American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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How can a tummy tuck help with separated abdominal muscles?

how a tummy tuck can help with separated abdominal muscles

A tummy tuck can give you a flat stomach, but it can also provide functional benefits if your abdominal wall muscles are separated from weight gain or pregnancy. When a surgeon stitches those ab muscles back together, your back pain and posture can improve, and you might even find yourself nailing sit-ups, planks and other workouts.

Tummy tucks, or abdominoplasty, are a major surgery in which a plastic surgeon cuts excess fat and skin from your abdomen to improve your silhouette. If needed, the surgeon also sews your muscles back into place if your left and right abdominals are separated from a condition called diastasis recti.

We spoke to two ASPS Member Surgeons for their take on how fixing your abdominal muscles in surgery can help in your day-to-day life. Smita Ramanadham, MD, and Jerry Chidester, MD, both perform tummy tucks and say the operation makes a positive difference for their patients' posture and back pain.

Back pain can improve

"Many of my patients that come in, specifically women who have had multiple pregnancies, complaining of back pain," said Dr. Chidester.

This common affliction, according to Dr. Chidester, is often linked to separated rectus abdominis muscles that run vertically through the middle of your core.

"When your ab muscles are separated like that, there becomes this imbalance in how your body keeps itself upright as you stand," said Dr. Chidester. "A lot of times your back takes the load on that because your core in the front is just not holding that in."

Back pain and discomfort could potentially decrease after the abdominal muscles are sewn back in place and the distribution of their core strength is rebalanced.

Movement can improve

Dr. Chidester said your daily activity and workouts could improve when your rectus abdominis muscles are sewn back in place and you can activate your core muscles properly.

"When we put them back together, you'll see those huge leaps and gains in the gym or just in your daily activities because it does help in terms of getting that function back," said Dr. Chidester.

Diminished cesarean section scars

Women who have had a C-section operation should know that plastic surgeons often design the skin removal to take out the C-section scar. Dr. Chidester said the scar can "get tethered down to the muscle fascia and have a shelf." Because of this, he removes the scar tissue and creates just one scar for the tummy tuck.

"The benefit is you actually have a better-looking scar," said Dr. Chidester.

Possible additional benefits

Anecdotally, Dr. Chidester has heard from his female patients that getting a tummy tuck also helped with their urinary incontinence, the constipation and diarrhea of irritable bowel syndrome and even projecting their voice when singing.

"It has to do with the pressures in your pelvis, in your core, all these things are readjusted once your muscles are back together," said Dr. Chidester.

Aesthetic reasons for a tummy tuck

Although a tummy tuck has functional benefits, most people who have the operation do so for the powerful aesthetic outcome it provides.

"It improves their overall confidence, which, as we know, when people have more confidence it exudes into every other aspect of their life, and they bring 100 percent wherever they are," said Dr. Ramanadham. "It helps with their relationships, with their work, with really anything that they do."

A tummy tuck is the only way to get rid of excess skin. Exercise can reduce your belly fat, but for the extra skin you need the help of a plastic surgeon.  

"The abdomen for most people is sort of a stubborn area and especially if you have loose skin after pregnancies or weight loss or weight gain, that skin is not going anywhere unless it's removed surgically," said Dr. Ramanadham.

Plastic surgeons can give their patients a flat stomach with flattering curves by removing the extra skin and fat as well as doing contouring with liposuction.

Despite the myriad benefits of a tummy tuck, Dr. Ramanadham cautioned that it's not a suitable operation for everyone. It's a transformative procedure, but if it's not the safest thing for you, then you shouldn't do it.

It's important to find a board-certified plastic surgeon who is an ASPS Member Surgeon and will do a full medical workup to make sure that you are safe for surgery because there can be risks. These include infection, adverse reaction to anesthesia, fluid accumulation beneath the skin, numbness, blood clots and poor wound healing, among others.

A tummy tuck can give you a flat stomach, and if you have diastasis recti it can potentially improve functional aspects of your body like posture and back pain. Still, before deciding on surgery you'll want to be aware of the risks involved and to see a board-certified plastic surgeon for a consultation.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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