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Recovery after Armlift Surgery – Tips and Timeline After Brachioplasty

Recovery after arm lift surgery (brachioplasty)

Arm lift surgery also known as Brachioplasty helps reshape the underside of the patient’s arm. It focuses on removing extra fat and skin to create a slimmer upper arm. Many men and women seek arm reduction surgery after massive weight loss or a major weight transformation.

A strict diet and exercise can only do so much, even if you lose the weight you may not be able to reduce the extra skin on the arms. Many people with normal weight develop loose skin around their arms with general ageing.

Our Melbourne Plastic Surgeons offer excess skin reduction and Arm LIft Surgery at Coco Ruby Clinic in Hawthorn East.

People considering Arm Reduction surgery often wonder what the recovery is like, how long it takes and how long it will be until they see results. Let’s explain…

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What are the Reasons for arm lift surgery?

The benefits of arm lift surgery include;

  • Removal of excess skin and fat; An arm lift surgery removes excess skin and fat in your arms.
  • Shape; Helps changing the shape of your arm. The surgeon will also reshape the underlying tissue, making muscles and tendons more supportive.
  • Not overly visible scars: Scars are hidden either on the underside of the arm, armpit or back of the arm. 
  • Better Function – Improves the cosmetic outcome and reduces function impairment.

What is the Recovery After an Arm Lift?

An arm lift involves incisions and sutures in your upper arms. You can expect some pain, redness, swelling, and discomfort in those areas for the first few days after your surgery. Your arm and upper body movement will be significantly restricted for 3-4 days following the surgery. This means you will need help around the house. It can take up to 6 weeks in total to fully recover from an arm lift surgery. It is normal to have any of the following symptoms after your arm lift, and they should not cause you any worry;

Pain

  • Pain after any invasive surgery is normal. You are likely to experience light to moderate pain after an arm lift surgery. The pain will be at its peak during the first 2-3 days following your surgery. But patients usually find it very manageable with the help of their prescribed pain medication. After that, the pain should start to decrease noticeably. You should inform your surgeon if the pain starts to increase after your initial recovery period.

Swelling

  • Swelling is your body’s way of telling you that it’s trying to heal your wounds. So, after an arm lift, you should expect some swelling in your arms even if there are drains in place.
  • The swelling will peak within the first 2-3 days after your surgery. Then it will start to gradually decrease over the following 6 weeks.

Bruising

  • To remove the extra arm skin and fat, your surgeon will first have to make two incisions. This will result in bruising.
  • Your bruises will look the darkest during the first three to four days post-arm lift.
  • Over the next 2-3 weeks, they will start fading into a lighter shade as your arm heals.

Concerns – Worrying Symptoms After Arm Lift

While the above things are normal there are some things you need to look out for. Should any of the below occur after your arm lift you should organise to see your surgeon; 

  • Pain that is still increasing after the 3rd or 4th day
  • Newly forming redness and swelling a week after your Brachioplasty
  • Hotness in the wound area after a week has passed
  • Significant bleeding that won’t stop with compression
  • There’s a new, growing bulge under your wound (could be a seroma or hematoma)
  • You’ve lost some sensation in your arm, forearm, or hand

These symptoms might signify a problem with healing. It might be an infection or a bleeding vessel. In any case, if you have any of these concerning symptoms don’t hesitate to come to see your plastic surgeon.

All surgery contains risks, read more here.

Post-op Recovery after arm lift surgery

Arm lift surgery is typically done on a day surgery or one-night stay basis. Most patients experience uncomplicated and short recovery periods. The recovery period is directly proportional to the extent of the procedure. It usually, requires two weeks off from work.

Arm Lift Recovery timeline

Many factors can affect your Arm lift recovery timeline. These factors can include; overall health, pain threshold, and surgeon operative technique. However, it’s important to know what to expect during your arm lift recovery period and how long it will take. This general knowledge helps you understand what is and isn’t normal during recovery and also helps you make the necessary preparations to make your Brachioplasty aftercare as comfortable as possible. However, please note that this is just a general timeline and your results may vary slightly. 

Your surgeon will give you post-operative care instructions

These instructions will include;

  • Do not wear any rings or jewellery until the swelling has subsided
  • Keep your arms in an elevated position, above the heart, while sleeping (use pillows for support)
  • Wear shirts that open in the front to avoid lifting your arms above your head
  • Keep your bandages in place until your surgeon or their staff remove them to check your incision sites
  • Walk around and lightly stretch your legs as often as you can to stimulate your blood circulation
  • Avoid strenuous activities especially the ones involving your arms (like lifting)
  • Make sure there’s someone to take care of you (shower you, cook for you, help you use the toilet) during at least the first 24 hours at home
  • Take an antibiotic and pain medication if prescribed
  • Come back in a week for your post operative care

The first week after surgery

Shortly after surgery, the effects of your anaesthesia will begin to wear off. Unfortunately, this means you will also start to feel pain. The pain is mild to moderate but it is tolerable. You may also experience swelling, this is a result of tissue injury sustained during surgery. You will have scripts for medication to help manage pain. Applying ice packs to the incision area can also help with pain and post-operative swelling.

Your surgeon will apply a compression bandage to wrap your arm, which may hinder your arm movement. Whilst your arm movement is compromised, you may find it difficult to wear clothes. So, wear loose clothes for a few weeks following surgery.

At the end of the first week, pain should decrease, and you may no longer need pain medications. If you still feel pain, you can continue to use your medication, but only when you feel it’s necessary. The swelling and bruising will also reduce significantly by this stage.

Remember it is important you DONT;

  • Drive
  • Stretch your arms
  • Or lift anything heavy

That being said you can do some easy light walking as it helps promote your blood circulation. Keep sleeping on your back with your arms slightly elevated with pillows. 

Week 2 post-Arm Lift Surgery

By the second week, most patients will be able to return to regular day-to-day activities like working, driving and showering unaided provided no heavy lifting is involved. Any bandages, stitches, and drains will have been removed. However, you will likely need to wear compression garments for a few more weeks.  You should also still sleep with your arms elevated and avoid any exercises that can strain your arms such as weight lifting, CrossFit, jogging, yoga, and pilates.

4 – 6 Weeks After Surgery

After a month, your arms will have completed their initial recovery period. The scar from your surgery will continue to develop over the next few months before assuming its final shape. Any residual pain, bruising, or swelling should be completely gone by now. You can resume your previous physical activities and exercises normally, this includes yoga, tennis, golf, heavy lifting etc.

It is during this stage, patients will be able to see the results of their arm lift surgery. After six weeks, compression garments are no longer necessary. Furthermore, most patients will be able to resume normal exercise and sports. Since the incisions normally completely heal around this time patients can start applying scar cream to reduce the intensity of scars. You can also choose to start scar therapy at this stage after discussing the available options with your surgeon.

Six months after surgery

Half a year post-surgery scars are less noticeable and start to dilute with the surrounding tissue. This in turn means patients can begin to enjoy the results of surgery.

Recovery tips following arm lift surgery

It can take up to 6 weeks for the patient to feel completely recovered. Below are some tips to ensure a complication-free recovery;

Compression bandage

  • A compression bandage applied over your arm following arm lift surgery is recommended to use for six weeks.
  • This will help to reduce swelling and support your arm.
  • The application of compression garments promotes healing and recovery.

Incision care

  • The incision will be closed by absorbable sutures or if normal sutures are used they will be removed later.
  • You should visit the clinic for follow up appointments to change the dressing.
  • Its also important that you avoid handling your wound, as doing this may cause infection.
  • If you experience any unusual swelling, redness, discharge, or intolerable pain you should urgently inform your surgeon.
  • Until full healing of your incisions occurs you should also avoid bathing and swimming.

Diet

  • Once your anaesthesia effect wears off, you can resume a normal diet.
  • Food rich in proteins and healthy fats such as salmon, and meat will boost up your wound healing.
  • Drink a lot of water and fluids.
  • You must also avoid smoking and drinking alcohol throughout your recovery.

Drain care

  • Some arm lifts may require a drain.
  • They remove fluid collection beneath the skin.
  • Drain removal will occur once your collection is less than 25 ml.

Medications

  • You will be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medications to decrease postoperative pain.
  • Regular use of prescribed medicine will help you to have a pleasant recovery.

Lifestyle

  • Your new shape can only be maintained if you adopt a healthy lifestyle.
  • A fluctuation in weight can hamper your result.
  • You should also eat healthy diets and get sufficient sleep.

Follow-ups

  • You will be given an appointment with the surgeon to make sure your body is recovering from the procedure.
  • This also allows the board-certified plastic surgeon to find and treat any complications that occur.

Scar care

  • Scars are barely noticeable following arm lift surgery, as it gets hidden into the inner arm and under the armpit.
  • Scar massage can help minimise scarring.

Arm Lift FAQs – Questions about Arm Lift recovery

How can I lose my arm fat?

  • There are many ways to lose arm fat. Sometimes exercise and diet only will be enough to lose arm fat. But, after major weight transformation and in the elderly where skin elasticity is less, arm lift surgery might be a way to lose arm fat.
  • During the arm lift procedure, an incision is made from the elbow extending up to the armpit to remove excess skin.
  • Additionally, liposuction may be performed to remove excess fat.
  • Arm lift surgery is known to give instant results.

Does an arm lift hurt?

  • Arm lift surgery is performed under general anaesthesia (completely asleep), which means you won’t feel any pain during the procedure.
  • Pain following arm lift surgery is fairly tolerable.
  • Furthermore, you will receive a prescription for pain medication to manage any post-operative discomfort.

Does arm lift surgery leave scars?

  • After any surgery, you should expect scars. Arm lift surgery is no exception.
  • However, arm lift scarring is typically in an area that is not very visible.
  • When making an incision our specialist surgeon is mindful of this and ensure the incisions are as invisible as possible.
  • Usually, a scar is hidden in the inner arms and under the armpit.
  • After surgery, our team will help you with scar reduction.

Do arm lift scars fade?

  • Arm lift scars are rarely noticeable following arm lift surgery. The scar is often hidden in the inner arm and under the armpit.
  • It can take up to two years for the scar to fade to match the skin colour.
  • Some ways you can reduce scars include;
    • Always keep your wound clean
    • Apply petroleum jelly to keep the wound moist
    • Start massaging scar once the incision has healed
    • Protect your scars from sunlight
    • Apply sunscreen to incision once healed

How long does it take to recover from Brachioplasty?

  • The timeline of recovery varies from person to person. However, most surgeons agree that a full recovery can take on average six weeks. 
  • After a proper assessment of your overall health, our surgeons can provide a brief idea about recovery before the procedure.
  • It can take as much as up to six months to enjoy the final results.

How long do you wear compression sleeves after Brachioplasty?

  • You should wear compression sleeves for at least six weeks, some surgeons may ask you to wear your garment for up to 12 weeks.
  • A compression sleeve will support your arm while it is inflamed and assist in the recovery process.
  • Compression sleeves should be worn all the time including during sleep.
  • If you don’t wear a compression garment following arm lift surgery it may lead to breakage of suture, more seroma formation, swelling, etc.

How long are arms swollen after Brachioplasty?

  • Visible Swelling following Brachioplasty may persist for up to a month. It is a reaction of body tissue to the injury.
  • The swelling is at its maximum for 1-2 days of surgery then it gradually decreases.
  • You can reduce swelling in the following ways;
    • Always try to keep your arm in an elevated position above the level of your heart.
    • Apply ice over your surgical site as tolerable. Icing helps to decrease pain and swelling.

How long after Brachioplasty can I exercise?

  • You can start a minimal exhertion workout 3 weeks after the surgery. However, you should avoid straining, heavy lifting and contact sport for up to six weeks. 
  • If you feel any discomfort in your arms during exercise, you should check with your surgeons before recommencing exercise.

How do you sleep after a Brachioplasty?

  • After Brachioplasty, patients should sleep on their back rather than in their prone or their side’s position.
  • Patients can often find comfort if they prop their arms with a few pillows.

When can you sleep with your arms at your side after an arm lift?

  • You can usually start sleeping with your arms at your side 3-4 weeks after your surgery.
  • If your arms remain swollen by the fourth week, it’s recommended that you keep your arms elevated while sleeping until the swelling has subsided.

When can you drive after an arm lift?

  • You can usually return to driving in 7-10 days after your arm lift.
  • Before then, lifting your arms and holding the steering wheel will be painful and uncomfortable.
  • Moreover, you will probably be on prescribed pain meds for a week after your surgery which can make you drowsy. So you should avoid driving during that time.
  • After 7-10 days of your Brachioplasty, you’ll be comfortable enough to start driving short distances which wouldn’t strain your arms too much.
  • Around 4 weeks after your arm lift, your arms will be able to handle long-distance driving.

When can you exercise after an arm lift?

  • You’re encouraged to start walking as soon as possible after your arm lift to get your blood flowing. But you should stick to slow-paced walks for the first couple of days.
  • After around 2 weeks, you can increase the pace and length of your walks. But try to restrict your movement to your lower body parts.
  • 4 to 6 weeks after your arm lift, you can resume your high-intensity workouts but avoid straining your arms too much.

When can I have sex after an arm lift?

  • It’s okay to resume your sexual activities 2 to 3 weeks after your surgery. But make sure to always listen to your body.
  • Avoid positions that put a lot of strain on your arms and take it easy at first.
  • We would suggest you give yourself up to 4 weeks post-arm lift before you resume sexual intercourse.

When can you go back to work after the arm lift?

  • Most patients can return to work one week after their arm lifts. But our surgeons recommend that you give yourself 10 to 14 days before getting back.
  • This will give your Brachioplasty wounds enough time to heal properly.
  • In 2 weeks you’ll be able to return to your job with minimal discomfort.

When can I shower after Brachioplasty?

  • You should avoid contaminating the wound with water before your incision has healed completely.
  • It usually takes 7-10 days to heal the wound.
  • You should also avoid bathing, a hot tub, or swim for two weeks.

As arm lift surgery is a complex surgery, it is best to choose a specialist surgeon who has considerable body surgery experience.

Medical References and Further Reading:

Specialist Plastic Surgeons and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeon

With a wealth of experience and training, our Specialist Plastic and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeons are dedicated to best-practice patient care and education, customising Surgery for each and every patient to best meet their needs and desired surgical outcomes.

Dr Craig Rubinstein
Dr Broughton Snell
Dr Stephen Kleid
Dr Gary Kode

Specialist Plastic Surgeon MED0001124843

Dr Craig Rubinstein

Dr Craig Rubinstein is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon based in Hawthorn East, Melbourne. With over 20 years of surgical experience especially in all areas of Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery, but particularly in breast surgery. These include Breast Augmentation and Breast Reduction as well as Breast Surgery Revision.

Furthermore, he believes that surgical customisation, precision planning and technical expertise help him to provide optimal surgical outcomes for his patients.

Specialist Plastic Surgeon MED0001190266

Dr Broughton Snell

Dr Broughton Snell is a Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. His training in Plastic Surgery took place in Australia and the United States of America (USA).

Dr Snell is a fully qualified specialist plastic surgeon having completed his Fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeon MED0001052799

Dr Stephen Kleid

Dr Stephen Kleid is an experienced Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon (Otolaryngologist) based in Melbourne with a passion for Septo-rhinoplasty, Septoplasty, as well as, a strong interest in Rhinoplasty Revision.

Dr Kleid trained at Melbourne University, then completed surgical training at various hospitals including Royal Melbourne, Royal Children’s, The Eye and Ear and St Vincents. He worked as a surgeon at the University of Florida Medical school for further experience.

Specialist Plastic Surgeon MED0001405964

Dr Gary Kode

Dr Gary Kode is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon, with experience in Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery, as well as non-surgical treatments.

Dr Kode is a member of several organisations, including the Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), The International Confederation for Plastic and Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, and he holds a Fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

What to do next?

Our Patient Liaison Team can assist with any questions you may have when considering a procedure. You can send in an enquiry form below or call our Melbourne Clinic between 9 am – 5 pm Monday - Friday.

Disclaimer: Results depend on individual patient circumstances and can vary significantly. Results may also be impacted by a variety of factors including your lifestyle, weight, nutritional intake and overall health. Consult your Specialist Plastic Surgeon for details. This information is general in nature and is not intended to be medical advice nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Surgery risks and complications will be covered in detail during a consultation with your Surgeon.

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