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.