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Breast Lift Recovery: Tips + What To Expect

Written by Timothy McGee, MD, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon on May 25, 2018 51 Comments

breast lift recovery

Are you considering a breast lift procedure (mastopexy)?  In this post, we’ll provide a basic breast lift recovery timeline along with some tips to make the recovery process fast and easy.

Recovery Milestones & Restrictions

2 Weeks prior to surgery:

  • No smoking.
  • No aspirin, ibuprofen, herbal supplements, fish oil or any medication that can increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Make arrangements for responsible friend/family member to drive you home after surgery.
  • Prepare for your recovery period by making arrangements for childcare and/or work accordingly.
  • Purchase any supplies you may need after the surgery (frozen peas/ice packs, gauze, sports bra).
  • Notify the office of any symptoms of illness prior to surgery. Your medical history may require medical clearance like lab work, mammogram or an EKG prior to surgery.

Day prior to surgery: Confirm your surgery time and transportation. Fill prescriptions. Start taking Arnica Montana.

Night before surgery: Do NOT eat or drink anything 12 hours prior to surgery. Shower. Relax, go to bed early and try to sleep at least seven hours.

2-3 Days Following Surgery: Many women may experience light to moderate pain in the days following their procedure, which can be managed through prescription medication (see section below for more detail). Nausea stemming from the anesthesia used during the procedure is also common but typically subsides without intervention. Surgical dressings and any drains that were used are often removed by the surgeon within this time frame. However, many surgeons will recommend that their patients continue to use a surgical bra and compression bandages to protect the incision sites. By day 2 or 3 many patients will be able to shower.

1 Week Following Surgery: Pain levels usually significantly decline while moderate bruising and swelling of the breasts may continue to persist. Many patients are cleared to return to work and perform light daily activities including walking. However, patients should avoid bending, lifting heavy objects, and other forms of strenuous movements.

2 Weeks Following Surgery: Many patients begin to feel normal and are able to perform daily activities without pain. Vigorous activity or exercise should continue to be avoided. Incisions typically fully heal around the 2-week mark and patients may be cleared to take baths.

4 Weeks Following Surgery: Most patients are healed enough to resume their normal exercise routine (however exercises and activities like golf, tennis, etc. that specifically target the chest should still be avoided).

6 Weeks Following Surgery: The 6-week point usually marks the completion of the recovery process as most bruising and swelling of the breasts has resolved. Most patients can exercise without restraint, sleep on their abdomen and sides, and are cleared to wear an underwire bra.

Pain Management

Most patients report experiencing mild to moderate pain following their breast lift procedure. Pain is typically greatest in the first 2-3 days following the procedure and subsides thereafter. Your surgeon can prescribe pain medication to relieve any discomfort experienced by the patient. Note that many surgeons do not recommend taking over-the-counter, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen post-procedure as they may increase bleeding.

Nipple Numbness

Nipple sensation is often increased in the weeks immediately following the procedure and returns to normal.

Scars

Breast lift surgery can result in scarring, the extent and location of which depends on the type of breast lift technique performed. In some cases, the incisions can be placed in low visibility areas like around the areola line or under the breast fold. Additionally, there are several non-surgical cosmetic treatments that can be performed to minimize the appearance of any resulting scarring.

Tips For A Quick & Easy Recovery

  • Follow all post-procedure care instructions provided by your plastic surgeon.
  • Take pain medication, antibiotics, and any other prescriptions as prescribed by your surgeon.
  • Attend all scheduled post-op appointments.
  • Refrain from showering or bathing until you are cleared to do so.
  • Wear all recommended compression garments or surgical bras.
  • Plan to take 1-2 weeks off from work.
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member to be a caregiver over the first 2-3 days following your procedure.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Drink lots of water throughout the recovery period.
  • Eat light and healthy foods following your procedure.
  • Avoid touching or removing bandages from incision sites as they may re-open your wounds.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing, specifically tops that will not require you to raise your arms in order to put them on.
  • Avoid sleeping on your belly or side for 6 weeks following your procedure. Patients are advised to sleep with their head propped up under 2-3 pillows in order to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Limit all forms of vigorous exercise including any physical movements which make the breasts bounce (like running or jumping) until you are fully healed.

It is important to understand that your recovery experience may differ from the information presented here due to several factors including your pain tolerance and your body’s healing response. Procedure-specific variables like the type of breast lift technique performed also plays a role in recovery. Finally, patients who combine a breast lift with other surgical procedures (like breast augmentation or breast reduction procedure) may require a longer recovery period.

 


Timothy McGee, MD

Dr. McGee has been practicing plastic surgery for more than 18 years in all areas of the field, including cosmetic surgery and reconstructive breast and facial surgery. Dr. McGee is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. He has numerous hospital affiliations in the Round Rock and greater Austin areas and is a member of the American Society of plastic Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American College of Surgeons and Austin Smiles.


51 Responses to “Breast Lift Recovery: Tips + What To Expect”

  1. Avatar Aleshire says:

    It sure was nice to know that 3-3 days after the procedure, the pain will be intense and that the woman needs to follow the pain medication that the doctor will recommend for maximum results. I will share this with a friend since she is planning to undergo a breast lift surgery soon. Since her tolerance for pain is rather low, this tip about managing pain got my attention the most. Thank you.

  2. Avatar Bethany says:

    I like that about two weeks after breast surgery, patients can participate in daily activities without pain. My friend has an ironing board for a chest, and it’s been bugging her as people mistake her for a boy. She’s been thinking of getting breast augmentation, so I’ll share this article with her; it’ll help her make an informed decision.

    • Avatar Heather says:

      I had an augmentation , by day 4 I was back to normal
      I’m a hairstylist. Super easy healing

      • Avatar Cathy says:

        You must not have had a lift! It requires way more than 4 days to heal!

        • Avatar Melissa says:

          I’m a also a hairstylist, I had augmentation in January, and had a full anchor lift Thursday and was back to work on Saturday. This was by far my easiest recovery of any of my surgeries.

  3. Avatar Penelope says:

    Is there any way to get a lift and have no scarring?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Penelope,

      Thanks for submitting your great question! Unfortunately some degree of scarring occurs with most procedures. However we would encourage you to visit us for an in-person consultation so we can show you exactly where they may occur. We work hard to place incisions so they are not visible.

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  4. Avatar Dr. Wright says:

    Good tips to help those recovering from the breast lift surgery process. It’s always best to listen to professionals. Thanks for posting!

  5. Avatar Taylor says:

    Thanks for these recovery tips for a breast lift surgery. It’s nice to know that you shouldn’t eat or drink anything 12 hours before the surgery. It seems good to know exactly when your surgery will take place so you can plan accordingly.

  6. Avatar Martha says:

    I recently got a new job, and I want to try and be there as much as possible to be a “team player”. Is there any way to ensure that I can go back to work within 2-3 days of breast lift surgery?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Martha,

      Thanks for submitting your great question! Recovery does depend on a lot of issues, so this is something you should discuss directly with your surgeon. However, it’s always a good idea to plan on being out of work for more days than less, just to be safe! Most patients are cleared for office work by day 5.

      Hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  7. Avatar Jane says:

    I was wondering if getting a breast lift with implants has a longer recovery time than a lift without implants?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Jane, thanks for reading our post and for submitting your great question! Typically patients who do a lift with an implant can expect a slightly longer recovery time compared to lifts without implants. However, other characteristics like the type of lift technique used can also play a role. As always we recommend that you discuss this with your surgeon directly during a consultation.

      We hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  8. Avatar Joy says:

    I have been interested in a breast lift for a while now. I didn’t know that this was such an intense procedure. I will have to talk to a professional to know accurately what my potential experience would be like.

    • Avatar Cathy says:

      I just had it done 2 weeks ago with implants and this surgery is no joke! Be prepared to take 2-3 weeks off of work. You will definitely need it!

  9. Avatar MJ says:

    Thanks for pointing out that a lot of patients are cleared to return to work a week after their breast lift surgery. I’m a workaholic and I have a lot of client meetings and pitchings left this month. I’ll have to wait until I have a clear schedule to come in!

  10. Avatar Jennifer says:

    I am a licensed massage therapist and am having a lift done in Jan. I am taking 2 weeks off from work. I tend to heal quickly and have a high tolerance for pain. Do you think 2 weeks is enough time to take?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great question! Firstly, we always recommend speaking with your perspective surgeon on this issues as variables like the type of technique performed can alter recovery. That’s your best bet for getting an answer per your specific situation.

      Without knowing specific variables, you might want to allow 3-4 weeks for recovery before going back to work. It sounds like your profession would require vigorous use of your upper body (during a massage). Depending on your specific procedure you may need more than 2 weeks before jumping back in.

      But….we would encourage you to discuss this with your surgeon to get their insight before making a decision. I hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  11. Avatar Bram says:

    Thanks for the heads-up to avoid rigorous activity for up to 2 weeks after the surgery. I wasn’t sure how long we had to wait! I have been waiting to go running with my husband again, but I didn’t want to compromise the surgery’s results in any way.

  12. Avatar Rachel says:

    I’m looking into getting the Gastric-Sleeve, should I do a Breast Lift after the Gastric Sleeve to insure no changes will be made to my Breast or will it matter?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for reading our post and taking the time to submit your great question! In the majority of cases its beneficial to undergo cosmetic procedures after all the weight is lost from a gastric procedure. It allows the surgeon to see exactly how the body responds to such a dramatic weight loss. There are many different possibilities for how the body will react. For instance, you may require a breast lift that includes the use of an implant in order to add volume.

      Basically, it is preferable to wait until you reach your target weight before undergoing a procedure. We hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  13. Avatar Erin says:

    I got my implant removal and a lift surgery done on 22 February. my doctor wants me to return to work on Friday the eighth. I am in a lot of pain I am still not able to drive myself. it is exquisite torture just to ride in a car. Why is it that the doctor insist that I must be healed within two weeks? Why does he think he has the right to tell me if I am in pain or not? I am fighting with my company over my short term disability and I find this extremely egregious to have to argue with my doctor as to what kind of pain I am in. What gives him the right to decide that I am going to heal in 2 weeks “because his other patients do”? What can I do to fight with my doctor and let him know I am in pain and I’m ready to return to work?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Erin,

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience! Without assessing you in person or knowing the specifics of your case it’s difficult to determined your current state of healing. However, from your statements it does sound like you are not fully healed and may need more than 2 weeks before being able to go back to work. Especially since every person heals differently from the procedure. We would encourage you to be very direct with your surgeon and request him to assess your current state. If the provider is still insistent, you may want to see another provider for a second opinion.

      We hope that helps.

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  14. Avatar Dr. Shah says:

    Thanks for these recovery tips for a breast lift surgery. Very helpful, will share with our patients

  15. Avatar Lora says:

    Very informative article! I had a breast lift with implant exchange 4 weeks ago. This recovery has been slower and a lot harder than I expected. I took off 5 days off initially, then took 2 more. I have a desk job, no lifting or excess activity required. I really should have taken at least 2 weeks. Even though I am slowly feeling better and better, things like pushing or pulling open doors is very difficult and even impossible at times. I wear out easily and quickly. That first week back to work I could barely make it through 8 hours. And all the strength and energy I could muster at home was a shower then straight to bed. My strength and energy is slowly increasing. I think I should have taken the extra week off in the beginning and maybe my recovery would have been a little easier. I am 39 years old and that may play a role in the slower recovery. I just expected to feel a lot better than I do by now. I am loving the results though and am really trying to be very patient with my recovery and healing.

  16. Avatar MICHELE says:

    i am 57 and a hairdresser. had implants with a lift and a slight fat transfer,as i had breast cancer 18 years ago. felt pretty good, went to work on week 3. very tired, very sensitive to the nerves healing. couldn’t find a comfortable bra of any kind. this is taking way longer than i expected..maybe my age, maybe alot of things. very happy with results, but it’s been a journey.. still recovering in week 6!

  17. Avatar Harj says:

    I’ve had breast lift with implants 10weeks ago. Feel the recovery is very slow. I get spasms when I pull or push something like a heavy door or even with certain movements. It feels as if the implants have slided upwards. Does anyone know if that’s normal or does that happen to anyone else? One breast seems fuller then the other and sitting higher. I’m getting pretty frustrated at this point 🙁

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Harj,

      I’m sorry to hear of your experience, but we greatly appreciate you sharing it with the community. While the recovery process varies by patient, it is concerning that you still feel bad after 10 weeks. We would definitely recommend seeing your surgeon for an in person assessment, especially since you also have positioning/symmetry concerns. Our advice would be to contact your surgeon and go for an in-office appointment as soon as possible.

      We hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  18. Avatar Sharon says:

    I had a breast lift 4 weeks ago and my surgeon says my breast have so much dense tissue they are weighing down on my scars and causing them to split further. Is this common? She also advised I get a better/more supportive bra. Could you recommend one, I’ve tried so many. Could you also recommend a product for the scars, I’m currently using Scar Away and Mederma. Thank you.

  19. WD Staff WD Staff says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for reading our post and sharing your experience, we’re sorry to hear about this issue. Your surgeon is right, the dense tissue may be affecting the incision area. However it sounds like you are doing the right thing using Mederma and trying to support the breasts while healing. Have you tried the MaCom Signature bra or a compression bra (Lipoelastic is a great brand)? Has your surgeon recommended any other alternatives?

    Thanks,
    WD Staff

  20. Avatar rachel says:

    i had a breast lift 2 weeks ago. it looks like my right breast is bigger then my left breast. im hoping its just swelling and it slims down to match the left side. if it doesnt would a revision be needed ?

    thank you

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for reading our post and sharing your comment. The asymmetry may be due to swelling as you indicate, at 2 weeks a moderate amount of swelling is still apparent.

      However, you may want to reach out to your surgeon and advise them of what you are seeing. If they are concerned they will schedule an in-office assessment. We always encourage patients to reach out if they have any concerns post procedure.

      We hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  21. Avatar Marie says:

    Any over the counter options to aid in assistance to help minimize scaring?

  22. Avatar Natalie says:

    I had an uplift and and augmentation my scars arond my nipples have little black scabs in some parts, is this a normal healing process.
    Im 5 and a half weeks post op, i had my surgery abroad and can’t get hold of my surgeon

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Natalie,

      We are sorry to hear about this but greatly appreciate you sharing this with our community.

      First, we would greatly advise you to see a different board certified plastic surgeon in office for assessment. It does not have to be the same surgeon (since he is abroad). You can advise the surgeon of your concerns and go in for an assessment in healing.

      With that out of the way, it’s hard to judge what’s happening without seeing you in person. If the scars are painful, red, or irritated looking its a sign that you need to be seen. At the 5-6 week time frame we expect incisions for most patients to be fully healed. So seeing someone may be a good idea.

      We hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  23. Avatar Kristi says:

    This post has helped me many times. Thanks y’all

  24. Avatar HEATHER says:

    I Had breast implants with anchor lift on March 4th 2020 in Miami Florida. My question is I live in Colorado. Is it possible to find a Plastic surgeon who will do my follow up in the state I live in?

    Also my PS did a high profile implant, I am wearing the band to push these girls down. Do high profile implants drop faster or slower?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Heather,

      You should be able to find a surgeon in Colorado to handle your followup procedures. They will probably have to interface with your Miami surgeon, but this is not uncommon. My advice would be to find a board certified surgeon in your area and ask if they are willing to take you on as a follow up patient.

      Hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  25. Avatar Onele says:

    Hi, I’m from South Africa…any recommendation you could give for the best breast lift surgeon you know of, if not, would you please do a research for me since you know better than I do as a professioonal.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Onele,

      Unfortunately we do not have any direct contacts with any surgeons in South Africa, so we do not have anyone directly to refer you to. We would recommend you making sure they are Board Certified and in good standing. Request and review before and after images, you can even ask perspective surgeons if they have reference patients they can refer you to. Also RealSelf.com is a great resource, you can review testimonials from real patients.

      Sorry we can’t be of more help but we hope that points you in the right direction. Thanks for reading our post and sharing!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  26. Avatar Megan says:

    I found it interesting to know that after having the augmentation done you can’t drive, go shopping, and even take medications. I have been thinking for a while now to get a breast augmentation but I’ve been unsure, now I know that I want. I will definitely consider what you said about prior and post-surgery care.

  27. Avatar Wanda says:

    I had a Brest lift on 6/1. My scars are still sore and have lumps at the bottom of my breast. I am sure it’s scar tissue but still tender. I still can’t lay on my stomach. How long can I expect to have this soreness? Just to clarify, I am not in pain. It was a very easy recovery it’s just I am still tender.
    Thank you

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Wanda,

      We are sorry to hear about the tenderness, but we greatly appreciate you sharing this with our readers! Tenderness in some form can continue for a couple of months, so what you describe is not unheard of. In most cases, however, tenderness should be minimal after two months.

      We would recommend that you reach out to your surgeon to discuss these issues. You should be able to discuss this with your surgeon over the phone. Depending on the specifics of the procedure they may instruct you to come in for an assessment.

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  28. Avatar Khrystine says:

    I had a breast lift with a slight reduction, 3 days ago now.

    Daytime my pain isn’t too bad, I’m in the U.K. and I can’t take cocodomol or codeine so have to rely on paracetamol (morphine is also making me feel abit sick)

    My question is, my breasts have started feeling itchy a little bit, I’m required to wear my macom bra for 3 months day/night and I can shower in 2 weeks.

    I’m finding it hard to sleep with the pressure of the bra on my underarms

    Is there anything I can do about that?

    I’ve got a wedge pillow on order 🙂

    Thankyou

    Xx

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Khrystine,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your experience. I’m sure our readers will find it helpful!

      I was going to recommend better positioning with a wedge, so it’s great that you got that covered. Also you should consult your surgeon who may recommend using a different surgical bra. You should definitely reach out if using the wedge does not help.

      Soon the pain will subside as the body heals. We hope this helps and you realize improvement real soon.

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  29. Avatar Bina says:

    I had breast lift about 10 months ago and time to time I still get sharp pain in my breast. I contacted my doctor many times and he keep saying its from regenerating nerves. Is it possible to take that long for nerves to regenerate. Also, I have tried so many different bras but non of them makes me feel comfortable.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Bina,

      We are sorry to hear about this discomfort, but we greatly appreciate you sharing this with our community!

      Here is a response from Dr. McGee:

      A breast lift surgery can be an extensive surgery especially if it involves removing implants from a previous breast procedure. Improvement in nerve sensation, both pain and numbness, can take up to 24-36 months to finalize.

      Bra fitment is probably the single biggest factor that you can control. It is common for a patient to present after a breast surgery with an incorrectly sized bra. Prior to surgical breast lift, the typical patient is wearing a bra that is too tight/small seeking to achieve the “lifted” post operative result. Patients become accustomed to wearing a bra that is too tight and/or come to believe that they are a size smaller(wearing a 34 but in fact should be in a 36). 10 months after the surgery is completed the shape of the new breast should be stable and the patient does not need the bra to shape the breasts and the bra only needs to support the breasts in place. A bra that fits too tight on breasts that have recently been operated on can definitely cause pain. In my practice we go over bra fitment in detail. However, in the times of this viral pandemic it is difficult to “try-on” bras at a store with all the restrictions in place but finding a bra that fits comfortably would be my number one recommendation.

      We hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  30. Avatar Erica says:

    I had my mastoplexy on December 22. My healing has gone very well as I’ve followed all my surgeon’s post op guidelines. As my incisions are healing, I’m experiencing itching at the incision sites and from the paper tape. Do you have suggestions how to alleviate this? Also, my significant other is confused why I am refraining from sexual activity during my recovery. Do you have a suggestion on the timeline of post surgery sexual activity?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Erica,

      Thanks for reading out post and submitting your great question. I asked Dr. McGee about this and he sent me the following response:

      “As long as you are healing well there are several methods of treatment to minimize the scarring from mastopexy. Tape products are used by many plastic surgeons and work great, but if you are having issues with the tape I would discuss with your plastic surgeon the possibility of switching to silicone sheets or a topical scar ointment/cream. Both are excellent choices as well.

      In regards to the question about refraining from “sexual activity”, the key issue is how to define sexual activity for an individual patient. Two people rarely mean the same thing when they refer to the rather broad term of “sexual activity”. Some people engage in very rigorous sexual acts while others prefer a much more subdued form of intimacy. Also, a mastopexy procedure can present unique problems in the post operative period as a percentage of women require nipple stimulation to achieve orgasm. Depending on the type of mastopexy performed, your surgeon may ask that you refrain from direct nipple stimulation for a longer period of time.

      Bottom line: You’ll need to talk to your surgeon. The three people that are most interested in your plastic surgery having an excellent outcome and for you to return to all activities are you, your significant other and your plastic surgeon. It may be uncomfortable topic to bring up but I would strongly recommend that you contact your plastic surgeon and discuss the specifics that pertain to you as an individual.”

      We hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  31. Avatar Geek says:

    Great!

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