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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 22

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.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 114 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 10 reviews

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 77 reviews

Muscle correction

As stated by previous surgeons, muscle laxity after pregnancy usually requires an abdominoplasty for optimal correction. The procedure addresses not only the muscle laxity, but a tummy tuck also addresses the stretched, damaged skin as well as excessive fat if indicated. However, if the "apparent" muscle laxity is really protrusion from intraabdominal fat, weight loss alone may suffice.

Down time is about two weeks and the procedure is performed as an outpatient in the large majority of cases. The surgeon re-shapes the torso, optimizing the curvateous physique.

Surgery is needed to fix muscle separation

Thank you for your question.

Pregnancy can cause this muscle separation called diastasis recti. A full tummy tuck is beneficial in this case because it eliminates excess skin on the belly, reconnects the abdominal muscles, and helps a woman regain her abdominal muscle strength.

Likewise, an abdominoplasty can help restore her silhouette.

Thank you again for your question.

Glynn Bolitho, PhD, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 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.

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.

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. 

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 56 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.