How Painful Is Tummy Tuck Recovery? Here’s the Truth

How Painful Is Tummy Tuck Recovery Here’s the Truth (1)

Tummy tuck surgery (abdominoplasty) is one of the most popular plastic surgery techniques patients choose to look and feel better. Women may opt for a tummy tuck after having had children, lost weight, or simply experienced changes due to the aging process. ( Yes, tummy tucks are also available for men.)

But what about after your procedure? Will you be down for the count for weeks? Or is tummy tuck surgery recovery a walk in the park?

Actually, the truth falls somewhere in the middle — and your best, most uncomplicated recovery depends not just on your plastic surgeon’s skill but what you do and don’t do post-surgery.

Here’s what you can expect, and how soon you can enjoy your beautiful tummy tuck, including all your normal daily activities.

What Is Tummy Tuck Surgery?

Also known as abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck is a surgical procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the lower abdominal area.

After this tissue is removed, your plastic surgeon stitches the area closed, leaving a scar that is generally well-hidden under panties or a bikini suit bottom.

Who Is a Candidate for Tummy Tuck Surgery?

Any woman or man with excess skin and possibly underlying fat that won’t budge with diet and exercise can be a candidate for abdominoplasty.

Your best bet for a successful abdominoplasty recovery is to be:

            • At (or close to) your ideal weight
  • A non-smoker
  • In overall good health

It’s Popular…But It’s Still Surgery

The thing about abdominoplasty is that while the best plastic surgeons perform the procedure fairly frequently, it is still an operation.

This means excision (cutting away) of tissue and, yes, a recovery time, including instructions you must follow in order to have the best recovery possible.

Here’s a timeline of what you can expect from your tummy tuck surgery, including how much pain you can expect and how soon you’ll feel like yourself again (but with a more sleek silhouette).

Tummy Tuck Surgery Recovery Timeline

Different techniques may have different recovery requirements, so it’s essential to follow your surgeon’s instructions.

However, most tummy tucks will follow the timeline below, give or take a few days or a couple of weeks.

Be sure to call your doctor if you experience a sudden increase in pain, a sudden increase in redness, itchiness, or openness around your incisions, or a fever.

Here’s what you should expect from your abdominoplasty recovery:

Day of Surgery

You will be awakened from your surgery wearing a binder or other post-surgical garment. Your surgeon will give you instructions on cleaning the area and when to remove and replace the binder.

You will be asked to walk a few steps immediately, as it is important to move gently after surgery to avoid blood clots.

You may feel dizzy from the anesthesia, and you cannot drive yourself home. Be sure you have someone available to take you to and from the surgery location.

If you feel nauseous from the anesthesia, ask about medications you can take.

First Week

Your cosmetic surgeon may have placed drains to collect excess fluid. Be sure to empty these regularly according to your surgeon’s directions.

Your surgeon may ask you to come in so they can remove the drains sometime during the first week.

Get the recommended amount of activity — such as walking around your house — but be careful, as you may still have some residual dizziness.

You will be restricted from certain movements and from lifting heavy objects. Be sure to comply with these directions, as lifting things too soon may set your recovery back.

You will be feeling sensitive at this time. Your doctor probably sent you home with a prescription for pain medications. Take these per your surgeon’s directions. DO NOT take more medication than is stated on the label. If you are in excessive pain, call your surgeon for advice.

You still won’t be able to drive. Ask your doctor how your recovery is going and when you can expect to drive again. You will also be unable to work outside the home at this time. You need to take the correct amount of time to recover from your surgery.

Second Week

You will still be sensitive, though by the end of this week, you may begin to feel better. You will also notice that your incision sites are closing or are completely closed by this time.

Do not lift heavy objects, and do not drive yet. If you have an appointment with your plastic surgeon toward the end of the second week, ask them when you can drive again and whether you can return to work.

You should have no residual nausea at all. If you do feel nauseous, tell your doctor. Expect some swelling; this is normal.

Three to Six Weeks

Good news — if your recovery is going well, you can drive again (ask your surgeon), and you can probably go back to work.

You should be using minimal pain medication by now, or over-the-counter medication per your doctor’s directions.

You will begin to move much more easily as soreness eases and your incisions heal. The swelling from your surgery should be gone by now.

Three to Six Months

Complete recovery from tummy tuck surgery can take up to six months.

Don’t worry: if your recovery is going well, you will be able to resume your former activities, including working out, by six to eight weeks post-recovery. However, bruising, swelling, and a reduction in the visibility of your scars can take up to six months to fully resolve.

Scars will continue to get lighter and should reach their permanent state by 12 to 15 months post-surgery, but much of their healing will be evident by the six-month mark.

Enjoy Your New Body!

Now it’s time to enjoy your flatter, younger-looking tummy. Remember: cosmetic surgery isn’t just about looking better. How you feel about yourself can’t be measured in cost or recovery time.

Follow all recovery instructions, and you should be enjoying your new body very soon.

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