Posted October 23, 2023 in Tummy Tuck
A tummy tuck is one of the most effective procedures to regain your pre-baby body when diet and exercise don’t give you the desired results. Still, there’s a lot to know about the healing process during a tummy tuck recovery. The procedure is a surefire way to get a tight, flat stomach by reinforcing the abdominal wall and removing excess skin, typically caused by pregnancy and weight loss, to help you achieve a more sculpted and contoured figure. But despite the procedure being one of the most popular elective cosmetic surgeries, plenty of people still don’t know everything to expect during a tummy tuck recovery. Consider this your crash course in what you need to know.
How Long is The Tummy Tuck Recovery Process?
Every patient is different, and there’s no one answer for how long it will take to recover from a tummy tuck. On average, the general time frame for most patients is a few weeks, but plenty of factors need to be considered, including your age, overall general health, the type of tummy tuck you had (mini tummy tucks are said to have a faster recovery time than traditional variations of the surgery), and post-surgical care. Most patients report feeling tired for the first few days and notice improvement with each coming day. Usually, around the eight-week mark, you’ll start to feel like yourself again.
Immediately After Surgery and the First Few Days
The first few hours after a tummy tuck are probably the easiest part of your tummy tuck recovery. After your tummy tuck surgery, you will wake up with an incision around your navel and another one low on your abdomen. Both will be covered with surgical dressings, and drains may also be attached to help empty the fluid that collects. You’ll likely still be sleepy, driven home from the surgical center, and set up at home.
For the first 24 to 48 hours, it is critical to take it easy and rest and follow your surgeon’s instruction to a T. That’s because the body is in its most gentle state following surgery and needs plenty of rest and TLC to make a full recovery, especially since it’s expected to be tired as the body heals. You’ll notice that your energy levels will dip, so don’t overexert yourself and take plenty of naps throughout the day.
It’s also typical to experience constipation and less than regular bowel movements during your tummy tuck recovery. That’s because anesthesia used during the surgery can cause irregular bowel movements. A mild laxative during the first few days of your recovery will help speed things along and normalize your bowel movements.
During the first few days after your tummy tuck, it’s advised to rest at an angle rather than sitting or lying straight up, which will help prevent any blood clots. Sitting up straight during the tummy tuck recovery process is also difficult, and many patients find a reclining position far more comfortable. Renting a reclining chair is also highly advised to help manage swelling and discomfort by keeping the legs elevated and the body upright due to the initial tightness in the stomach area. You’ll need to walk around the house hunched over (to prevent unnecessary straining on the incisions) for a few minutes multiple times throughout the day using the help of a walker to regain your normal movement. Regular movement helps promote healthy blood flow and circulation, which is imperative during a tummy tuck recovery. It also helps prevent developing a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis.
As the body heals, swelling will ensue. After surgery, the abdominal area will also be sore for about one week (more in some patients). It’s also normal for the skin to feel numb, which can take months to regain all feeling in the area entirely.
Caring for Dressings and Incisions During a Tummy Tuck Recovery
For the first 48 hours, it’s best not to shower to keep the incision area clean. However, you can give yourself (or have someone do it for you) a sponge bath using warm water. Sterile dressings and incisions are critical to healthy healing after a tummy tuck. If your surgeon used tape over your incision, you’ll want to leave it on and let it fall off on its own or remove it once he tells you it’s safe to. In the meantime, wash around the incisions, tape with warm water and a mild cleanser, and always pat the area dry. There’s no need to use old-school surgical wound healing techniques like alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on the skin since they can dry it out.
It’s also essential to keep the incisions clean and dry. After cleansing the area, you can cover it with gauze and secure it with medical tape so that the incision doesn’t rub up against your clothing. The incisions will also weep in the first few days after surgery, which is normal, and they may release some blood, so it’s critical to keep the area dry. You’ll want to keep the gauze clean and fresh and change it periodically throughout the day or according to your doctor’s orders. Also, watch for any strange odors from the incision site and changes in how it looks, which could signify an infection.
Bathing, swimming, or partaking in any activity where the abdominal area is submerged under water is not advised for a while because the goal is to keep the site clean and dry and only expose it to water when showering and for short amounts of time. A similar rule of thumb goes for applying body lotions and creams to the area—it’s best to avoid using them on the abdomen until your doctor gives you the green light.
Minimizing Swelling and Bruising
While it’s normal for the abdominal area to experience swelling and bruising, which is just the body sending fluid and white blood cells to the injury site to aid in healing, during the tummy tuck recovery process, there are ways to limit them and speed up your healing process. You can reduce swelling by applying cold compresses to the area. Wearing a compression garment, except for when you shower, will also help limit swelling in the abdominal area. It’s also important to get plenty of rest and not push yourself or partake in anything strenuous, even around the house. Watch your salt intake, too, which causes bloating and ramps up swelling, and drink plenty of water to keep the body well hydrated.
Avoid blood thinners and eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods to prevent bruising. A healthy diet plays a vital role in overall immunity, so choose protein-rich foods that help the tissue repair process post-surgery. Foods that are high in vitamins C and A are also beneficial. Just limit your intake of processed foods. Avoid eating anything high in fat, sugar, and dairy, which can cause additional inflammation and prolong healing.
Hygiene and Skincare Practices
The best way to take care of your skin after a tummy tuck while you recover is to keep the area clean. Maintaining cleanliness around the surgical incisions is crucial so that there’s no risk of infection.
It’s also critical to use approved products by your plastic surgeon in the area and avoid direct contact with the incision site until it’s fully healed. Your doctor may recommend topical creams to the incision site once the steri strips have fallen off or after your stitches are removed.
Pain Management and Medication
It’s normal to experience some pain and discomfort during your tummy tuck recovery. Any pain you feel can be controlled with prescription pain medication, which you should fill before your surgery to have on hand at home and accessible. Most patients are given antibiotics and some pain medication for a certain length of time. Often, tummy tucks include injections of pain medication into the area to help reduce postoperative pain. However, plenty of surgeons still give medication on top of that or instead of it. However, you’ll want to be safe and smart about your medication and use what has been prescribed to you directly as instructed. If your doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the entire course of antibiotics.
If you feel the urge to sneeze or cough during your tummy tuck recovery, it can be very painful at first. To help make it a little more bearable, hold a pillow over your incision when you cough, sneeze, or take deep breaths to help support the belly and decrease any pain.
Follow-up care is critical to the success of your tummy tuck results. Make sure to attend all appointments, and call your doctor with any questions or concerns. If you are experiencing any unusual side effects, it is also important to communicate them openly and honestly with your surgeon.
Getting Back to Your Daily Routine After a Tummy Tuck Recovery
It will take a few weeks for you to start to feel like yourself again and return to your routine. Even if you feel energized and well to partake in certain activities, it’s important to avoid abdominal exercises and strenuous activities, like weight lifting or lifting anything heavy that would make you strain, for 6 to 8 weeks. Most people can return to work about two to three weeks after surgery, depending on the type of work you do and how you feel. It’s important to discuss with your surgeon when you can go back to your regular daily routine following your tummy tuck recovery.