Tummy Tuck Recovery: Tips + What To Expect
For many prospective tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) patients, post-procedure pain and the recovery process is a concern. This is understandable because while a tummy tuck surgery can provide life-changing results, the surgery itself can be extensive.
In general, the recovery process varies greatly from patient to patient. The differences stem from individual pain tolerance and their body’s natural recovery response. Additionally, there are different tummy tuck techniques, each with a different degree of invasiveness. The sections below provide a general idea of what to expect after a tummy tuck surgery, as well as tips for making the experience as pleasant (and fast) as possible.
Recovery Milestones & Restrictions
Typically most patients can expect full recovery to take about six weeks, with some patients being able to return to work and non-physically intensive daily activity within two weeks.
- Week 1: Patients will likely experience moderate pain which can be minimized with medication. Bruising, swelling, tightness, and fatigue are also common. Patients should eliminate all high impact physical activity and limit contact with sick individuals. Depending on the abdominoplasty technique, some patients will have drains beneath their skin that function to remove excess fluid. A compression garment should be worn at all times to reduce swelling, protect the surgical area, and help the body maintain its new shape.
- Week 2: Pain, bruising, and tightness will subside for many patients, though soreness and swelling may persist for weeks. Most patients will have their drains removed; however, the use of compression garments will continue. Typically, patients can begin light activities and return to work by the end of the week.
- Weeks 3-5: During this period much of the swelling will subside, while some soreness continues. Many patients can cease wearing compression garments and will be cleared for more strenuous activity (although weight lifting and abdominal movements should be avoided). Be sure and follow your physician’s orders regarding compression garments.
- Weeks 6-12: All soreness, fatigue, and swelling begin to complete diminish and the final results of the tummy tuck become visible. Most patients are cleared for nearly all types of physical activity, although abdominal exercises should be avoided until after 24 weeks.
All patients will experience some degree of pain, especially in their first week post-procedure. The severity you will feel depends upon your tolerance for pain and the abdominoplasty technique performed. Pain following your tummy tuck can be effectively managed through prescribed painkillers.
Some degree of permanent scarring after a tummy tuck surgery is likely. However, a skilled surgeon can position the scar so it is not noticeable, often below the panty line so it is hidden under a bikini or underwear. Often scarring can appear to worsen during the first 3-6 months after the procedure. However, after about 9 months the scar typically flattens and lightens in color.
Tips For A Speedy Tummy Tuck Recovery
- Follow all recovery instructions as provided by your surgeon.
- Attend all follow-up appointments.
- Check with your doctor before taking any prescription medication, including blood thinners.
- Wear an abdominal support or compression garments as instructed by your surgeon.
- If surgical drains were used for your procedure make sure to empty them as instructed by your surgeon.
- Give yourself ample time off work and strenuous household activities to fully recover.
- Choose a good caregiver, especially for the first couple of days post-procedure where you may need help with basic mobility.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep.
- Eat a nutritious diet and drink plenty of water.
- Consider using a stool softener if you experience any regularity issues.
- Do not start strenuous exercise or sexual activity until cleared by your surgeon.
- Refrain from using alcohol or drugs.
- Wear loose clothing and undergarments throughout your recovery.
My mother in law is thinking about getting a tummy tuck surgery. She has been struggling with weight loss for a long time. It’s good to know what to expect after the surgery, so I’ll have to share this with her. It sounds like a lot of rest will help a lot. I also like that you mentioned the importance of eating a nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water. This makes a huge difference.
Thanks for adding that note about scarring. I was really worried about it showing! I will be honest though, I am still a bit scared about it. Can I ask my surgeon if they will give that aspect of the tummy tuck extra attention?
Hi Jay, Thanks for reading our post and submitting your comment! You should bring this concern up to your surgeon and ask if he can focus the treatment plan on limiting residual scarring. Also there are some great post-surgery treatments including lasers that can help minimize scarring after your procedure. We have a post on this here: https://www.westlakedermatology.com/blog/minimizing-scar-appearance-during-healing-period
Thanks again for reading!
My sister has been wanting to get a tummy tuck after giving birth to their third child. She’s been looking for a reputable clinic where she can have the procedure. I’ll remind her to get plenty of rest and sleep after the surgery to recover faster like you mentioned. Thanks for these great recovery tips!
I’m want to get a tummy tuck but I’m concerned about the scar.
We completely understand, the concerns over scarring are very common from perspective patients. I can say that often the incisions can be placed below the underwear line so it’s often not visible. Also there are many post-procedure laser treatments that can be performed to minimize the appearance of the scar (more on this here: https://www.westlakedermatology.com/blog/tips-for-minimizing-scar-appearances/).
I would recommend you visit a board certified plastic surgeon to discuss this concern further. With an in-person consultation, you’ll get more insight on exactly where the incision will be placed given your specific characteristics and goals.
I can second many of the facts in this post. After my tummy tuck I’d say my scar seemed to get worse over the first 3-6 months. But after 9 months or so the scar seemed to flatten and lighten in color. Mine is placed pretty low so it’s really hard to see unless I’m naked under bright lights. Completely happy!!!!
Great post! I can tell you that I am in my 3rd week following a full tummy tuck surgery and I’m feeling great! The first week was a little rough but after that it was smooth sailing. Recommed having a good care system for that first week!
My wife is looking to have a tummy tuck performed this year after having our third child. She has worked really hard but just hasn’t been able to shed the pounds she would like to. It is good to know that if you find a good surgeon the scarring will be minimal.
Hey I know this is an older post but could you please tell me what scar cream you used? I’m about to have breast lift done myself!
My wife has been considering getting a tummy tuck surgery soon. It’s good to know that there are specific tips for a better recovery. I’ll have to make sure my wife takes all the right prescribed medications and gets plenty of rest, like you said.
How long is the surgery and what type of anesthesia is used? General?
Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great question. As always, the time of surgery will differ from patient to patient based on their needs and individual characteristics. So I would recommend you getting an in-person consultation with a skilled surgeon to get a firm grasp of surgical time. But most abdominoplatsy procedures take anywhere from 1-3 hours to perform.
Most tummy tuck procedures also require the use of general anesthesia, especially “full” tummy tucks.
We hope that helps!
I am considering a mini tummy tuck. Is general anesthesia used or twilight? Also, could you please explain how twilight anesthesia works? Thank you
Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great questions! The use of anesthesia for a mini tummy tuck depends on the specific needs of the patient, it is possible to use twilight anesthesia is many cases. When you see a surgeon for an in-person consultation they will be able to tell you if twilight will be good for the surgical technique they recommend.
We have a number of great blog posts on twilight anesthesia with more information on that here:
We hope that helps!
Thank you for your tip to manage pain with prescribed painkillers. My wife has been a little overweight for a while ever since her first pregnancy and now she wants to get a tummy tuck. I’ll make sure to help my wife with pain management when the time comes.
Thank you for these great recovery tips, its important for patients to get plenty of rest rest, and eat and drink well in order to recover properly. Will share with our patients here in HI
Definitely avoid overdoing physical activity until cleared by your surgeon. I thought I was ready to do some light jogging and messed up the incision area. I figured I was feeling good and it would not effect the area, but I was wrong!