Abdominoplasty / Tummy tuck for core strength to help back pain patients

30 Dec

Living with severe chronic back pain is very difficult but there are many of us out there. The problems I have found comes from a small checklist of known items that can be seen on a scan the hat cause pain and if you see a doctor and your scan does not show one of those known items such as a slipped disc or stenosis, then you are out of luck. No one has the ability to go beyond that list, after that you get shots and physical therapy, and in many people those are also ineffective.

Personally, I find it frustrating as I have begun to piece together my problems but there is no doctor who treats my issues…. I am structurally out of alignment and each out of alignment piece causes wear and tear and then pain on other pieces. A chiropractic is the closest person who figured me out, only they can only pop me into place for a day and then I pop back out… I need a permanent fix. I tried physical therapists but they are so by the manual, no one can look at my pain and issues individually rather than look at a “back pain” means this treatment. That doesn’t work when my back pain is stemming from overall skeletal misalignment.

So, I continue to be my own best doctor and research to try and put the puzzle pieces together for myself. I have a misaligned pelvis and this gives me one leg shorter than another. I have problems with my hip stability and si joints and my psoas muscle. I have no core stability and overwork my surrounding muscles to try and offset my weak core. Yet efforts to improve core strength have not gone well and are hindered by my overall misalignment and pain.

If only I could rebuild myself somehow, I thought. Well, then I started reading about the diasastis recti, the abdominal muscles that get pulled apart, often by childbirth. My internal organs poke through terribly and clearly set my back off balance just from my posture alone with my large chest and my big tummy. I tightened my muscles (the best I could) and sucked it in and realized it didn’t take much for a big change.

So, I took my hypothesis to the internet. Do people with back pain get relief after muscle retightening in a tummy tuck procedure? The answer was, anecdotally,”yes.” No doctor would make that promise because in part it depends on what is causing your back pain but in my case, it seemed logical that starting that alignment process with something we can fix, align, and rebuild, it would bring me things that my back were lacking and could provide some relief. I was not expecting to be cured but a reduction of 10-40% would be a success in my opinion.

I also knew that worst case and I don’t get relief, at least, I will get a better looking body so there was no downside. If I felt I had a chance to fight the insurance for payment for the medical necessity because of my back, I would have but after losing another fight that was clear cut that we should have won, I learned it isn’t about showing you can prove this or that, they will just say no and don’t have to have a good reason. So I just paid for my procedure with money we had saved for medical expenses.

The typical tummy tuck patient (news to me) is a thin woman who has an area on her tummy that is no longer perfectly flat after having children. In my eyes, these ladies all still had great bodies, especially compared to what I saw when I looked in the mirror but everyone has the right to have their bodies exactly as they want them and so they want to get back that perfect flat tummy and a tummy tuck will do that for them. Most plastic surgeons want you at your ideal weight before surgery and want to know you can hold that weight. I didn’t know much about the procedure but I did learn it is not a weight loss procedure. The doctor may cut off 1-5 pounds of skin but 5 is actually on the high side. You can request extra lipo if you want, some doctors don’t think it is safe to do much lipo during a tummy tuck.

So, I met with a PS and told him I wanted a TT with muscle repair, in hopes of helping my back. He scheduled me for a drainless tummy tuck with a shot of Experal. The Experal was supposed to make the first few days easier. They still hurt like hell so I don’t know, I guess it would have been worse. I needed a walker to walk for the first week. I had to wear a compression garment for two weeks. I didn’t have much swelling the first week but by week two, the swelling doubled and lasted for 10 weeks.

I normally take oxycontin for back pain and I was taking a higher dose for the first week but after that I was able to drop to my old dose with ibuprofen in the middle.

My back pain is currently down about 40% but I am still numb, dealing with other pain, not on my regular movement and exercise schedule so I am waiting to see how things change as time goes on.

Physically, I was very shocked to see how much my body was impacted by that 3 cm gap in my muscles. It is a shame that insurance doesn’t care that this muscle repair is a huge medical issue for some women, not just cosmetic. Even my bowel habits seem better. You also feel full sooner and now my weight matches how I look.

There are going to be many more benefits that I am going to discover from this adventure that I didn’t even realize. I have a whole new respect for this surgery and women who want to do it for whatever the reason.

Update:  I added two new posts to this series, another where I talk about back pain.  Another one is about the wound issues that I had after the surgery.  Not everyone has complications but I did (as did a few others who were having surgery the same time as I did).  It took over 2 months to get through most of the wound issues and I am still not “done” with it but hopefully, I am on the road to being better.  I would still do it, however, as the impact on my back pain was worth it.

My weight now falls in the normal BMI range, I lost 14 pounds since before I went into surgery (5 was skin) and I like how I look (minus the scars) and once the wound pain ends, I am anxious to fully assess my back pain but right now, my guess is about 40% better.

Here are some photos:

stomach protrudes

stomach protrudes

abs now hold in all organs, only a little fat, lost 10 pounds after surgery

abs now hold in all organs, only a little fat, lost 10 pounds after surgery


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Leave a Reply


  1. Chan

    February 16, 2016 at 1:33 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I have just completed a series of x-rays and a MRI. My doctor recommended a fusion surgery to set the SI joint and rod it together. This seems extreme and all my research states that patients, mostly women experience severe pain and later must go back to have the lumbar rods inserted. I have not mentioned my research of the tt or si post-surgery complications to my doctor but I am guessing she won’t be very supportive. Again, thank you dearly for sharing. I would like to know how your pelvic pain and/or discomfort is now since your tt, if you don’t mind sharing.

  2. lynne

    February 22, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I did have a fusion of L5/s1 – not sure if I mentioned that in the post. If you go that route, do a minimally invasive approach, it is far easier!!! I did also have a lot of pelvic pain and SI discomfort and yes, a lot of that is better! I am not 100% but I was trying EVERYTHING and this by far has given more relief than anything else I tried. It depends on your anatomy and my research suggested that it was pain from misalignment throughout my body and my doctors kept saying, Physical Therapy. I tried PT 4 times and each time, my pain got worse. I couldn’t strenghthen what was broken. Now my back pain is better and my pelvic pain was better. A TT is a very hard surgery too, it was harder to recover from than my fusion (minimally invasive) but I was also younger for that surgery so I think age matters too. The younger women who had the surgery did better with recovery than the older ones (not that I am too old, only 47 – but many ladies were 10 years younger). I hope this helps.