Today I want to talk about belly binding and abdominal splints.
An abdominal splint is a piece of elastic that you wrap around your belly to support your core. This is a contentious topic in the world of core healing. There are some practitioners who say absolutely everyone should wear one. And there are some who say no one should ever wear one.
It’s my belief that things are almost never that black and white.
What I have found is that there are certain people for whom belly binding is extremely helpful and there are some people for whom belly binding is unnecessary.
That’s what we’ll cover today.
We’ll discuss two different contexts for belly binding:
- Binding in the first few weeks postpartum
- Binding while healing an abdominal separation (diastasis recti)
Binding While Healing An Abdominal Separation
Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles that happens during pregnancy. For some women it heals naturally postpartum, but up to 30% of women still have it one year after having a baby.
It leads to core weakness that can cause back pain, hip pain, incontinence, and other issues. So it’s very important to bring the core muscles back together so the body can function properly.
Most women can bring their core muscles back together without the help of an abdominal splint.
For most women, simply doing the right exercises, breathing properly, and correcting alignment is all it takes to bring those muscles back together and allow the connective tissue that connects the muscles to heal.
**For more information on proper exercise and alignment for diastasis, check out the Heal Your Core With Yoga program.
So most women do not require an abdominal binder.
But what about the women for whom proper exercise and alignment isn’t quite enough?
There are three types of women for whom I typically recommend an abdominal splint.
Women with a 4+ Finger Gap
The first is women who have a abdominal gap bigger than four fingers.
Not sure the size of your gap? Here’s a self-test video.
With a larger gap, it can be harder to connect to your deep core muscles. Additionally, the connective tissue is often thinner and weaker in a larger gap.
So, for these women, splinting brings the two sides of the abdominal muscles together and
- helps you connect more to your muscles, and
- gives the connective tissue a better chance to heal.
Women Carrying Extra Weight At Their Midsection
The second type of person I typically recommend a splint to is someone carrying extra weight on their belly.
The abdominal muscles are impacted by gravity. When you have extra weight at the front, it can pull on the abdominals and make it harder to engage the deep core muscles.
So for these women, splinting can help them connect more to their muscles and minimize ongoing strain to the already weak area of the core.
Women Struggling To Engage Their Deep Core Muscles
The third type of woman who can benefit from splinting is someone who is struggling to find the connection to their abdominal muscles (even if she doesn’t fall into the two categories above).
If you’ve been taught how to engage your deep core muscles, but feel like you just can’t make it happen, a splint might help!
By bringing those muscles together it can enhance the brain-body connection and give some biofeedback to the system. This can make muscle engagement more successful.
As a reminder, for all of these groups, the splint should only be used short term while you are doing all the other good work to heal your core. (More on what a short-term splinting schedule looks like coming soon in another post).
Splinting In The First 2-3 Weeks Postpartum
I also want to speak to abdominal splinting immediately postpartum because I believe most women can benefit from this type of splinting.
In the first few weeks after having a baby, your core is at its weakest. And you have the added demand of extremely awkward movements and tasks. You’re getting up every two hours, moving awkwardly to put a baby in a bassinet, and you’re sleep-deprived.
Most likely you are doing lots of movements that can strain your already weak core.
Wearing a binder in the first few weeks postpartum can give moms added support and prevent them from creating damage in an already weak core.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on how to use a splint short-term and my recommendations for which splints are best.