Thigh Lift Recovery: Timeline, Tips, & What To Expect
Originally published on December 10, 2020. Updated on August 22, 2023 with additional information.
Thigh lift surgery, also known as a thighplasty, is a cosmetic surgical procedure designed to reshape and contour the thighs by removing excess skin, fat, and tissue. It is often sought by individuals who have experienced significant weight loss, aging, or other factors that have resulted in loose, sagging skin around their thighs. This procedure aims to create smoother, firmer, and more proportionate thigh contours, and can dramatically reshape the entire upper part of the leg. It can also help to reduce or even eliminate pain and discomfort associated with thigh skin rubbing together and causing chafing.
It is very important for prospective thigh lift patients to have a firm understanding of the recovery process. Thigh lift recovery can differ greatly from patient to patient based on many characteristics like genetics, age, pain tolerance, their anatomy, and the surgical technique performed. With the prospect of such variability in mind, this blog post will outline the average thigh lift recovery experience as well as tips for making recovery as quick and easy as possible.
Recovery Milestones & Timelines
Day After Surgery
Your thigh lift surgery will take place under general anesthesia. You might feel tired, nauseous, and sore when you first wake up. This feeling is normal and can last for up to 3 hours. Your thighs will be wrapped in bandages, and you may be given a special compression garment. Small drainage tubes will be placed under your skin to drain fluids from your thighs as you heal.
You will need to avoid driving due to soreness and pain medications, so plan to have a friend drive you home and stay with you for the rest of the day. Your thighs will feel sore, especially when walking. After taking a nap, you will get out of bed and walk around your home to keep your circulation moving.
2-3 Days After Surgery
Swelling and bruising will be most pronounced in the 2-3 days following your surgery. Continue to wear your compression garment and if needed, change your bandages according to your doctor’s instructions.
During this time period, it is very important to minimize movement to protect your incisions as they heal. The thighs are involved in almost every body movement, so you will want to keep your activity to the absolute minimum in the first few days.
7-14 Days After Surgery
After the first week you will return to your doctor’s office for a follow up visit. At this time, your drains and stitches will be removed, and your bandages will be removed or changed.
Continue to wear your compression garment for several weeks. This garment protects your incisions and provides support for your thighs as they heal. Wearing it exactly as advised can improve your results.
Keep movement to a minimum for the first two weeks or more. Avoid stretching your thighs and be cautious when sitting, standing, walking and bending.
Although swelling and bruising will still be present, you will begin to see the improved contour of your thighs within this time frame.
2-4 Weeks After Surgery
After 2 weeks, it is time to seek greater balance between avoidance of movement, and simple, slow walking. Gentle movement will prevent blood clots from forming in your lower limbs. Cautious, easy walking is best, as are simple calf-exercises such as pointing and flexing your feet to stretch the back side of your lower legs.
1-2 Months After Surgery
Around the six-week mark, your incisions should be fully healed and the swelling in your thighs will be at a minimum. Your scars will still be visible, and can range in color from light red to dark purple.
At this time, it is safe to resume most activities. If you are still experiencing moderate swelling, stick to the steady walks and avoid vigorous exercise.
6+ Months After Surgery
After six months, swelling should have subsided completely. Your final results will now be visible, although you may continue to see improvement for up to one year.
Results of a thigh lift are permanent, provided your general health and fitness, and especially your body weight, stays the same.
Pain after surgery is unavoidable, although the level of this pain varies for each individual. You are likely to notice pain the most in the first few days after surgery as the effects of general anesthesia wear off.
To manage pain at home, your doctor will prescribe or recommend oral pain medications. In addition, the following can help ease your experience of pain:
Rest – take time off from work and let yourself rest as much as possible, especially in the first two weeks. Have a loved one or close friend help you with personal tasks.
Hydrate – drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. Hydration reduces risk of complications and speeds recovery.
Move – while excessive movement should be avoided, easy, short walks around your house promote blood circulation which speeds healing and reduces risk of clotting.
Any potential scarring depends on the type of thigh lift surgery that is performed. The specific surgical technique used will depend on the patient’s individual needs, the amount of excess skin and fat present, and the surgeon’s preferences and expertise. The goal of a thigh lift surgery is to create a more toned and sculpted appearance in the thighs, enhancing the patient’s overall body contours. There are different types of thigh lift surgeries, each targeting specific areas of the thighs:
Mini thigh lift: A mini thigh lift is a less extensive version of the traditional thigh lift procedure. It is designed to address mild to moderate sagging of the skin and tissue in the upper inner thigh area. A mini thigh lift involves smaller incisions and focuses on a specific area of the thighs, typically the upper inner thigh region. The surgeon makes a shorter incision along the upper groin area and, through this incision, they remove a smaller amount of excess skin and possibly a limited amount of fat. The underlying tissues may also be tightened to create a more lifted appearance.
Inner (medial) thigh lift: This type of thighplasty focuses on the inner thighs and is commonly performed to address the “chafing” or rubbing that can occur between the thighs due to excess skin. The surgeon makes an incision along the groin crease and may extend it downward toward the knee, allowing for the removal of excess skin and fat. This surgical technique is particularly suitable for individuals who have experienced significant weight loss, aging, or genetic factors that have resulted in excess skin and a lack of firmness along the inner thigh region.
Outer (bilateral) thigh lift: An outer thigh lift surgery, also known as a bilateral thigh lift, aims to improve the appearance of the outer thighs and hips by addressing excess skin, fat, and tissue in these areas. The surgeon creates incisions along the outer thighs and hips. The length and pattern of the incisions will vary depending on the extent of correction required and the surgeon’s preferred technique.
Spiral thigh lift: A spiral thigh lift is designed to address excess skin, fat, and tissue around the entire circumference of the thighs, including the front, back, inner, and outer areas. This comprehensive approach provides a more harmonious and balanced contour to the thighs. The surgeon will create incisions that encircle the thighs, extending both to the front and the back. The pattern of the incisions may resemble a spiral or continuous loop, hence the name “spiral thigh lift.” The length and placement of the incisions will depend on the individual’s anatomy and the desired outcomes.
As with any surgery that requires an incision, scarring can occur; however, there are treatments available that can help minimize the appearance of scars including topical scar creams, corticosteroid injections, dermabrasion treatments, chemical peels, fillers, and more.
Remember that not all scars can be eliminated, but these treatments can often help reduce their visibility and improve overall skin texture. The best treatment will depend on the type of scar, its location, and the patient’s individual skin characteristics. Always consult a qualified medical professional before undergoing any scar reduction treatment.
Thigh Lift Recovery Tips
Recovering from a thigh lift surgery is crucial for achieving the best possible results and minimizing complications. Here are some tips for a smooth recovery after thigh lift surgery:
- Follow all post-procedure instructions from the surgeon. These instructions will guide patients on wound care, activity restrictions, medication use, and any other specific guidelines for recovery.
- Rest. Following surgery, patients should fully rest for 10 days, should limit walking and standing, and avoid driving.
- Stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods: Proper hydration and a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can aid in the healing process. Drink plenty of water, avoid heavily processed foods, and make sure to get healthy protein and lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
- Use compression garments as directed by the surgeon. Compression garments help reduce swelling, improve circulation, and support the healing process. Depending on the extent of surgery and patient’s healing, compression garments may be recommended for up to six months after surgery.
- Keep incisions clean and dry. Patients should avoid submerging the surgical area in any type of water until fully cleared by their surgeon (this means no baths or hot tubs). Usually, patients can take a shower two days after surgery, but should only use warm water (not hot) and keep it brief.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol. Smoking increases the chance of scarring and slows the healing process, while alcohol thins the blood and prevents clotting that is necessary for healing. Both should be avoided during recovery.
- No driving. Patients should be prepared not to drive for two to three weeks following surgery, and should take this into account when planning for their procedure. This is often due to several factors including possible pain and stiffness, the use of prescription painkillers, and a potential lack of strength and concentration.
- Walk, but only once cleared by the surgeon. When cleared — usually seven days following surgery — patients can begin taking short walks to help promote healthy blood flow to the surgical site. However, this should only be done with permission from the surgeon to make sure there is no unnecessary strain to the area.
Remember, everyone’s recovery experience is different. It’s important to follow the surgeon’s recommendations closely and prioritize rest during this period.
Thigh Lift Recovery Complications: When to Call the Surgeon
Thigh lift surgery, like any surgical procedure, carries certain risks and potential postoperative complications. It is important to be aware of these possibilities so patients can make informed decisions and take appropriate steps during recovery. While complications are relatively rare, they can occur with any surgical procedure. Contact the surgeon right away if experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fever or chills (this could be a sign of infection)
- Painful incision
- Severe swelling in the legs
- Pain that does not respond to medication
- Slow-healing wounds (no significant healing within the first couple of weeks following surgery)
Many complications can be minimized or avoided by choosing a skilled and experienced plastic surgeon, following pre-operative and post-operative instructions closely, and maintaining open communication with the medical team throughout recovery. If the patient experiences any unusual or concerning symptoms after thigh lift surgery, they should contact their surgeon promptly to ensure proper evaluation.
Risks & Side Effects
There are risks to every surgery as well as risks to general anesthesia. When deciding if thigh lift surgery is right for you, discuss the potential risks with your doctor.
Typical thigh lift risks include pain, scarring, asymmetrical results, infection, bleeding, fluid retention, blood clotting in the lower extremities, or the recurrence of loose skin.