Recovery After Tummy Tuck – Tips & Timeline after Abdominoplasty

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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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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?

1. Pain

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.

2. Numbness

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.

3. Swelling

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.

4. Bruising

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

Week 1

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.

Week 2

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.

Weeks 3-4

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.

Weeks 4-6

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;
    • Stick to your surgeon’s instructions
    • Use cold compresses and towels
    • Follow a healthy sleep routine
    • Sleep on your back for at least 4 weeks
    • Wear compression garments for at least 1 month
    • Keep your compression garment on while sleeping
  • 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

Last updated: 23/08/2021
Author profile image
Dr Rebecca Wyten - BSc, MBBS, FRACS (Plast)
Dr Rebecca Wyten, MBBS, FRACS (Plas), is a Melbourne VIC Female Specialist Plastic Surgeon in Australia. She is very talented in natural looking Breast Augmentation (Breast Implant Surgery), Breast Lift surgery and Breast Reduction, Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck), Body Contouring with liposuction, Labiaplasty and other cosmetic surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery procedures (women only). She is FRACS (Plastic) qualified and has extensive experience and training in New South Wales, Victoria, and has worked alongside some of the world's top Plastic Surgeons whilst in France. Education: Dr Rebecca Wyten BSci, MBBS, FRACS (Plas) graduated in Medicine (MBBS) from the University of Sydney, NSW. She has since dedicated her artisan plastic cosmetic surgery skills to a private practice in Melbourne and Berwick on the Mornington peninsula. Bio Page: https://cocorubyplasticsurgery.com.au/dr-rebecca-wyten/

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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.