Breast Lift Recovery: Tips + What To Expect

By Timothy McGee, MD May 25, 2018 15 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.


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.

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

  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

      WD Staff

  4. 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. 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. 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!

      WD Staff

  7. 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!

      WD Staff

  8. 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.

  9. 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. 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!

      WD Staff

  11. 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.

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