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Plastic Surgery Blog

An Overview of Day by Day Tummy Tuck Recovery

day by day tummy tuck recovery

The only thing standing between you and a flat tummy is your tummy tuck surgery and recovery. We’ve got the surgery handled. You’ll be under anesthesia and won’t need to do a thing. Day by day tummy tuck recovery is your job. We’ll monitor you throughout the process and are available to answer any questions or concerns, but you’ll be the one putting in the time and effort to recover safely from surgery. 

Day by Day Tummy Tuck Recovery

Here’s what to expect from your day by day tummy tuck recovery. We’ll walk you through the process day by day.

Day 1: Surgery Day

Many patients go home on the same day as their tummy tuck procedure. Someone will need to drive you, so arrange for a trusted adult to bring you to and from your surgery. 

When you wake up from anesthesia, you’ll remain in recovery for a couple of hours. Our nurses will carefully monitor you and attend to your needs until you’re ready to return home. 

Patients report feeling groggy, tired, and occasionally nauseous. You’ll feel weak and sitting or standing up may be uncomfortable on the first day of your tummy tuck recovery.

Days 2-7: The First Week

Rest and recover the first week after your tummy tuck procedure. This week you’ll be restricted in the activities you can perform and you’ll need to be off work. 

  • You’ll return to meet with us, usually the day after surgery. Your plastic surgeon will check on your healing, tell you more about your surgery, and answer any questions at your follow-up visit. 
  • You may have drains for the first few days. These drains help remove fluid from the surgical area. Drains are removed three to seven days after surgery. 
  • Patients wear compression bandaging or garments during the first week. Compression helps to reduce swelling. 
  • Start taking gentle walks as soon as you’re able. 

You may feel tired and tender and will likely have some bruising and swelling after surgery.

Days 8-14: The Second Week

During the second week, you’ll start to feel much better. By the end of the week, many patients are ready to return to work.  

As you resume your regular activities, do so slowly. Doing too much too soon can lead to injury or complications. It’s difficult, but don’t rush.  

Keep wearing your compression garment to limit swelling and hold your new contours in place.

Days 15-21: The Third Week

By Week 3, most patients are back to work and feel much better than they did originally. Most patients will no longer need prescription pain medication. If you still have discomfort, over-the-counter pain medications can be used. 

Keep wearing your compression garments. We usually recommend that patients use compression garments for about a month after surgery.

Week 4 and Beyond

By this point in recovery, you’ll be back to many activities. Most patients feel significantly better and can see the results of their procedure, a flatter and tighter tummy. 

  • Many patients can resume gentle exercise at four weeks post-surgery. Wait six to eight weeks before returning to abdominal exercises or very strenuous activities. 
  • Some residual swelling is common, even several weeks after surgery. 
  • Scars are usually very prominent at four weeks post-surgery but don’t worry. They will start to fade soon after. As scars heal, they become smoother and lighter. 

We’ll give you specific instructions about recovery and what to expect.

After Tummy Tuck: The Exercises That Support Your Recovery

Many patients are ready to start exercising as soon as possible.  For the next several weeks, you’ll make up for your body’s lack of strength with willpower. However, instead of pushing past pain, like in your pre-tummy tuck cardio or weight sessions, you’ll use it as an indicator to slow down and back-off.

The following three activities may not look like exercises, but considering you’ve just come out of surgery, they’re likely what’s best:

Week 1: Tummy Tuck Recovery Workout: Patience, and a Few Steps

Patience? That’s not a workout! At this stage in your recovery, however, it’s the best thing. And it’s not always easy. Even if you don’t feel sore, your body needs to rest.

As soon as immediately after surgery, your doctor may want you to do some light movement, like standing or walking a few steps to get the blood flowing. During the first week, a progression from walking a few steps to walking across the room may be considered a win.

And of course, you’ll probably want to do more, and that’s where the willpower comes in. You need the patience to hold back. Plan to have a spouse or friend with you when you attempt these first maneuvers. Not to mention, you’ll need some help around the house with things like child care and anything that involves bending or lifting.

Week 2: Tummy Tuck Recovery Workout: Short Walks

At this point, you’ll start feeling a little stronger, but be careful. Maintaining patience remains part of your challenge. If you overdo your walks or attempt a jog, you risk causing damage and slowing your recovery.

Instead, consider a slower build. Last week, a walk across the room was a good goal, this week, maybe a stroll down the hall can grow, over a few days, to a walk to the mailbox. Although these milestones may not impress your friends, given time, your flat and properly healed tummy will do that.

And around the house, continue to seek and accept help. This may even be an ideal time to train a spouse or a child to do a few more chores, as long as it doesn’t involve you bending over or lifting anything. And, once they know what they’re doing, they’ll never have an excuse not to do it again!

Weeks 3-4: Tummy Tuck Recovery Workout: Longer Walks, Light Weights

You’re feeling better, so why not bust out a 5k run? Definitely not yet! You can, however, continue to build on your previous week’s progress and incorporate new muscle groups.

At this stage, you can SLOWLY increase the speed and distance of your walks. Don’t, however, compare what you’re doing now versus your pre-surgery cardio. You’re not looking to find the point where you have to stop.

You can also consider light weights that work areas other than your belly, like your arms. Keep in mind, almost all weight lifting uses a little bit of your core, so start light and use pain as your guide.

As for work around the house or beyond, at this stage, you’re still not 100% ready to do a marathon house cleaning session or a surprise day at the office. You’ll again need your willpower to let others do otherwise easy things for you. Really, it’s OK. You’re almost there.

Week 5 and Beyond: Business as Usual (or Better)

With your doctor’s permission, you may be able to resume your regular workouts and life as usual. Again, everyone’s body is different, so don’t assume any lingering soreness means you’ve failed. Your body may simply need more time.

Even if you feel great, try to ease (not jump) back into any of your intense pre-surgery workouts. Remember, your previous routines were likely based on having a belly and wanting it gone. Good news, with the tummy tuck, you’ve accomplished that. Actual core strengthening exercises like leg lifts, planks, or Yoga can be introduced but again, start small and build.

When you chose a tummy tuck, you made a significant decision to improve yourself. Take a look at your pre-surgery photos. That person is gone, and, with a robust recovery, the new one will feel better than ever!

Making Your Day by Day Tummy Tuck Recovery Easier

Our goal is an easy and comfortable recovery for all our tummy tuck patients. We’ll talk about simple strategies to improve your recovery experience. These options aren’t a good fit for every patient, but if you’re a good candidate, you can improve your recovery experience.

  • Drain-Free Abdominoplasty – Our drain-free abdominoplasty uses progressive tension suturing to eliminate the need for post-surgical drains. Cleaning and maintaining drains are some of the most difficult parts of tummy tuck recovery. Patients find that recovery is easier and faster when drains aren’t needed.
  • Pain Medications- Prescription pain medications make recovery easier and more comfortable for many of our patients. We’ll talk with you about your options and help you find effective solutions for controlling discomfort after surgery. 

We are available to help throughout the recovery process. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns. 

Schedule your tummy tuck consultation at H/K/B in Charlotte, NC by contacting us online or by calling 704-659-9000.