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Can You Fix Tummy Muscles Without Surgery?

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?

Doctor Answers (20)

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.

Columbus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

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.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 94 reviews

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.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

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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.

David Rankin, MD
Jupiter Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews


It is not possible to fix separation of the tummy muscles without an abdominoplasty.  The muscles once stretched out need to be plicated to achieve the flat abdomen you are looking for.

Gary Lawton, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

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.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 78 reviews

Muscle separation

The only way to correct this is with surgery. The procedure involves tightening fascia to bring the muscles together. The surgery isn't necessarily  a tummy tuck. 

Jerome Edelstein, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

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.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

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.

Michael D. Yates, MD
Huntsville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

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.

David A. Robinson, MD
Munster Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

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.