This is my blog, I’m 3 weeks post-op after a tummy tuck and I’m experiencing a lot of pain I’m only writing this post to share what I’ve learned about my pain so far after having a tummy tuck. Pain is something that everyone experiences and it takes time to heal.
It’s no secret that people have been asking me about pain after surgery in the past few weeks. As you know, I had my surgery on January 15th and had my closure performed on January 28th. The whole week leading up to the date of my closure was very painful and when I woke up on January 28th, it still hurt like crazy.
The first day was tough but then things really got better. My pain level was pretty consistent for the next couple days but by the third day, it did start to fluctuate a bit. It started at around 7 out of 10 with occasional spikes to 10 or 11 but by the end of the week, it was down to more like 5 out of 10. It’s been steady since then.
So now you know what my pain experience has been like so far and that I think it’s improving every single day. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please.
3 weeks post op tummy tuck pain
Posted on June 2, 2020 Dr Rebecca Wyten – BSc, MBBS, FRACS (Plast)
Recovery after Tummy Tuck – Abdominoplasty – Tips, Timeline and What to Expect
Many patients want to get a tummy tuck but worry about the recovery time afterwards, how long it takes to heal, and how much pain there is going to be.
Whether you’ve lost massive weight or you’re a mum and want to restore a tight pre-pregnancy body, the tummy tuck is for you. It’s a popular surgery that tightens the belly and gets rid of overhanging and lax skin. But what’s the recovery like?
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Read more about Tummy Tuck Surgery
The recovery period after a tummy tuck can be a bit demanding due to the invasiveness of the procedure. You might need up to 6 weeks to get back to your normal daily routine. The first week after a tummy tuck is usually the hardest, with pain and swelling at their peak.
We’ve put together a collection of tips and tricks to guide you with what you should know and do to help you get through your abdominoplasty recovery as smooth as possible. Of course we have also put in a week by week timeline detailing what to expect during your post-surgery recovery.
How is Recovery After Tummy Tuck?
Recovery after your abdominoplasty can be a bit tougher than other surgeries. A tummy tuck involves a lot of tissue dissection and trauma. Your body will enter a reactive inflammatory state and will concentrate all its power on promoting healing and fighting off infections.
This translates to several weeks of fatigue in addition to the usual post tummy tuck symptoms. So, what are the symptoms post Tummy tuck?
Pain after your tummy tuck is natural. It usually peaks 2-3 days after your surgery, but then starts to improve as your body continues to heal. Your surgeon will give you a prescription for pain medication which are normally enough to alleviate the pain. Resting and allowing your body to heal will help the aches go away faster.
Paraesthesia (numbness) and skin tingling after a tummy tuck is occasionally seen in some patients. Abdominoplasty involves the full thickness of your abdominal wall, which has many sensory nerve fibers transmitting sensation to your brain. Injury to these nerves can lead to temporary loss of sensation in your abdominal skin.
After a tummy tuck, your lower belly, hips, thighs, and groin area will swell.
Swelling is a result of your cells releasing inflammatory fluids to help your wounds heal and fend off microbes. The swelling peaks around 1 week after your tummy tuck surgery, however, it will then begin to dissipate on its own. That being said, a residual minimal amount of swelling will remain in your lower belly for a few more months.
You can expect there to be bruising after your abdominoplasty. Bruising is the result of damaged blood cells accumulating under your skin.
Initially, the colour of the bruises will be dark red or purple. They will slowly start turning blue, then yellow-green, and will eventually completely fade away after approximately 3-4 weeks.
Timeline of Recovery After Tummy Tuck
Knowing the recovery timeline after your abdominoplasty will help foresee what’s to come in the weeks following your surgery. By having this knowledge in advance you can make necessary preparations. Furthermore, it can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
DAY OF YOUR TUMMY TUCK SURGERY
After fully waking up from anaesthesia, you will be taken to your room to recover. You will be a bit drowsy at first but this will soon pass. During the first night, you’ll be kept on strict bed rest.
You might have a couple of narrow plastic drains coming out of your wounds. These are to prevent fluid and blood collection. They are usually removed a few days later.
In general, you can leave the hospital 1 or 2 days after your abdominoplasty, once your surgeon gives you the all-clear. Your surgeon may also give you discharge instructions, as follows;
- You may be given a prescription for antibiotics and pain medication
- Strictly 2-3 weeks of home rest
- You should have an appointment in 7-10 days for post operative care
- If your surgeon uses drains, you will need an earlier appointment remove your drains.
- Once you are at least 7 days post op, you may be shown how you can care for your wounds at home
- You should wear an abdominal binder or compression garment for at least 4 weeks, or as recommended by your surgeon which can be up to 8 weeks
- You should sleep on your back for at least 4 weeks (preferably in a recliner)
- It is recommended to avoid driving for at least 2 weeks
- It is recommended to avoid strenuous activity (ie, exercise or intimacy) for 6-8 weeks post op
During the first week post-surgery, you need to rest and let your body heal itself. No chores, no work, no sports. A friend or family member should help you get everything done during this time.
Tummy tuck pain is at its worst during the first week. Nevertheless, your prescription pain medication will help manage your pain during this time. It is also normal to expect swelling and bruising to increase throughout the week.
During this time, you’re encouraged to walk around the hospital ward or house when possible, rather than staying in bed all day. Walking helps the blood circulate in your body and prevents any blot clots from forming.
By the end of the week, you should have a follow-up appointment to have your surgeon check your wounds and recovery so far.
Once you enter the second week, you can slowly get back to doing light housework, as long as they don’t involve straining and bending. You can (and should) walk around the house or outside when possible.
By this time, the pain will have began to improve, and subsequently, you will need less pain medication. The swelling will start to subside, and the bruising will start to fade.
That being said, sports, sex, and driving are still a no go.
By weeks 3 and 4 your pain should be almost non-existent when lying down. However, you may still experience some discomfort when getting up from bed, sitting straight, or when driving.
You can generally start to drive after 2-3 weeks of your tummy tuck. Try to postpone any long trips till you are more comfortable driving. At this mark, you can usually go back to work as long as you do not have a labour-intensive job and there is no intense physical activity.
Intense sports and sexual intercourse are generally still not recommended before the one month mark.
After the one month mark, the initial symptoms will almost be gone. You will have very minimal residual swelling that might hang around for a few more weeks.
You can enjoy the full cosmetic benefits of your abdominoplasty: no more flaps, no more excess skin, no mommy pooch. Just a flat and smooth belly!
Generally, you can go back to light sports activities by this time and gradually work your way up to what you were used to. Sex can also be resumed around 4 weeks after your tummy tuck, but do make sure not to overstress the surgical site.
Returning to Activities After Tummy Tuck
If you’re planning to get a tummy tuck, you probably want to know when you can go back to driving, having sex, doing sports, and sleeping normally. Here’s what our surgeons have to say:
WHEN CAN YOU GO BACK TO WORK AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- After abdominoplasty, we recommend at least 2 weeks off work. During this period you should be resting at home allowing your wounds to heal. You need to make arrangements with your employer to stay home for at least 14 days.
- If you have a more labour intense profession, it is usually recommended to have at least 3-4 weeks of work to allow your body to fully recover.
WHEN CAN YOU DRIVE AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- You can generally start driving 2-3 weeks after your tummy tuck. By this time, your wounds will have healed and will cause you only minimal discomfort while driving. We do recommend, however, that you avoid any long-distance driving before 4 weeks so that you don’t put a lot of stress and pressure on your abdominoplasty wounds.
WHEN CAN YOU EXERCISE AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- You’re encouraged to gently start moving your body 2-3 days after your tummy tuck. This is to help with general recovery. This exercise should only be done indoors with supervision with advice from your surgeon.
- After a week, you can walk for longer distances without worrying about your wounds.
- By week 3 post-surgery, you can start performing moderate exercises (like light jogging), however, no contact sports or weightlifting.
- 4 weeks post-abdominoplasty, you can usually go back to the gym.
- From then on you can gradually pick up the pace until you’re back to your normal exercise routine.
WHEN CAN YOU HAVE SEX AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- You usually need to wait at least 4 weeks after your abdominoplasty before you can have normal sexual intercourse.
- Bending and changing positions can also put a lot of stress on your wound and prevent it from properly healing.
WHEN CAN YOU SLEEP ON YOUR STOMACH AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- We usually ask our patients to sleep on their back in a recliner for at least 4 weeks after their abdominoplasty. This helps keep the wound relaxed and avoids possible injuries that can occur when you sleep on your stomach.
How to Recover Faster After Tummy Tuck
Our team has put together some tips to help you deal with the different aspects of recovery after your abdominoplasty. A simple few adjustments and remedies can help you speed through a full and complication-free recovery.
1. STICK TO INSTRUCTIONS
The discharge instructions given to you by our team should be strictly upheld. These are all science-based recommendations that will help speed up your tummy tuck recovery and boost your wound healing.
2. PAIN MEDICATION
You shouldn’t allow pain to limit your activity or interfere with your sleep after your tummy tuck. The medications prescribed by your surgeon will reduce abdominoplasty pain and are extremely safe and effective if taken as instructed.
3. COLD TOWELS AND ICE PACKS
Applying cold to your abdominoplasty wounds can help reduce the swelling and bruising, making them go away faster. Cold compresses reduce inflammation and soothe the pain.
4. WEAR YOUR COMPRESSION GARMENT
Another great solution to swelling and bruising after a tummy tuck wearing abdominal binders or compression garments. These custom-fit garments can apply well-distributed pressure on your whole abdomen, protecting your wound from harmful tension, and reducing bruising and swelling after abdominoplasty. You should wear your compression abdominal binder for at least 4-8 weeks post tummy tuck, day and night.
5. GET A RECLINER
A recliner can make it much easier to sleep with your upper body elevated. This reduces tension on your abdominoplasty wound.
6. USE A STACK OF PILLOWS
If you don’t have a recliner, put a high stack of pillows under your head and upper torso to keep yourself in a slightly bent posture. You can put pillows on your side to support you since you’ll be sleeping on your back for some time.
Do’s and Don’ts After Tummy Tuck
If you don’t have time to read all our tips and just want the gist of it, here’s a summary of what you can and can’t do after your tummy tuck;
- The Dos;
- The Donts;
- No driving before 2-3 weeks
- Exercise is prohibited before 3-4 weeks
- No sex for at least 1 month
- Don’t sleep on your stomach is for at least 4 weeks
Tummy Tuck Recovery – 7 Top Questions
1. WHAT IS THE NORMAL RECOVERY TIME FOR A TUMMY TUCK?
- The recovery time from a Tummy Tuck surgery can vary from patient to patient.
- It can be helpful to allow 3 months or more to feel completely recovered – although most patients are through the majority of the healing period in just a few week’s time.
- Bruising and swelling, can take longer than 2 weeks.
- On average, you’ll need 2 weeks or more off of your normal work, parenting and home responsibilities; plus another 6 to 12 weeks to allow your body to recover and heal.
2. WHAT YOU CAN AND CAN’T DO AFTER GETTING A TUMMY TUCK?
- You’ll typically can’t DRIVE a car, lift children or anything else, for several weeks after having a Tummy Tuck.
- You’ll typically need to wait about 10-12 weeks before resuming any more strenuous activities, sometimes longer.
- High impact sports or training should be avoided for the duration specified by your Surgeon.
- If you are a competitive athlete, discuss your competition goals and your schedule with your Surgery planning team as far in advance as possible.
- Remember, when you get a Tummy Tuck, your body has been through reconstructive surgery.
- You may not feel fully healed for up to 3 months to as long as 4 or 5 months.
- Some patients say their healing felt like it took 6 months to up to a year – remember, every person’s different.
- But in general, most patients get back to the majority of their normal day to day activities within a period of a few months.
- Be patient!
3. HOW PAINFUL IS A TUMMY TUCK?
It may even leave you feeling as if you can’t stand tall. In time, the skin will adjust and the sensations will become less uncomfortable.
- Discomfort and the sensation of extreme abdominal skin tightness (that leaves you feeling you can’t properly stand up or stretch tall) will typically subside over a period of several days to several weeks.
- This is part of the process of getting you a tighter, flatter tummy.
- The scar maturation of your incision lines can take up to 2 years to fully mature (we offer special minimisation treatments, ask us during a consultation).
4. WHAT ARE SOME TIPS TO HELP ME HEAL AND RECOVER FASTER?
- Even if you’re healthy, don’t expect to ‘bounce back’ quickly – especially if you had a sophisticated procedure that included liposuction shaping as well as Diastasis Recti Repair.
- Make sure you have someone there to help you for – ideally – a week or two after surgery (prepare meals, help you dress/bathe or go to the bathroom) – as your body is going to need healing time.
- Don’t push yourself or you could harm your incision lines, including leading to an infection or tearing out your stitches – or lead to a bigger scar.
- Do your research so you know what to expect.
- Be patient about how long it takes; expect variance.
- Use your RAPID RECOVERY TIPS as instructed, including all suggested supplements and probiotics.
- Set your healing environment up to be conducive to resting and recovery (make it a nice place to sleep, rest and heal). Read more on How to Sleep After Abdominoplasty.
Ask your Plastic Surgeon for information and support if you have any concerns about your healing process or your incision line care.
5. WHY IS THE RECOVERY TIME FOR A MINI TUMMY TUCK DIFFERENT?
- The mini Tummy Tuck recovery time is likely to be a bit shorter than a full Tummy Tuck.
- It depends on what type of procedure was performed.
- Even a ‘mini tummy tuck’ is a bespoke procedure, so no two mini tummy tucks will ever be identical.
- If liposuction was also used for shaping, your recovery may take a bit longer than if your procedure involved only skin reduction.
- The factors listed above will influence recovery from a full tummy tuck vs a mini tummy tuck.
In other words, the same factors still apply for a mini tummy tuck as for a full tummy tuck. The key difference is that you may have less discomfort or less abdominal tightness, and you may be able to return to normal activities a few weeks sooner than if you’ve had a full tummy tuck/abdominoplasty with abdominal muscle repairs for diastasis recti (torn abs). However, few patients are suitable candidates for a mini-tummy tuck, and it may not get them the tighter, trimmer tummy area they’re wanting. If you have a mini Tummy Tuck, chances are you are very athletic and simply have a bit of loose skin (but no real abdominal muscle separation and no excess abdominal fat).
- Be sure you DON’T rush back into exercising after a mini-tummy tuck.
- Ask your Plastic Surgeon what he or she recommends about returning to exercise after an Abdominoplasty or Mini Tummy Tuck
6. WHY DOES THE RECOVERY FROM TUMMY TUCK SURGERY VARY SO MUCH FROM PATIENT TO PATIENT?
The main reason is that no two Tummy Tuck procedures are alike. Every surgery is bespoke. The type of Tummy Tuck surgery you have may be more complex, or more intensive a procedure, than another person. Additional factors that can impact your healing and recovery after a Tummy Tuck/Abdominoplasty include:
- your social support system and at-home support
- your overall health
- your skin health/skin condition
- whether or not liposuction was used for improved body shaping
- the quality of the rest you’re getting, and what you eat, drink and otherwise consume
- life stress; unexpected stressful events
- whether you return to work too soon
So expect some variance and ask your Surgeon what is normal during recovery from a Tummy Tuck.
7. CAN I SEE BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS OF REAL PATIENTS?
Tummy Tuck Recovery FAQs
CAN I BEND OVER AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- In general, you need to keep a straight abdomen with slight bending while recovering after your tummy tuck.
- You should avoid bending over too much (e.g. to pick up your child) for the first 4-6 weeks after your abdominoplasty.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T WEAR A COMPRESSION GARMENT AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- Abdominal compression clothes help reduce swelling and bruising and protect your abdominoplasty wound by applying constant pressure on the surgical area.
- Seroma (fluid collection) and hematoma (blood collection) are more likely to happen if you don’t wear your compression garment after a tummy tuck.
WHY IS MY STOMACH NOT FLAT AFTER A TUMMY TUCK?
- Swelling needs around 6 weeks to fully go away. Even then, a residual amount might remain a couple more months before it’s resorbed by your cells. Only then can you fully experience the full benefit of your tummy tuck.
WHEN CAN I WEAR JEANS AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- In general, it is recommended that you wear light garment pants after your tummy tuck. Jeans can be too harsh on your wounds and can cause unnecessary pressure and injury.
- You can safely go back to wearing loose-fitting jeans around 2-3 weeks after your tummy tuck.
CAN I LAY ON MY SIDE AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- After your tummy tuck, it’s recommended to sleep on your back for at least 4 weeks.
- Sleeping on your side might lead to accidental injury and will drive the inflammatory response toward one side of your belly causing it to swell.
WHY ARE MY THIGHS SO SWOLLEN AFTER TUMMY TUCK?
- After abdominoplasty, fluid seeps under your skin and accumulates in nearby areas, one of them being your thighs.
- Thigh swelling is a normal result of abdominoplasty.
HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF BED AFTER A TUMMY TUCK?
- To get out of bed, you need to support your upper body with your arms (without tensing your stomach), rotate yourself, and then support yourself with your legs. Give yourself a little push, and you’re up!