Gynecomastia Surgery Recovery: Tips, Timeline, & What To Expect
The recovery process from Gynecomastia surgery (male breast reduction/lift) can vary greatly from individual to individual as each patient is unique in terms of their body’s natural recovery response and their pain tolerance. The type of surgical technique used and the amount of excess tissue needing to be removed will also have an impact on recovery time. With that said, the typical recovery time for gynecomastia surgery is 4-6 weeks.
Note: the below content addresses gynecomastia surgery procedures that include the surgical excision of excess breast tissue. For a post on recovery from liposuction-only gynecomastia procedure please see this blog post.
Recovery Timeline & Restrictions
The following time table lays out the basic milestones of the recovery process. Keep in mind that your experience may differ:
- 2-3 Days Following Surgery: Patients may experience pain, tightness, or tenderness in their chest immediately following surgery. When necessary, discomfort can be managed through prescription pain medication or Tylenol. Some patients experience areas of decreased feeling or numbness. If a long acting local anesthetic like Exparel is used the numbness may last beyond the 3-day period. Some individuals may feel nausea from the anesthesia utilized in procedure. While patients may notice results immediately, the chest area may appear swollen. The use of a compression garment is recommended, which helps minimize swelling and discomfort while helping the area heal. Most surgeons recommend total rest during this period, with activity restricted to light walking. Patients should avoid taking a shower for 24 hours. Some patients may be advised to sleep on their back in an elevated position at a 45-degree position.
- 1 Week Following Surgery: At the one-week mark many patients experience a decrease in pain and swelling. Most patients are able to return to work and perform light physical activities. However strenuous movements that involve the pectoralis muscles (pecs) should be avoided until the patient is cleared by their surgeon. If your procedure involved stiches you may need to visit your surgeon to have them removed. If your procedure required a drain then it may be removed. Compression garments should continue to be worn throughout the day. Many patients will feel comfortable sleeping flat on their back (side or stomach sleeping should still be avoided).
- 2 Weeks Following Surgery: Most men begin feeling pretty normal and can perform many normal daily activities without any pain. Vigorous exercise should continue to be avoided. At the end of the second week it’s usually possible to sleep on the sides or the stomach. Compression garments should continue to be worn during the day.
- 3-4 Weeks Following Surgery: Most patients are cleared by their surgeon to begin normal exercise (although exercises that specifically target the chest should still be avoided). Compression garments no longer need to be worn and most patients will be able to take baths. Swelling and bruising of the chest is most of the way gone revealing the final results of the procedure.
- 6 Weeks Following Surgery: The 6-week point usually marks the completion of the recovery process. Most patients can undertake all forms of exercise including strenuous movements involving the chest. Patients can also sleep in any position. There may still be some swelling in the pecs, which will naturally completely resolve after a few more weeks.
Most patients will experience moderate pain following their procedure, especially within the first 2-3 days following the surgery. Pain severity will differ based on each man’s tolerance of pain, as well as the extent of the surgery. Pain can be managed through medications; some men will require prescription medication while others will just need over-the-counter Tylenol. Some patients are injected with a long acting local anesthetic(Exparel) that can last up to 5 days.
Depending on surgical technique and the extent of tissue excised scarring along the incision areas is possible. However, a skilled plastic surgeon will place the incision in low visibility areas. Additionally, treating the area with topical scar lightening creams can help healing and minimize the appearance of scarring. Other laser-based scar treatments are available for addressing larger, more visible scars.
It is possible for scar tissue to form in the treatment area, manifesting as small lumpy or bumpy areas in the chest. While rare, this is a side effect of gynecomastia surgery which can be addressed by your surgeon if needed.
Tips for a Speedy Gynecomastia Surgery Recovery
- Always follow any post-procedure instructions provided by your surgeon.
- Wear any compression garments your surgeon provides. This is very important for properly healing the area and creating the best final result!
- Attend all post-op appointments required by your surgeon.
- Ice (cold compress) can be applied to the chest to minimize pain and swelling. However, patients should not apply the cold pack directly to the skin.
- Get lots of rest and sleep, especially over the first week following surgery.
- Avoid alcohol and all types of smoking for at least two weeks before and after surgery.
- Eat a light and healthy diet.
- Supplement with vitamins and micronutrients to promote healing.
- Stay properly hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of water daily.
- Plan on taking a full week off of work (longer if your job is physical in nature)
- Wear loose fitting clothing, specifically shirts that will not require you to raise your arms in order to put them on.
- Pick a good caregiver. They’ll need to be with you over the first 24 hours following the procedure.
- Make sure to sleep on your back and prop yourself up with pillows. This will help facilitate getting in and out of bed. Avoid sleeping on your belly or side for 2 weeks following your procedure.
- Limit any intensive physical activity until you are cleared by your surgeon. When you get back in the gym, progress slowly with incremental increases in intensity until your back to your pre-procedure activity level.
- Itchiness sensations are common in the immediate period following surgery. Refrain from scratching the area.