Muscle separation or “diastasis recti” is a very common condition that I see in women post-pregnancy, and often repair as part of an abdominoplasty or “tummy tuck” procedure. But how can you tell if you have abdominal muscle separation, and what are the signs and symptoms? Read on to find out more.
I find that many, if not all women experience some degree of muscle separation post-pregnancy due to the expansion of the abdominal wall to accommodate for a growing baby. Although some women are able to function perfectly fine with a mild degree of muscle separation, others unfortunately suffer from chronic symptoms stemming from the weakened core that can only be relieved with surgical intervention.
How do I know if I have muscle separation?
You can “self-check” for abdominal muscle separation post birth by performing a basic physical assessment on yourself. This method can also be completed by your GP or physiotherapist.
- Lie on your back in a “sit up” position, with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Come up to a “crunch” position by raising your shoulders off the floor slightly and look down towards your tummy. Engage your abdominal muscles. Use one hand to support your head if needed.
- With your free hand, gently feel along the midline of your abdominal muscles, both above and below your bellybutton. Take note if you can feel any “gaps” where you can fit a finger between these muscles.
- If you feel a gap between your muscles where you can fit more than one finger width, you likely have a mild to moderate case of abdominal muscle separation. I regularly operate on women with 4-8cm gaps!
Depending on how far post-partum you are, this gap may start to narrow as your muscles regain their strength. This self-assessment can be undertaken regularly to track the progress of your muscle separation.
Abdominal muscle separation signs and symptoms
Diastasis recti can often be spotted as a “pooch” or bulge in the mid to lower stomach, especially when you strain or contract your abdominal muscles. Other common symptoms associated with severe muscle separation include:
- Poor posture or postural issues
- Bloating and digestive issues
- Lower back, pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Can result in an abdominal hernia in severe cases
Women with post-partum muscle separation may experience some or all of these symptoms over a course of time post birth.
Does a tummy tuck improve these symptoms?
With the case studies of my abdominoplasty patients, I recently contributed to a national study which was published in the American Society of Plastic Surgeon’s ‘Plastic and Reconstructive Journal’ on the functional benefits of tummy tucks. It clearly demonstrates the benefits of the procedure to reduce back pain and incontinence issues post pregnancy.
How is a muscle repair performed?
As part of an abdominoplasty procedure, muscle repair involves pulling the separated muscles back together and suturing internally along the connective tissues to hold them in place. Excess skin removal, liposuction and body reshaping will be performed at the same time as required. Functionally, re-connecting the abdominal muscles restores core function and strength, alleviating the symptoms listed above. Aesthetically, performing a muscle repair as part of a tummy tuck restores the architecture of the abdominal wall and creates a flatter appearance.
Will Medicare cover the cost of a tummy tuck if I have muscle separation?
Possibly! More information about the current Medicare criteria for a tummy tuck can be found HERE.
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More information about the current Medicare criteria for a tummy tuck can be found HERE.
More blogs you may be interested in:
- How soon after a baby can I have surgery?
- How can I manage surgery and my young family?
- Recovering from a tummy tuck
- Why weight matters in plastic surgery
Dr Nicholas Moncrieff, Specialist Plastic Surgeon
About Dr Moncrieff
Dr Moncrieff focuses exclusively on breast reductions, breast lifts, breast augmentation, tummy tucks and body lifts.
He is one of only a handful of Plastic Surgeons across Australia with this sole breast and body focus.
Dr Moncrieff has performed thousands of surgical procedures over more than two decades in medicine. Over 20,000 of these procedures have been in Newcastle.
More information about Dr Moncrieff is available here.