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics by Newsweek (2020-2021).
An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. For more information, visit HSS.edu
- Leopold, Madeline, et al. “Efficacy of a Core Strengthening Program for Diastasis Rectus Abdominis in Postpartum Women: A Prospective Observational Study.” Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy, vol. 45, no. 4, 2021, pp. 147–63. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1097/jwh.0000000000000214.
- Sharma, Geeta, et al. “Postnatal Exercise Can Reverse Diastasis Recti.” Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 123, no. Supplement 1, 2014, p. 171S. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1097/01.aog.0000447180.36758.7a.