Breast Augmentation Recovery: Tips + What To Expect
Originally Published January 3, 2017. Updated July 4, 2023 to include additional recovery tips as well as information on avoiding complications.
Quick Summary: Breast augmentation recovery experiences can differ greatly from patient to patient. Most patients will be able to return to work and performed light activity 7 days after surgery. Normal activity can resume within 2 weeks, while normal physical activity (excluding chest targeting exercises) can resume in 4 weeks. Within 6-8 weeks, the implants settle and the final result is realized. Continue reading to learn more about recovery timelines and tips.
Breast augmentation is among the most popular plastic surgery options available. One of the biggest and most important questions prospective patients wonder is, “How long will it take to recover?”
As a general statement, a plastic surgeon will say that it takes six weeks to fully recover from breast augmentation; however, the exact time to recover depends on several factors for each patient. They are four main categories that have a major impact on recovery, patient’s general health status and tissue quality, patient’s pain tolerance and healing response to surgery, procedure characteristics like the type of implant used, size of the implant, and implant placement (above vs. below the muscle).
Young healthy fit patients with no medical problems who follow a proper balanced diet and a robust exercise regimen with no substance use issues recover quicker. A robust pre-surgical exercise program is the best action a patient can take to minimize their post-surgical recovery time.
Patients with higher pain thresholds tolerate the aches and pains of breast augmentation surgery better than a patient with a lower pain threshold.
The larger the breast implant placed at the time of surgery means a larger surgical pocket has to be created and the more stress is placed on the tissues and thus the longer the recovery.
There are many different tissue planes in which a breast implant can be placed. In general implants placed under muscles require a surgical dissection of the muscle the implant then displaces the muscle(s) and make the distance from muscle origin to insertion longer. This “stretch” of the muscle is accommodated over time when depends on several factors related to both muscles and implants.
In this article, we will outline the standard breast augmentation recovery timeline and share recovery tips for healing after surgery. Breast surgeries that have simultaneous additional procedures like a mastopexy (breast lift) or revision of previous breast procedures generally have a longer recovery time.
A Typical Breast Augmentation Recovery Timeline
The following is a general timeline of the process of recovery from breast augmentation surgery. We encourage potential patients to use the timeline as a general guide, the recovery experience of each individual patient may vary. No matter what, patients should plan to rest for the first week after surgery.
24 hours after surgery
Within the first 24 hours following surgery, patients can expect to feel drowsy from the anesthesia and sore with pressure and mild pain at the incision site.
All patients are required to have a support person drive them home. Ideally, patients should not be alone overnight in case of any potential complications or if the patient is especially drowsy following anesthesia. Current electronic devices(smartphones) are very powerful and use of electronic devices (texting, sending photos, stock trades, online purchases) should be limited until the effects of the anesthetic medications has worn off. This is usually within a few hours of being sent home but is unique to each specific patient.
Along with feeling pressure from surgery, patients should also expect swelling and bruising at the surgery site. There should be very little drainage from the surgical incision site. Before leaving the surgery center or hospital, the surgeon will wrap the patient’s breasts with a bra or elastic band, which helps with support during recovery. The surgeon will also explain how to care for incisions and change dressings.
The patient will experience minor swelling over the chest which will obscure the subtle curves of the female breast that make it beautiful. This effect is similar to a picture taken with “soft focus” and will dissipate with time.
48 hours after surgery
At this point, patients will likely still experience discomfort, tightness, swelling, and bruising, but these symptoms should be easy to manage with prescribed pain medication as recommended by their surgeon. Most swelling starts to dissipate after 48-72 hours and patients will also begin to feel more comfortable with gentle movement, such as walking; however, patients should continue to avoid activities that could potentially strain the chest muscles.
In some cases, patients may experience some emotional sensitivity during the first couple of days following surgery. This is normal and can be caused by stress as well as adjusting to changes to one’s new body image. We recommend that patients stay in close contact with their surgeon and get in touch if any symptoms seem particularly severe or concerning.
1 week after surgery
You will feel the most uncomfortable during the first 2-4 days after your surgery which coincides with timing of maximum swelling and should significantly subside after 7 days. Your surgeon will have likely sent you home with medications (muscle relaxants, pain medications, anti-nausea medications and possibly antibiotics). If you’ve received narcotic pain medication, you should be able to discontinue their use after your first few days at home and almost always at the end of the first week.
Pain is experienced differently by everyone, but most patients report feeling tightness or muscle soreness in the first week. Swelling and bruising should have diminished significantly, and patients may feel more comfortable with movement and daily activities. However, patients should still avoid any activities that could cause strain to the chest muscles or compromise the incision sites.
Patients may experience itching or sensitivity around their incisions, but this is a normal part of the healing process. It is important to continue following the surgeon’s post-operative instructions, such as wearing compression garments and avoiding certain medications that can thin the blood. Patients may also be scheduled for a follow-up appointment with their surgeon to assess their progress.
Follow all post-operative instructions carefully provide by your surgeon, including instructions for wound care and which bras, bandages or compression garments are ok to wear. The use of a surgical bra and compression bandages will help minimize discomfort and protect the wounds.
Within the first week, you’ll see your surgeon for a follow-up appointment. If you experience excessive pain, bleeding or fluid leakage before this, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.
Most patients will be able to go back to work and perform light activity. There are two main structures that are affected by primary breast augmentation that need to be taken into consideration; skin stretch and musculoskeletal stretch. By definition the breasts are now bigger and more skin is required to accommodate the increased breast volume and if the implants are placed beneath muscle(s) they must accommodate as well. Elevation of the pectoralis major muscle to place breast implants beneath the muscle temporarily decreases the range of motion of the shoulder. The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints of the body and the range of motion of the shoulder will need to be modified until the skin and musculoskeletal structures adjust to the surgical breast size increase. You should avoid bending, lifting, and other forms of strenuous movements.
2–4 weeks after surgery
Two to four weeks after breast augmentation surgery, swelling and bruising should continue to decrease, and pain should be easily managed with only occasional use of over-the-counter medication. Patients may start to feel more comfortable with daily activities and light exercise, but should still avoid high-impact activities and heavy lifting. See our guide on exercising after breast augmentation.
Many patients report having mild discomfort or tightness around their chest, which is normal and can be managed with gentle stretching exercises. The incision sites should appear to be healing well and while scarring may be visible, this should continue to fade. By the two to four-week mark, most patients should be able to return to work or other routine activities, but should still avoid any strenuous exercise or activity.
1–2 months after surgery
Bruising should be completely gone and the majority of swelling should have subsided, and patients may start to see more of the final result of their procedure. The subtle curves that contribute to the You will beauty of the female breast return. Many patients will be able to return to their usual exercise routine and may start to feel more comfortable in their clothing. Additionally, patients should continue to wear any compression garments recommended by their surgeon.
After the first 6 weeks, you should have regained the full range of motion in your upper body, although you may still feel nervous about intense exercise. At this point, most patients feel well enough to gently begin normal exercise (although exercises that specifically target the chest should still be avoided unless discussed with your surgeon). Be sure to receive permission from your doctor before resuming specific heavy lifting, high-impact activities, or strenuous movements of any kind.
Most people are able to safely and confidently return to their pre-surgery level of exercise (physical activity) 8 weeks after their breast augmentation procedure. Patients can also sleep on their abdomen and sides, and wear an underwire or push-up bra of their choice. The implants are usually “fully settled” and your final result is realized.
Patients can expect some degree of pain or discomfort during the initial recovery period, but most patients find that these symptoms gradually improve over time as the body heals. The severity of pain can vary depending on factors such as the patient’s pain threshold, the type of anesthesia used during the procedure, and the extent of the surgery. However, pain can typically be managed with prescribed pain medication or over-the-counter pain relievers.
Implants may initially appear high on the chest wall due to swelling and tension, but, over time, the implants will gradually start to settle into a more natural position. This process can take several weeks to months, depending on factors such as the type and size of the implants, as well as the patient’s individual healing process. Patients may notice that their breasts appear fuller and rounder in the first few weeks after surgery, but will eventually settle into a more natural shape and position.
Breast Implant Massage
Breast implant massage is a technique that involves gently massaging the breasts to help reduce the risk of complications and encourage the implants to settle into a natural position. The technique generally involves applying gentle pressure to the breast tissue and implant, and moving the implant around in its pocket. Patients should only begin breast implant massage after receiving instruction AND approval from their surgeon. Here’s a great video on implant massage techniques.
The benefits of breast implant massage include:
- Reduced risk of capsular contracture: Capsular contracture is a potential complication of breast augmentation where scar tissue forms around the implant, causing the breast to feel hard and uncomfortable. Proper massaging the breast implant can help prevent excessive scar tissue from forming and reduce the risk of capsular contracture.
- Improved implant positioning: Breast implant massage can help encourage the implants to settle into a natural position, which can help improve the appearance of the breasts and reduce the risk of implant malposition. Improper massage can lead to malposition of implants so be sure to receive instruction and approval from your surgeon.
- Improved breast tissue health: Massaging the breast tissue can help improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which can promote healthy tissue growth and reduce the risk of complications such as implant rippling or wrinkling.
With proper care and attention, the appearance of scars from breast augmentation surgery can be minimized. Incisions are made in inconspicuous locations, such as around the areola or in the breast crease, to minimize visible scarring. Patients should follow their surgeon’s instructions for caring for their incisions, which may include keeping the incisions clean and dry, avoiding direct sunlight, and refraining from smoking, which can impede the body’s healing process.
After the initial healing period, patients can use silicone sheets or gels, or other topical treatments, as recommended by their surgeon, to help improve the appearance of scars. It’s important to remember that scarring is a normal part of the healing process, but with proper care and attention, scars will gradually fade over time and become less noticeable.
Breast Augmentation Recovery Tips
The following recovery tips can help ensure a smooth and successful recovery after breast augmentation surgery.
Rest and avoid physical activity. Rest is the most important thing patients need for the body to heal properly.
Expect swelling. This is a normal part of the healing process and will subside in a matter of weeks.
Wear a supportive bra. The surgeon will provide a supportive bra to wear during the initial recovery period that will help to reduce swelling and provide support. Here is our guide on post breast surgery bras.
Manage pain. Pain is a normal part of the recovery process, but it can be managed with prescribed pain medication or over-the-counter pain relievers.
Do not take meds on an empty stomach. This can help to avoid bouts of nausea.
Sleep on your back or side. It may even be easier to sleep at an incline, so propping up with pillows or in a reclining chair could help patients get more rest.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is important for keeping the body hydrated and promoting healthy blood flow and lymphatic drainage.
Avoid smoking and alcohol. Smoking and alcohol can impair the body’s healing process and increase the risk of complications, so it’s important to avoid these substances during the recovery period.
Attend follow-up appointments. The surgeon will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor a patient’s progress and ensure they are healing properly.
Prevent constipation. Starting a high-fiber diet before surgery can help prevent or ease constipation that is most typically caused by pain medication and anesthesia.
Keep an eye out for rashes. Patients who experience rash or extreme pain for extended periods should contact their surgeon right away.
Maintain a positive attitude. Healing is not only physical, it’s mental and psychological, as well. Keeping a positive outlook on the process and reminding yourself that the discomfort is only temporary can aid in recovery.
Dealing With Breast Augmentation Recovery
Patients should expect discomfort, swelling, bruising, and other related symptoms following breast augmentation surgery and their surgeon will provide practical solutions to address these issues. Below are some general tips on how to manage these common side effects.
The surgeon who performs the breast augmentation will prescribe pain medication for patients to take as needed, and will also recommend the best over-the-counter and holistic remedies.
Bruising and swelling
Homeopathic medications like Sinecch or Arnica Montana can be beneficial in reducing swelling and bruising. Although it may take several weeks or months for swelling to completely subside. We advise against using cold packs or ice.
Feeling tired after any major surgery is normal. Sleep is an extremely important part of the recovery process. It’s important to have a comfortable space to rest for the first five to seven days and to limit physical activity as much as possible. Having a support person is crucial during this time to assist with household chores and errands.
While rare, patients could experience bleeding up to two weeks after the procedure, although it is most common immediately after. If there is excessive swelling or bleeding, particularly if one breast appears significantly larger than the other, patients should contact their plastic surgeon immediately, as this could be a sign of a hematoma that requires further medical attention or even reoperation.
During the first few weeks after your breast augmentation surgery, patients should strictly limit upper body movements, including reaching forward and overhead.
To prevent infection, patients are typically administered IV antibiotics during surgery and prescribed a short course of oral antibiotics for post-operative care. If a patient does not see any improvement in recovery after two weeks, or if they have a persistent fever or discharge coming from the incision(s), they should contact their surgeon immediately.
Furthermore, attending all recommended follow-up appointments will enable your plastic surgeon to monitor your healing progress. These appointments can help prevent more severe complications in the future, so make sure to keep them.
If a patient experiences severe capsular contracture, the recommended treatment is to replace the implant and remove the scar tissue through a procedure called capsulectomy or capsulotomy. However, abiding by the surgeon’s recovery instructions can help patients avoid complications such as this.
Breast implant recovery is a relatively smooth process for most patients. While the recovery experience can vary, most patients can return to work and normal daily activities within 2 weeks of the surgery, and are cleared to resume strenuous activity in 6-8 weeks. Most patients will be considered “fully healed” and realize the final results of their procedure 2-3 months post-op.
Patients can help ensure they have a smooth and successful recovery from breast augmentation surgery and enjoy their new body for years to come by following all post-operative instructions, taking prescribed medications as directed, resting as much as possible during the first few weeks, and maintaining patience and proper aftercare.
Additional Resources On Breast Augmentation Recovery
- RealSelf.com Q&A Center
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- Great Blog On Breast Augmentation Experience by Lara Clevenger