The linea alba is a band of connective tissue that runs from a person's sternum to their public bone. It helps stabilize and brace the core muscles. It can become damaged and weak from overstretching. Healthcare providers treat conditions of the linea alba with exercises and physical therapy.
The linea alba is a thin band of connective tissue that runs down the front of your abdomen. It separates the left and right sides of your rectus abdominis. Your rectus abdominis is sometimes called your "six-pack abs." It begins at the lower end of your sternum (breastbone) and ends at the public bone. It's highly elastic (like a rubber band) and strong. It's an attachment point for other abdominal muscles and helps anchor and stabilize your torso. People can have poor posture, pelvic and back pain and other problems if the linea alba is weak.
Linea alba means "white line" in Latin. The linea alba appears as a colorless groove in people with muscular abdominals (giving the appearance of a six-pack). During pregnancy, the linea alba darkens and is called the linea nigra.
Conditions like pregnancy and obesity can cause weakness in the linea alba. For example, as your uterus expands and the abdominal wall is stretched outward, your linea alba separates. As a result, the linea alba loses elasticity and weakens. A condition called diastasis reciti occurs when the abdominal muscles remain separated and cause a bulge in the abdomen.
The linea nigra is a dark vertical line that appears on the skin of your stomach during pregnancy. It's also called the pregnancy line. It runs from your belly button to your public area. In some people, the line extends to the breastbone.
Diastasis recti is when the rectus abdominis muscles separate during and after pregnancy from being stretched. The separation can make your belly stick out or bulge months or years after you've given birth.
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Yes, everyone has a linea alba. However, most people will not notice their linea alba because it blends into their skin (unless you are pregnant).
The linea alba gets darker in pregnancy because of higher hormone levels. The placenta causes your body to create more melanin. Melanin gives your skin its color. The increased melanin levels cause the linea alba to darken and appear on the skin's surface.
The primary function of the linea alba is to keep the right and left abdominal muscles separated. The obliques and the transverse abdominis (your other abdominal muscles) also connect to the linea alba, making it like an anchor in your torso. It also helps absorb force or pressure to your abdomen. The linea alba is highly elastic and capable of expanding. However, it must be able to stiffen or tighten up to support your abdominal muscles and stabilize your movements.
The linea alba is made up of collagen and elastin fibrous connective tissue. It brings the two sides of the rectus abdominis (the left and right sides) together and helps hold and control the abdominal wall. Think of it as an oval rubber band.
The linea alba can be about 2.25 centimeters (cm) wide at its widest point (usually just above the belly button). It runs from the top of a person's abdomen (just below the sternum) to their public bone. The linea alba can stretch due to pregnancy or excessive pressure on the abdomen. This may cause the linea alba to be greater than 2.25 cm wide.
Your linea alba separates the left and right sides of your rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis runs vertically along the front of your stomach. It's frequently referred to as someone's "six-pack abs." It's divided into left and right sides by the linea alba.
No, the linea alba is not a tendon. It's fibrous tissue.
The linea alba can stretch like a rubber band. When a person is pregnant or has obesity, their linea alba stretches to accommodate their growing belly. Sometimes the linea alba is stretched so far that it doesn't come back together. As a result, the left and right sides of the abdominals remain separated. This is called an ab gap or abdominal separation. Exercises or physical therapy can typically help heal an ab gap.
Some ab separation is expected, especially during pregnancy. Diastasis recti occurs when there is an excessive separation between the abdominals. It can create a visible bulge or pooch that protrudes around your abdomen.
A weak or overstretched linea alba can cause symptoms such as:
Some people develop a hernia in their linea alba. This causes a bulge in the linea alba. It can happen when the linea alba is weak.
Your linea alba doesn't go away. If you have a linea nigra, that usually fades over time.
Yes, you can do exercises to help strengthen your linea alba. If you have ab separation or diastasis recti, there are specific exercises you can do to help close the gap between your rectus abdominis. Some things you can do to help your linea alba are:
Talk to your healthcare provider before beginning any exercises to strengthen your linea alba. Performing exercises incorrectly can actually result in a greater separation and weaker linea alba.
Yes, your linea alba can heal on its own. If your linea alba separates during pregnancy, it will start to close on its own as your muscles regain strength.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Everyone has a linea alba. It helps stabilize your core and acts as an anchor for your abdominals. During pregnancy, it can get damaged from being overstretched. A weak linea alba may cause back pain, gastrointestinal issues or make you feel unstable. Talk to your healthcare provider if you feel your linea alba is damaged or is causing problems. Strength exercises and physical therapy can usually help heal a damaged linea alba and conditions like diastasis recti.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/18/2022.
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