A lot of us have back pain.  And kids, in addition to being a pain in the neck at times :), can also lead to a pain in your back.  

That tummy tucks help with back pain is not new news.  When you have babies you will stretch out your abdominal muscles.  Frequently this leads to separation of the rectus muscles, what is called a diastasis.  This midline separation cannot be fixed with situps.  The only way we have of fixing it is to corset the muscles back together during a tummy tuck. 

So why would fixing your belly help your back?  Your back and your abdominal muscles work to stabilize your body and help you stand up straight.  If your abdomen is blown out or loosey goosey (I know, highly technical terms here), then your back must work overtime to stabilize your body.  This can lead to pain.

What is common folk wisdom in plastic surgery often leads to scientific papers which support it.  A multitude of papers have emerged which support that tummy tucks are not a just-to-make-you-look-pretty surgery, but a functional one.  The latest appeared in the January 2011 issue of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Journal .  It is a study out of the University of Michigan, “Wide Abdominal Rectus Plication Abdominoplasty for the Treatment of Chronic Intractable Low Back Pain.” 

In it, they point out some ideas I would like to reiterate:

  • Most surgical treatment for chronic back pain is directed at the spine.  In a study by Toranto, who first championed the wide abdominal rectus plication, he gave relief to chronic back pain in 24 of 25 patients by addressing the belly, not the back.
  • A tummy tuck for back pain is only useful in patients who present with significant abdominal wall weakness and laxity.  All of the patients in this study had one or more pregnancies. 
  • Conservative treatment is always good first. 
  • For those with neurologic damage of the spine, you need to make sure there is no radiographic or clinical evidence of the damage being caused by an identifiable structural lesion in the spine.

 

The study postulates that the rectus muscle forms a “sheath” of tissue connecting to the thoracolumbar fascia.  “This forms a structure that biomechanically influences the mechanics and stability of the lumbar spine.”  The “wide” abdominal plication doesn’t just realign the rectus muscles, it brings it in tighter.  The thought is to increase the intraabdominal pressure and put the muscles at a more efficient place in the force-length curve to increase their force generating capacity. In this small study of 8 patients, all were improved. 

Small studies can be discounted, but this study had a very thorough evaluation preoperative and postoperatively by a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with specific expertise in management of chronic low back pain.  100% of them were better.