Abdominoplasty or, “tummy tuck” procedures are classified as cosmetic surgical procedures. Tummy tucks do not qualify as medically necessary, however, there are many physical benefits for the tummy tuck patient. Mental and emotional benefits are typically related to improved self-esteem and confidence about one’s appearance. Aside from the emotional, there are also physical benefits reported by patients. Renewed energy and improved mobility can certainly motivate increased physical activity which leads to weight loss and improved health. As well, postural issues related to weakened abdominal muscles or hernias can be greatly improved when correcting these issues through abdominoplasty surgery. Because of this, back pain which is related to posture and abdominal strength may be improved through tummy tuck surgery.
After childbirth, particularly large or multiple pregnancies, the tough tissue (called fascia) which surrounds and connects the abdominal muscles together can stretch right up the midline- expanding the space there by a few cm or more. This is referred to as a diastasis recti. Weak abdominal muscles can lead to poor spine support. An abdomen which appears consistently bloated or ‘paunchy’, even after exercise, can be related to this problem. Diastasis can lead to a lack of core support for the back. Significant weight gain and loss in the midsection can also permanently stretch out the abdominal muscles, weakening the core. Unfortunately, those muscles can’t be tightened or brought back together with exercise alone. Only a surgical diastasis repair through tummy tuck surgery will enable the fascia holding those muscles to be brought tightly together again.
Tightening the abdominal wall is a common component of standard abdominoplasty and typically assists people with keeping an upright posture. Your plastic surgeon cannot guarantee that this procedure will relieve back pain if you suffer from it but many patients report this pleasant side effect of abdominoplasty.
Another issue which can be corrected through abdominoplasty is a ventral hernia. A person might develop a ventral (midline) or umbilical (belly-button) hernia due to pregnancies, extreme weight fluctuations, and previous surgical procedures. Depending on the size of this opening in the abdominal wall, internal contents can protrude, creating a visible bulge as well as discomfort, especially with physical activity and muscle use.
Because many patients have reported improvement of their back pain after undergoing a tummy tuck procedure, people may look into tummy tuck for themselves simply because of a desire for relief from back pain. While many patients do experience pain relief after the surgery, it will be necessary for you to rule out other possible causes for pain. Discussing previous injury or illness with your primary care physician or sports medicine specialist may be a good place to start. Pinched nerves or spinal damage due to repetitive motion or work-related injury are common causes of back pain. If physical therapy or other treatment is advised, you will be encouraged to pursue those options before undergoing any cosmetic surgical procedure.
When you have noticed physical changes to your abdominal appearance or strength, meet with a board certified plastic surgeon to discuss your concerns and whether abdominoplasty could be the next step for you.
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