Abdominal diastasis: are you familiar with this concept?
Diastasis is the deformation of the abdomen due to the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis muscles and the loss of elasticity of the linea alba. This is a pathology still unknown to many.
The rectus abdominis are two longitudinal muscles located side by side in the centre of the abdomen, separated by a strip of connective tissue - the linea alba.As a rule, the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles is considered out of the ordinary when it exceeds 1,5 to 2cm.
Diastasis can occur around the umbilicus, below the umbilicus, above the umbilicus, or in all of the above areas.
Abdominal diastasis often occurs at the same time as sagging skin in that area of the body. This is a condition that mostly affects women, but it can also affect men.
Abdominal diastasis can be a congenital pathology, acquired at birth, or it can appear later in life.
Obesity and pregnancy, i.e. cases in which there is a considerable increase in the volume of the abdomen and consequent weakening of the abdominal wall tissues, are the main factors that lead to abdominal diastasis.
This is a very common condition during pregnancy: it is estimated that 60% of women develop this condition during pregnancy. This is because the growth of the uterus causes the rectus abdominis to separate.
Diastasis can also be caused by genetic predisposition, due to excessive abdominal exercise or exercise performed incorrectly, or as a result of lifting weights incorrectly.
Among the main symptoms that may suggest abdominal diastasis are:
- Excessive sagging of the abdomen;
- Abdominal weakness;
- Sensation of muscle tearing;
- Visible protrusion;
- Lower back pain;
- Difficulty lifting weights;
- Inability to perform maximum abdominal contraction;
- Palpable muscle changes.
Abdominal diastasis is a condition with low health risks. As the rectus muscles move apart, the internal abdominal contents are less protected and may protrude. However, its aesthetic effects are considerable and can negatively affect self-esteem.
How to prevent?
Physical exercise to help strengthen the abdominal muscles and maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding obesity, are the best ways to prevent abdominal diastasis.
How do I know if I have diastasis?
If you suspect you have abdominal diastasis, you should undergo a medical assessment. Your doctor will give you the final and correct diagnosis after assessing your symptoms and the characteristics of your abdominal muscles. The doctor will also indicate the most appropriate treatment.
If in doubt, some physical imaging tests can be carried out, such as ultrasound or CT (Computerised Tomography). These tests may be necessary for checking the characteristics and extent of the diastasis.
There are some semi-flexion manoeuvres you can do at home to see if you have diastasis, as they increase the pressure on the abdomen and show if there is protrusion.
For example, you can lie down and lift your torso slightly, as if you were doing an abdominal exercise. This movement can make rectus diastasis obvious and help confirm the condition.
Although the human body itself can spontaneously cure abdominal diastasis without resorting to any treatment, in most cases it must be treated medically.
Treatments include weight loss, physiotherapy, and/or exercises to strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles.
In some more severe cases, it might be indicated to undergo a plastic surgery named Abdominoplasty or “Tummy Tuck”.
When should I have surgery?
For those situations in which the diastasis is already extensive, i.e. a considerable degree of separation of the abdominal muscles, it is advisable to resort to surgery, the main aim of which is to bring the rectus abdominis muscles back together.
Surgery is also indicated when physiotherapy or physical exercise alone have not resolved the abdominal diastasis.
In this case, the most suitable cosmetic surgeries are a Mini Abdominoplasty or Abdominoplasty, depending on the patient’s condition.
Both consist of surgical procedures that remove excess skin and fat from the abdomen and reposition the muscles of the abdominal wall. Both correct not only diastasis but also excessive sagging of the skin, which, as already mentioned, often occurs simultaneously.
However, the Mini Abdominoplasty is indicated for patients with moderate sagging. It repositions the rectus abdominis and removes excess skin in the lower abdomen (below the navel).
Abdominoplasty, on the other hand, is indicated for patients with a more pronounced level of sagging. This surgical procedure repositions the rectus abdominis and removes excess skin in both the upper and lower abdomen (above and below the navel).
When the patient also has a lot of localised fat, a Lipoabdominoplasty can be performed, a surgery that combines abdominoplasty with liposuction, a procedure that eliminates localised fat deposits and improves body contours.
If the patient, after becoming a mum, wants to correct not only the diastasis, but also other areas of her body, she can undergo a Mommy Makeover, an LMR registered trademark.
It is a concept used to describe the set of surgical techniques aimed at restoring body harmony after motherhood, which includes a combination of breast and body procedures: breast augmentation, reduction or mastopexy, liposuction and/or abdominoplasty and, in some cases, intimate surgery (labioplasty and colporraphy).
In the post-operative period, it is necessary to rest, avoid exertion, wear a compression garment, and carry out lymphatic drainage.
The results of abdominoplasty, mini abdominoplasty or lipoabdominoplasty are a flatter/toned and firmer abdomen, better body contour and increased self-esteem, with a positive impact on the patient’s quality of life.
If you suspect you have abdominal diastasis and want to correct this condition with surgery, schedule an appointment to receive proper medical advice and a totally personalized plan for your case!
In case this article presents before and after photos please consider them merely demonstrative and may not serve as a reference for your particular case. These images are only to show possible results for one or several surgical procedures. The images we use are of patients who have consented to their use. Any images do not represent a guarantee of results.
Sobre a Médica Especialista
Dr. Luísa Magalhães Ramos / Plastic Surgery
PORTUGUESE MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, Nr. 42810
Graduated by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto, she specialized in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery, at Hospital de São José, in Lisbon.
Throughout her training, she subspecialized in aesthetic plastic surgery, having worked in world-renowned clinics.
Currently, she is mainly dedicated to face and breast aesthetic plastic surgery and to intimate female surgery.