I was told by a plastic surgeon I have severe separation of the abdominal muscles and should seek surgery. Is it possible to fix these muscles without?
Can You Fix Tummy Muscles Without Surgery?
Doctor Answers (19)
Plastic Surgery shouldn't be a shortcut
Unfortunately, for severely spread muscles, exercise alone won't bring them back together, so I agree with what has already been posted. However, I don't want other people who read this to give up on exercise and think that a tummy tuck is the only answer. Patients who get themselves in the best possible shape through diet and exercise prior to plastic surgery usually have the best possible results from addressing the residual areas that have not responded. For many women who have children this does involve surgery to repair the spread abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) along with an abdominoplasty.
Fixing muscles without surgery
Muscles separate after surgery because of two reasons. One is ripping of the fascia. No amount of exercise fixes this. The other reason is inactivity, causing loss of tone of the abdomen.
If you have exercised and don't see the abdominal tone improving, it may time for surgery.
Don't need tummy tuck, do need surgery
You do not need a tummy tuck to repair the separation, but you do need surgery. Some surgeons can do it endoscopically or through a short C-section type incision.
If the separation is limited in length and predominantly around the belly button, it might also be possible to do a limited repair through a periumbilical incision similar to an umbilical hernia repair.
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Unfortunately, surgery is the only answer for some patients
When abdominal muscles become separated from past pregnancies or weight gain, they often do not return to their normal anatomic location. The only method of returning the muscles to their natural position and in tightening the abdomen is surgery in these cases.
Unfortunately, the gym is not going to help in these cases. A thorough exam by a board certified plastic surgeon will help you decide if a full tummy tuck, a mini tummy tuck, or an endoscopic muscle plication is the best treatment option for you.
Surgical & Nonsurgical Treatments For Weakened Muscles
The abdominal wall undergoes significant changes during pregnancy. During pregnancy the abdomen expands and the muscles weaken, stretch, tear and in some cases separate from each other.
In the vast majority of cases surgery will be necessary to reverse these changes. Non-surgical treatments won’t reverse structural changes which are usually present. When muscles have been weakened, occasionally exercise can impact the abdomen by strengthening these muscles, but in most cases more significant structural changes have occurred.
In your case, it appears that your muscles have separated in the midline. This condition known as a rectus diastasis is common following pregnancy and will require surgical correction during abdominoplasty surgery. In this case non-surgical treatments won’t be effective.
If you’re concerned about abdominal wall changes following pregnancy, consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon is appropriate. This surgeon should be able to formulate an appropriate treatment plan.
Non-surgical repair of rectus abdominis diastasis
There are some individuals that claim they can achieve improvements in the rectus muscle diastasis through special exercises. Having a good understanding of the anatomy, I don't understand how this is possible.
Repair of separated abdominal muscles is a routine part of abdominoplasty
Usually, separation of the abdominal muscles is a result of pregnancy, and can only be corrected with surgery. Frequently there might also be excess skin of the abdomen and areas of fatty deposition and all these problems can be corrected with abdominoplasty and liposuction. The excess skin of the lower abdomen is directly removed, the muscles are tightened, and liposuction removes fat from the hips, waist and back areas, and the upper abdomen for a firmer, flatter tummy and a better overall shape. Unfortunately, once the muscles are separated, exercise will simply not pull them back together.
Correction of separation of tummy muscles requires surgery
The condition your plastic surgeon describes is called rectus diastasis, or the separation of abdominal muscles. This is a common condition in women who have been pregnant. Unfortunately, sit ups or any other form of abdominal strengthening exercises will not correct the problem. Surgery is the only answer.
Do I need surgery to repair muscle separation in abdomen?
Diastasis recti, the condition common to mothers produced by pregnancy and characterized by the separation of the rectus abdominis (situp muscles) in the center of the body, can only be repaired through surgery.
There is no amount or intensity of exercise, or non-surgical treatment that will return the muscles to their pre-pregnancy condition and your abdomen to the appearance you likely desire.
While this is not, I'm sure, what you wanted to hear, I do think that if what you want is your pre-pregnancy body back, once you have gotten comfortable with the fact that surgery will be required you will be very happy with its result. Mommy makeover surgery and tummy tucks are so common and associated with such high patient satisfaction for good reason.
If you are at a loss for how to best find a surgeon you like and can trust, please read this:
These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.