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.