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06th May 2022

Woman explains how she suffers from ‘hourglass syndrome’. Yes, it is a real thing

Kieran Galpin

A body-positive TikToker has pulled back the curtain on her disorder known as "hourglass syndrome" which is also called “stomach-gripping.”

‘Suck it in’ has long term consequences

A body-positive TikToker has pulled back the curtain on a disorder known as “hourglass syndrome”, also called “stomach-gripping”.

Influencer and content creator Nikki Garza has opened up about her condition, which essentially entails habitually sucking in your abdomen.

Stitched together with a video that invited viewers to discuss a fact “so ridiculous you didn’t believe until you looked up”, Garza pulled up her shirt to show what she described as “underboobs” beneath her actual breasts.

She continued to explain how they were in fact scar tissue created by sucking in her abdomen repetitively as a young girl.

@itsnikki.g #stitch with @medievalfilthcauldrons My grandma told me to suck in when I was 8 and I never breathed comfortably again #plussize #bodyimage #bodyconfidence #bopotiktok ♬ original sound – Nikki Garza

“We sucked it in so much, we literally scarred our muscles,” Garza said, adding that the condition may rear its head in the form of a “tinkle” when you cough or sneeze despite not having given birth.

“If it isn’t the consequences of my mother and grandmother’s actions,” she added wryly.

“Of course, I did a deep Google dive where I found out it’s called ‘hourglass syndrome’ or ‘stomach gripping,’” Garza told the New York Post. “That really sucks that something that was so minor in my brain as a child — you know, having my mother and my grandmother consistently tell me to ‘suck in, suck in’ all my life — has led to having this on my body now.”

“Typically, this occurs when someone is using their upper abs and external obliques a lot,” Doctor Alexis Shoope, a physical therapist told Buzzfeed about the condition.

She added: “It can be caused because someone is trying to ‘suck in’ and make their stomach look flatter, or it can occur because their upper abs are much stronger than their lower abdominals (the transversus abdominus).

@itsnikki.g I had more trust in this @FashionNova suit than in my last relationship ? #plussize #bodyconfidence #plussizeedition #bopotiktok #clenchedcheeks #bodypositive ♬ About Damn Time – Lizzo

“It can be relatively common in women who may have been told to ‘suck in,’ or for those who purposefully did it to make their abs seem flatter,” she said. “It also can be common with people who breathe more shallow breaths, and are not letting their diaphragm expand fully to get a full, deep breath.”

Luckily, the syndrome is not deadly but can create discomfort in the lower back or neck.

“It essentially creates a canister of pressure, and if the pressure is not evenly dispersed, it can place more on one area than another,” Shoope explained. “This has the potential to lead to pelvic floor issues such as leaking, prolapse, diastasis recti, etc.”

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