Hernia or Diastasis Recti? Could it be a misdiagnosis?
There is a lot of confusing and contradictory information out there. It can be very frustrating when you are told that your flabby tummy is a hernia that must be surgically repaired in order to have any hope of getting your belly back.
Hernias do happen, and umbilical hernias can be especially common in pregnant women. But is it possible what your doctor is diagnosing as a hernia is actually diastasis recti?
Abdominal Hernia: a protrusion of the abdominal contents through a damaged or weak area of the abdominal wall.
A hernia by definition is a tear in the connective tissue. Abdominal hernias will typically present in especially weak or damaged areas of the connective tissue (knows as the linea alba), which results in portions of the organs bulging out of the abdominal wall. When this weakened area of connective tissue eventually tears from excess pressure, portions of the intestinal tract are at risk of strangulation, which can require urgent medical attention and often (but not always) surgical repair. To definitively diagnose a hernia like this you need to have a CAT scan or MRI. Often these tests cost several thousand dollars and are not always performed prior to a recommended surgery.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of inconsistent views about surgical requirements. In general, if the bulging area is tender or painful, hot to touch, discolored or not along the midline of your abdomen – seek immediate medical attention. However, if the bulging area is down the midline of the abdomen and is not hot, discolored, or painful then you may actually be suffering from a diastasis, or simply a mild hernia.
Diastasis Recti: a separation of the abdominal muscles through stretching of the linea alba
With diastasis recti, the connective tissue between your abdominals is stretched so thin that it provides no support for your organs or your belly button. Now, if left untreated, the tissue could eventually tear, becoming a true hernia in need of surgery.
In the case of a recommended surgery to repair what is actually a diastasis, the surgeon will perform a patch job – applying mesh and sewing muscles together. Neither actually heal the stretched out tissue or rehabilitate the deflated core muscles that has resulted.
Sadly, hernia surgeries have an excessive failure rate that often requires repetitive surgical procedures. This is because the patient is often told they can return to all their previous activities and lifestyle after they heal. This is misinformation! I have personally worked with 4 ladies this year alone who had surgery and the stitches did not hold and they slowly started to see their abdominal wall separate again. Post-surgical incision damage is most commonly caused by poor body mechanics and forward forceful pressure which continues to press out at the incision site. These are the same body-mechanics that caused the tissue to become weakened in the first place.
Here’s the bottom line:
In cases of what is actually diastasis recti: The tissue can be healed without surgery. Our core rehabilitation program can close this separation, improve posture and body mechanics and eliminate the risk of a herniation.
In cases of a true – but mild – hernia: You can likely avoid surgery. Our core rehabilitation program can strengthen the abdominals, shrink the area of the hernia and retrain your body to prevent ongoing pressure which contributed to the weakened tissue in the first place.
In cases where hernia surgery is required but not considered urgent: We can provide “pre-hab” to prepare your abdominals for surgery. This will improve your recovery time and give you the tools to prevent re-injury, and need for further surgical repair.
Be your own advocate. Before you agree to invasive surgery, get a second opinion. The Tummy Team can help you.
I am glad I came across this artical. I have diastasis after my last c section almost 4yrs ago, however, my tummy hasn’t gone down and I began having discomfort around my umbilicus. My doctor said I have an umbilical hernia, and ultrasound shows small intestinal protrusion. Can this be pushed back in and my abs strengthened over time? I am being advised to have surgery to avoid a bowel obstruction.
Melisa, I have had a lot of the same problems and had surgery. was told I had an umbilical hernia and diastasis recti. I had surgery to fix them both was told that both were very large. well I wish I would have come across this website before I had surgery. I then at about 4 months later was told the diastasis came back open and there was a hernia because of the first surgery. so silly me had another surgery. that was the biggest mistake I made. I am now dealing with 2 failed surgeries. I still have diastasis recti right at the level of the umbilical and my core is so week and it is effecting so much in my life. I say you have nothing to loose to try and let your body heal itself naturally. really look in this website and lots of the videos they have so you can make an educated choice. Best of luck. Heather
Hi,I’m John and my wife had a hernia problem, that ended with surgery… Considering that we are satisfied with the service, professionalism and especially the care of recovery, I would like to continue recommendations. QUALITY REPAIR is essence of good recovery and please educate yourself so you can prevent surgery or worsening of health ,this article is perfect example. Thanks for sharing your experience, God bless you.
That is so sweet of you to say. Thank you so much. I am glad your wife is doing well 🙂
I am so sorry I missed this comment! I don’t know how I missed the notification. How is your hernia now? Did you end up having surgery? If there was/is indeed a protrusion, that means there is an actual tear that needs to be repaired. But even so there is some “pre-hab” we can do to make your surgery more effective, less invasive and with a shorter recovery time.
If you already had the surgery, we can absolutely still work with you to effectively strengthen your core and improve connection to the area so it doesn’t happen again.
Hi! I’m a mom of a 6 yr old boy and a 2 month old girl …. after this second pregnancy I have a hernia and recti that is from the top of the abdomen all the way to the bottom… from what I can feel it’s 2 finger spaces apart for the most part except around the belly button which feels wider and above my belly button is where the hernia is ( it’s small) pops in and out when I walk or move around with my kid I can feel it and I push it in.
My question is, I saw that you had a. Similar situation… and now ur fit – this was my plan when I was pregnant this time ;to get back in shape and get strong again , then this happened —— I saw 2 drs one basically said live with it and get used to another lifestyle , the other said surgery ( sewing up the muscles and putting mesh in) – I’m scared and I want my body back and I want to feel good and strong and be able to carry my kid, play run etc without having to think about things – any suggestions?????? Please
I am so sorry for your frustration. I know it can be very hard to get the right diagnosis and treatment recommendations for diastasis recti and hernias. From what you are describing it sounds likely that you have a diastasis with an umbilical hernia. I don’t want you to be scared but educated and prepared. I would recommend you do our Core Foundations 8 week course to work on closing your diastasis and changing the movement patterns that are unintentionally keeping your body from healing. If your main issue is actually diastasis then your “hernia symptoms” will dramatically improve. However, if you close your diastasis and rebuild your core muscles but still have some “popping out that needs to be pushed back in” then you may need to have that area surgically repaired. The good news about that potential procedure is that once you have strengthened the core and closed most of the gap that procedure is far less invasive, often not requiring mesh and much more successful. Are approach is filled with education and practical application… you can do this!!
It’s May 2018. My history: Gave birth Sept 2014, realized I had diastis recti and hernia in July 2015. Spent years trying to rehab diastais recti by changing daily habits: posture, walking, learning about core, specific exercises etc. Core is stronger, definitely, but I still have a near 2 finger gap and hernia and consistently look about 4 mos. pregnant (except when I flex my core muscles – then I look totally normal). Debating spending a few months in hard core focused training with professional (like site offers) – or getting everything surgically “zipped”…
I’m a 52 year old and have had an umbilical hernia for years with out no pain. The other day I was lying on my back and tried to lay up by doing somewhat of a sit up and I noticed a very large protrusion which almost looked the movie alien. I’ve been told I’m about 35-45 lbs over weight but you wouldn’t think that by looking at me. I’m going to my primary today. Any advice. Thank you. Danny
Ahhh, yes, the “alien.” We’ve seen and heard that exact description from many clients. Weight really doesn’t have much of an affect on a hernia diagnosis as much general core weakness and posture does. Additionally, many times a doctor diagnoses a hernia, it is often actually diastasis recti. Either way, the underlying issue behind either a hernia OR diastasis is in fact Functional Core Weakness. And all three (hernias, diastasis recti, and functional core weakness) are all treated the same – through functional core rehabilitation. I’d love to hear what your doctor said and help give you any further advice to help you make a decision. But I would recommend starting with our Core Foundations program before pursuing any surgery.
I have what I think may either be a diastasis or an umbilical hernia (or both?). I’ve had it for about 6 months now and I’m looking for some help! I have never been pregnant but I expect this cake from lifting weights or gymnastics at the gym. I am a crossfit coach and competitor.
I went to a hernia surgeon and although he couldn’t see any “tear” he felt the bulge and suggested the mesh surgery. I of course want to avoid this like the plague!
There is a bulge there that pops out every now and again and when I wear a lifting belt things feel fine and it goes “in”. Some days are better than others but mainly I just feel loose around the belly button. I do also have some pelvic stability problems.
I’m at my wits end trying to fix this as it has already been such an upset in my life/ career/ athletic capabilities.
I hope you are able to help me!
Wow, that is a lot. Connective tissue issues are related to diastasis and instability like your husband is experiencing. Sorry this seems like a hard season for you both. The functional core rehab approach we take at The Tummy Team is very different than typical core strengthening exercises. We work upright and focus on posture, alignment, breathing and integrated core strength into all daily activities. Let us know how we can help you.
Please help me as I do not know what to do – been diagnosed with umbilical hernia and badly separated stomach muscles. Meant to be having operation to fix these next week but I am so anxious about it. I do have a lot of discomfort in my stomach area – particularly when I am in bed and my stomach is so tender. I have a constant bulge in my stomach and look like I’m pregnant ..had my daughter 5 years ago!
Hi Lindsey, sorry we did not reply sooner. Did you end up getting the surgery? If so,Core Foundations will be so helpful in your recovery. We give you so many tools to help you recover. If not, I would highly recommend Core Preparations for Abdominal Surgery. Often the core needs functional strength to help the diastasis heal and that can minimize the hernia as well to make the procedure more effective. Let us know how you are doing and if you have more questions.