Recovering After Tummy Tuck: What You Need To Know

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My body contouring and tummy tuck patients in Houston want to know all about what happens during recuperation—in fact, it’s usually one of their first questions. I want all of my patients to feel prepared and in control, and part of that preparedness means knowing exactly what to expect.

Before their surgeries, patients report being afraid of pain or discomfort, worried about how much time to take off from work, and anxious about getting back to their normal daily activities. But knowledge is power! Let’s take a candid look at what you can expect during your tummy tuck recovery period:

Physical Symptoms

Tummy tuck is major surgery, and patients should expect discomfort—and yes, some pain. However, these symptoms are manageable with carefully prescribed pain medication and meticulous techniques during surgery. Most patients say these symptoms peak at around the 2nd or 3rd day after surgery, but they may fluctuate. Don’t jump right back into your regular activities as soon as you feel better! Instead, ease into things and pay attention to your body’s cues.

Swelling, bruising, and a feeling of “tightness” are also common but mostly resolve within the first two weeks. Residual swelling may take months to fully dissipate but generally isn’t noticeable to the untrained eye.

Recovery Tools

I place surgical drains (typically 2) in the incisions to keep swelling down. By diverting the buildup of fluid from the abdomen to the drains, we can reduce some unfavorable symptoms and discomfort. You’ll need to monitor how much fluid your drains collect and empty them as needed—I or a member of my staff will show you how. These drains will stay in place for about 1 week after your surgery.

In addition, wearing a compression garment also helps support and stabilize the area and encourages healing by keeping constant pressure on the area. You’ll wear this garment continuously for the first 3 to 4 weeks.

Before & After Tummy Tuck
Before & After Tummy Tuck
Before & After Tummy Tuck
Before & After Tummy Tuck

Support System

Many of my patients are used to doing it all. But after a tummy tuck, it’s imperative to know when to ask for help. After your surgery, you’ll need to avoid activities that require you to bend, stoop, or lift anything heavier than a few pounds. While you’re on opiate pain medication, you’ll also need someone to drive for you. Before your surgery, make sure you have a capable adult, whether it’s your spouse, other family member, or a friend, ready and able to lend a hand.

Sleeping

Getting proper sleep is very important to the recovery process, and it’s also important to sleep correctly. Rather than stretching out in bed, I recommend sleeping in a “lawn chair” position. This can be achieved through a comfy recliner or even pillows stacked beneath your head and shoulders, as well as under your legs. The key here is to not put any pressure on your abdomen—so no stomach sleeping—and reducing strain on your incisions.

Recovery Timeline

It can be tough to make an accurate prediction for when you can resume certain activities, since every patient and surgery are different. But ballpark estimates are as follows:

  • 1 to 3 weeks before you go back to work
  • 4 weeks before low-impact exercise
  • 6 weeks before you resume your full gym routine

You might also want to look at Smart Beauty Guide, a resource created by The Aesthetic Society. Here you’ll find other great tips for making your recuperation more streamlined and comfortable. Learn more about what else you can expect from your tummy tuck recovery in our related blog post.

When you’re ready to learn more or move forward, check out my gallery of real patient before-and-after tummy tuck photos, or reach out and contact my office with your questions or a consultation request.

This blog post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for 2023.

2 Responses to Recovering After Tummy Tuck: What You Need To Know

  • Yvette Martinez says:

    By any chance do you have a mommy special that includes tummy tuck and breast augmentation. Also do you have financing available ?

    • Dr. Camille Cash says:

      This March, we are offering promotional 12 month not interest financing through carecredit. We do not offer specials on surgery but would be happy to further discuss financing options through CareCredit and Alphaeon. For more information, give us a call at 713-571-0600 or visit camillecashmd.com/contact-us/ to request additional information. Look forward to hearing from you!

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