Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Sharp pain in abdomen after tummy tuck

Tummy tuck surgery – also known as abdominoplasty – is a plastic surgery procedure that removes excess skin and fat and strengthens weakened abdominal muscles to create a firmer and smoother abdominal profile. Abdominoplasty is one of the more popular cosmetic surgeries. In 2019, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that there were more than 123,000 of these procedures in the US.

If you have had a tummy tuck – or are considering getting one, it is very important that you understand the side effects that are involved, risks of the procedure, as well as what outcome to expect. Your plastic surgeon will give you most of the information you need during the initial consultation visit, but it is your responsibility to learn as much as you can about what a tummy tuck entails. This article explores the tummy tuck recovery journey and explains the common complaint of having a hard stomach after a tummy tuck.

Overview of the tummy tuck surgery

Abdominoplasty surgery is designed to tighten up loose skin, tissues, and muscles in the belly region, particularly for patients who are not getting the desired benefit from diet and exercise. Whether you are looking to alleviate a sagging belly pooch or have a plus size tummy tuck, Dr. LaBarbera has 3 different procedure types to suit the varying needs of his patients. These include:

The incision pattern used by your surgeon during surgery will depend on the type of procedure being performed. Plastic surgeons usually keep incisions to a minimum and make sure to conceal them along the natural folds of the skin. Once the incisions are created, the surgeon will lift up and tighten the skin and underlying tissue before suturing them into place. For patients who have excess fat in the belly area, the surgeon may also use liposuction in order to achieve the desired procedure outcome. Since tummy tuck is an outpatient plastic surgery procedure, patients are allowed to go home on the same day as the surgery.

Tummy tuck recovery timeline

Immediately after the surgery, tummy tuck patients are taken into the surgeon’s recovery room for further monitoring before they are allowed to go home. It is important to have someone to drive you home and help out with basic chores while you recover from the surgery.

Abdominoplasty patients often have drainage tubes that are used to relieve excess fluid from the treatment area. These need to be emptied, and the amount of fluid drained from the wound each day should be recorded. Your mobility will be limited during the first few days. Dr. LaBarbera recommends that you take a light walk as soon as you are able to in order to improve blood flow.

Many patients experience tightness around their belly and you will have to walk while hunched over for a week or two. Your incisions will likely feel sore over the first week. You may need to lie in bed at an angle, and you likely will have problems with standing, lifting things, and general movements.

Tuck tuck patients are able to resume work after about a month, particularly if they have a physically demanding job. However, you will be able to engage in routine daily activities within 1-2 weeks. Scarring is usually a major concern for patients who have just had a tummy tuck, but fades with time. Your surgeon may also recommend scar care ointments to help improve the appearance of your surgical scars.

What causes a pulling feeling after a tummy tuck?

Abdominoplasty – just like any other surgical procedure – entails cutting into the body. This naturally leads to some nerve damage. Many abdominoplasty patients experience numbness over the lower abdominal area after tummy tuck due to the damaged nerves in the area. With time – as the nerves start to regenerate their proper pathways – the patient will start to experience gradual return of sensation.

Tummy tuck patients may also experience a tight feeling in their belly because the skin has been cut and put back together. More so, muscle tightening during the surgery can lead to a hardened tissue sensation during recovery.

Although you may feel worried about this tightness and pulling sensation, keep in mind that it is a normal part of the healing process. The majority of people who had an abdominoplasty can experience these side effects for up to 12 weeks post-op. In some cases, it takes up to 12 months for the nerves in the abdominal area to properly heal. Once the nerves regain their usual sensory function, it is highly unlikely that this kind of discomfort will return.

What is the treatment for hardened tissue after tummy tuck?

Nerve regeneration is a natural process that follows its own natural timeline. However, you may be able to quicken this process by taking part in the retraining process. Dr. LaBarbera recommends that you gently rub items of different textures across your abdomen. This may include such things as loofahs, washcloths, lotion, and cotton. The goal is to stimulate the nerves to find their proper pathways and heal much quicker. For patients with severe cases of nerve discomfort, the surgeon may recommend medications such as Neurontin. Make sure that you have explicit instructions and a prescription from your doctor before using medication to treat discomfort and a pulling sensation after abdominoplasty.

Tummy tuck recovery tips / FAQs

Now that you know what causes a hard stomach after a tummy tuck, below are some other commonly asked questions to improve your understanding of the recovery process:

When will I feel normal after abdominoplasty surgery?

Most patients feel groggy immediately after tummy tuck surgery, due to the anesthesia. There will also be post-op pain and bruising over the first 1-2 weeks. This pain can be alleviated using a medication, and the discomfort will improve each day. Over the first 2-3 weeks, you will be limited to light activities and may be able to return to a desk job. The average duration for people who have just had an abdominoplasty to feel normal again is 4-6 weeks. Keep in mind though that the precise healing duration will vary from one person to another depending on the type of tummy tuck they had, their age, the kind of post-op care they receive, and their general health.

How long will I be hunched over after tummy tuck?

You will be unable to stand up straight after a tummy tuck procedure. In fact, the surgeon will ask that you stay in a hunched over position in order to keep the treatment area intact. How long you need to stay in this position varies depending on whom you ask. Dr. LaBarbera recommends that his patients hunch over for 1-2 weeks (until they get a green light from him). Once you are allowed to straighten back up, this should be done gently and gradually until you regain your normal, upright posture.

How long will swelling last after a tummy tuck?

Swelling is a natural aspect of the body’s healing process as fluid collects around the treatment site in order to protect the healing tissues. Plastic surgeons often insert drains to drain away excess fluid and relieve pressure from your belly. These are typically removed after 10-14 days, depending on your progress. Once this is done, slight swelling may still persist for weeks or even months – obscuring the outcome of your tummy tuck. Following your surgeon’s instructions is important to ensure that post-op swelling resolves quickly and that you attain a favorable outcome from the surgery.

When will I see final results?

Following a tummy tuck surgery, the shape of your abdomen will improve gradually with recovery. Most patients are able to see a final impression of their new belly in 6 months. It takes about this long for the pink linear scar resulting from the procedure to fade. Dr. LaBarbera advises his patients to use high-quality scar care products to help quicken the fading of scars. These products should, however, only be used after the incision areas have fully healed (which can take up to a few months).

Sharp Pain After Tummy Tuck

Typically, there is a certain degree of pain or discomfort you can expect following surgery. Surgical procedures are traumatic for the human body, and pain may be attributed to your body trying to heal injured tissues. In some instances, however, nerve pain develops afterward and this isn’t the same kind of pain you should probably expect.

As we’ve noted throughout our website, nerve pain is often marked by symptoms like burning, shooting, stabbing, and searing pain. For some patients, external stimulation—even at low levels (like wind blowing over skin or water coming down from a showerhead)—causes intense physical sensations. Others experience “pins and needles” or feel as though a specific body part or region has been plugged into an electrical outlet.

If you have those kinds of symptoms, the pain is likely caused by a nerve issue of some kind.

In some cases, these symptoms begin after procedures like C-sections (cesarean section deliveries) and tummy tucks. When they do, it’s understandable for patients to wonder why this is happening to them. So, let’s look today at why you are having nerve pain after those kinds of procedures.

To start, it is worth noting that nerve pain does not imply that anything was done incorrectly during the surgery. Surgeons, by very definition of their job, have to cut tissues to repair medical problems. Your body has an entire network of nerves running throughout, so this means there are times when nerves will also be cut during surgery. It’s just a fact.

Nerve Pain after C-section

As with other surgical procedures, it is virtually impossible to perform a C-section without cutting into some nerves. That said, long-term nerve injury after a C-section tends to be somewhat rare.

Often, nerves will heal without causing any lasting issues. When injured nerves do not heal correctly, it is considered to be nerve damage. Depending on which nerves are damaged—and their respective functions—there are various short-term and long-term symptoms that can develop. These symptoms can include impaired motor function and nerve pain.

If you have had a C-section and are experiencing a superficial pain around the edges of the scar, it is likely the ilioinguinal, iliohypogastric, and/or genitofemoral nerves have been affected. Usually, the pain presents as a burning pain and hypersensitivity – which means even light touch hurts (like in the earlier examples of wind and water). There may also be “electric shock” sensations.

If pushing on the affected area does not reproduce the pain, those specific nerves are less likely to be responsible.

The reason for noting the ilioinguinal, iliohypogastric, and genitofemoral nerves comes down to their locations. Surgeons do attempt to avoid important nerves as much as possible, but these ones run close to the edge of a C-section incision. This makes it easy for them to be injured during the procedure (bruised, crushed, etc.) or trapped in scar tissue afterward.

If you are having painful sensations, it is more likely the nerves were injured, instead of being cut. We can say this because cut nerves tend to produce numbness instead of pain. Although, there are times when both numbness and pain result from cut nerves (which is a condition called anesthesia dolorosa).

When diagnosing your nerve pain after a C-section, we use a nerve block. This is a matter of using anesthetic to cause temporary numbness for the affected nerve. When there is both numbness and pain relief, it indicates a peripheral nerve injury. If there is numbness without pain relief, something else is likely at play.

Nerve Pain after Tummy Tuck

Tummy tucks—abdominoplasties—are some of the most common cosmetic procedures performed in the United States, with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reporting 127,633 in 2016. This is a 104% increase from the 62,713 performed in 2000.

Experts believe the number of abdominoplasties will only increase due to both the number of esthetic surgical procedures and increase in how many obese patients achieve massive weight loss following bariatric surgery.

As with other surgeries, nerves to the affected area are traumatized from a tummy tuck. This can cause numbness for several weeks to months before the nerves overcome temporary neuropraxia (loss of nerve conduction). Usually, it only takes around 6-12 weeks for the situation to resolve, but there are cases wherein this may take longer.

Whereas this numbness and a certain degree of discomfort can be expected, it can be a problem when nerve pain has developed and is not going away after a reasonable amount of time.

In the case of nerve pain following a tummy tuck, it is probably a small nerve called the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve that is affected. This particular nerve travels directly through the areas manipulated during a tummy tuck and could easily be injured directly by a suture or scalpel, or indirectly when the nerve becomes entrapped in scar tissue.

That said, it is important to note that factors other than nerve damage could be responsible for pain and sensory abnormalities. For example, massive weight loss can cause extreme skin expansion and a patient who had undergone bariatric surgery may also have had other issues (secondary fibrosis, hernia) corrected during the tummy tuck.

pain in upper abdomen after tummy tuck

If you’re considering a tummy tuck, get ready to embrace a brand new body and brace yourself for the worst days after Tummy Tuck surgery. The recovery process can be intense and challenging, lasting several weeks. However, having a few essential pieces of information at your fingertips can make the healing period more manageable.

Here are seven things to expect after a tummy tuck:


Any invasive surgery comes with some pain, and tummy tucks are no exception. The surgery requires removing both fat and skin, and usually suturing the abdomen’s connective tissues as well, so that they hold together more tightly. All of this will cause pain, tightness and lack of mobility during the Tummy Tuck recovery period.

One option that your surgeon may offer you is a non-narcotic, non-opioid pain reliever called Exparel which is injected directly into the abdominal muscles, tissue and fascia during surgery. This long acting medication can reduce post operative pain for up to 72 hours. Exparel will add about $500 to the cost of the surgery, but the significant reduction in pain and increased comfort is well worth it for most patients.

Your surgeon will probably prescribe a strong prescription pain medication to manage the worst pain, typically felt during the first 3 days after surgery. You’ve likely heard of the opioid crisis, and it’s largely due to overuse of pain medications following injuries and surgeries. You should avoid opioids if you have a history of personal or family substance abuse. It’s also very important to take the pain medications exactly as prescribed, and to not take more than is necessary.

Typically your pain won’t be severe enough to require opioids for more than 3 days. As you heal and the pain becomes more manageable, you’ll be able to switch to an over-the-counter pain reliever. As long as you take your medications as instructed, you can minimize the discomfort you feel from a tummy tuck surgery so that it is tolerable.


Following the surgery, your physician will put you in a garment this will help with the worst days after Tummy Tuck. This helps to constrict your abdomen, reducing swelling, promoting blood flow to the area as well as keeping everything in place during healing. While the garment may not be very comfortable, it’s critical you wear it for the full amount of time recommended by your doctor to aid in your recovery.


Physicians almost invariably prescribe antibiotics following surgery, even of the minor kind. That’s because the chances of infection increase following an invasive procedure, in which your body’s defenses are lowered due to open wounds. Antibiotics fight invading bacteria and reduce pressure on the immune system during your tummy tuck recovery, so it’s critical you take regular doses as prescribed.

This is especially important in the first week or two following the surgery, when infection and clotting are most likely. For that reason, depending on your medical history and if you are at a higher risk for blood clots, your physician may also prescribe an anticoagulant to make sure blood continues to flow freely through the area and supply you with healing nutrients.

Many doctors will give you your prescriptions ahead of time so that you already have them when you come home from your surgery. The same goes for pain medication, which you will need to begin taking the same day of the surgery.


Life is busy! Between working, raising kids, exercising, socializing, maintaining your household, you’re used to keeping up with the demands and responsibilities of life so understandably, the Tummy tuck recovery process can feel frustrating at times when you’re forced to slow down and focus on your healing.

A tummy tuck surgery is a big surgery, as is a mommy makoever, so your main focus during the first two weeks should be on your self and your recovery. You will feel very tired and will want to sleep a lot, which is encouraged because your body heals when it rests. You’ll also need help doing the most simple tasks such as getting up and moving around, especially the first few days.

Despite this, you should try to maintain a reasonable level of movement while healing. You should try to walk every day to promote blood circulation and reduce your chances of developing a blood clot. As you start to regain some energy, you can ease back into simple tasks but avoid heavy lifting for 6 weeks. Listen to your body so that you don’t over-do it. The last thing you want to do is over-extend yourself and risk popping a suture.

Most tummy tuck patients can return to work after 2 to 3 weeks, and will be back to their normal energy levels by 5 to 6 weeks.


Many people worry about the tummy tuck scar. It’s true that you will end up with a lasting scar, just as you would with any incision. However, plastic surgeons endeavor to place this scar low enough on the abdomen so that it falls below the underwear line so that modest bikini bottoms and swim shorts will cover it. You may not be able to wear low-slung beachwear, but barring that, the incision will not be visible to others.

Although the final outcome of the scar is largely dependent on genetics and surgical technique, there are a few things you can do to minimize the appearance of the scar. Eating a nutritious high protein diet, using a scar therapy program such as Embrace, and protecting your scar from sun exposure are all things you can do to ensure that your incision heals in the best way possible.


Many smokers don’t want to hear that they’ll need to limit their smoking, but it is imperative. Smoking decreases blood flow in your body, and that can be disastrous when healing after abdominal surgery. Your blood is what carries oxygen, nutrients and water to the injury site, helping it to knit together quickly with a minimum amount of scarring. Smoking, however, shuts down circulation and increases the chance of slow healing and tissue damage.

Therefore, you should plan to quit at least six weeks before your surgery and refrain from smoking during your recovery. Ideally, you can use this opportunity as motivation to quit completely. Some physicians will even refuse to do the surgery if they don’t feel you’re taking the smoking ban seriously, so wrap this into your pre-op preparations today.


Many people assume that they can “get around fine” after the first day or two of the surgery, but that’s not the case. Not only is a tummy tuck a major surgery, but you may not realize how much “heavy lifting” of daily movement that your abdominal muscles do. Once you have an incision in this area, every normal activity becomes more difficult. Movements such as reaching up high, sitting up, and even a cough or sneeze may be very uncomfortable indeed for several weeks.

That’s not to say you will need help during your entire recovery, but at a minimum, you should definitely arrange to have someone helping you for the first week after your surgery. You will need to help with child and/or pet care, making meals, getting in and out of bed, moving around your home, dressing and bathing. After about two weeks, you’ll be mostly back to your regular routine and able to finish your normal daily to-dos (except for exercise- you will need to wait 6 weeks to begin exercising again).

Despite the long recovery time and associated discomfort, 97% of those who have had a tummy tuck say it was worth it according to! With the right mindset and preparation, your tummy tuck experience should be relatively seamless and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your flatter tummy and stronger core. Want to learn more?

horrible back pain after tummy tuck

When most people think about a tummy tuck, they think about the cosmetic effects: the slimmed waist-line and the renewed abdominal structure. What we often don’t consider is the importance of that abdominal structure and how it relates to the rest of the body. The truth is that when the abdominal muscles become weakened or separated due to severe weight gain or pregnancy, the entire spinal support system is undermined, oftentimes leading to severe lower back pain and poor posture.

You probably already have a general sense of what a tummy tuck is on the surface, but it is what happens below the skin that is most important. When you opt for a full tummy tuck, your surgeon will take you through all the steps involved including post-operation care. For your health and the longevity of your results, it is important that you follow those instructions to the letter. Arrange for assistance during the first few weeks after surgery to ensure you don’t strain yourself too early.

According to Dr. Brent of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery and Los Angeles Plastic surgery, the procedure itself begins with an incision that stretches from hip to hip. A highly qualified, board certified surgeon will purposefully form the incision along the bikini line, maximizing your ability to hide it during the healing process. Once the incision is made, the surgeon will use liposuction to remove excess subcutaneous fat, physically suture the abdominal muscles back together, and remove excess skin before creating a new belly button and closing the incision.

Keep in mind that there are various versions of the tummy tuck, some of which are less extensive and others that are more so. Dr. Brent will help you decide which approach is best for your individual case and talk you through the adjustments he will be making to the base procedure to suit your needs.

More than Cosmetic Surgery

As happy as your newly shaped waistline may make you, the true benefit of the tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) goes far beyond its cosmetic effects. A 2011 scientific study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery followed eight female patients over the course of eleven years. All participants in the study suffered from severe lower back pain that was unresponsive to more conservative treatments. Given that marked lower abdominal wall laxity was a shared characteristic, the authors of the study aimed to find whether an abdominoplasty would relieve their symptoms by restoring the abdominal wall.

R.M. O’Neal, et al. discovered that the changes in the biomechanics of the body as a result of the abdominoplasty created an increase in spinal stability. Through the restored integrity of the patients’ abdominal muscles, chronic lower back pain was relieved in all eight cases. To be fair, their initial sample size was small, but a 2018 study published in the same journal came to similar conclusions with the added bonus of finding that abdominoplasty also reduced instances of incontinence, especially among post-partum women.

This more recent study followed 214 patients at nine different centers over a six month period. D. Alastair Taylor, et al. concluded that improvements in chronic back pain and incontinence were statistically significant. Reports of chronic back pain were cut by 60%, while the mean International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire score dropped from 6.5 to 1.6 just six weeks after the procedure.

pulling feeling after tummy tuck

It is not uncommon to experience a pulling sensation in the abdominal area after a tummy tuck surgery. This sensation can be caused by several factors, such as tightness in the skin and muscles, swelling, and the formation of scar tissue. The pulling sensation can be uncomfortable and may limit movement, but it is usually a temporary issue that will subside as the healing process continues.

Here are some tips to help manage the pulling sensation after a tummy tuck surgery:

  1. Wear compression garments: Compression garments can help to reduce swelling and provide support to the abdominal area. This can help to alleviate the pulling sensation and promote healing.
  2. Practice gentle stretching: Gentle stretching exercises, such as reaching overhead or leaning to one side, can help to alleviate the pulling sensation and improve flexibility. However, it is important to avoid any exercises or movements that may strain the abdominal muscles.
  3. Take pain medication as prescribed: Your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medication to help manage pain and discomfort after your surgery. It is important to take your medication as directed to help alleviate the pulling sensation.
  4. Avoid strenuous activities: Avoid any activities that may strain your abdominal muscles, such as heavy lifting or bending, as this can exacerbate the pulling sensation.
  5. Be patient: The pulling sensation is a normal part of the healing process after a tummy tuck surgery, and it may take several weeks or even months to fully subside. Be patient and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions to promote healing.

If the pulling sensation is severe or persistent, or if you experience other symptoms such as fever, swelling, or drainage from the incision site, it is important to inform your healthcare provider. They may recommend additional treatments, such as physical therapy or massage, to help manage your symptoms and promote healing.

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