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Are you concerned about tummy tuck recovery time? Most patients have questions about what recovery looks like, how fast they will see results, and how soon they can return to their normal activities after surgery. Here we are going to answers all your questions about the downtime, hospital stay, driving, time off work and more after tummy tuck surgery.

We will also go into detail about about how painful a tummy tuck really is (something a lot of cosmetic surgery websites and articles tend to gloss over).

recovery time after tummy tuck and liposuction

This article will explore the recovery and downtime following a tummy tuck in great detail. Here is a quick overview of the recovery time for the four most popular tummy tuck procedures:

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Mini Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Back to work in 10 days to 2 weeks, Driving in 10 days.

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Full Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Overnight hospital stay, Back to work in 3-4 weeks, Driving in 2-3 weeks.

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Extended Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Overnight hospital stay, Back to work in 3-4 weeks, Driving in 2-3 weeks.

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Body Lift:
2-5 day hospital stay, Back to work in 3-4 weeks, Driving in 4 weeks.

What will my first week of recovery look like after an abdominoplasty?

The night of the procedure, most patients are surprised to have a more comfortable night of sleep than expected. Dr. Beldholm performs tummy tucks with Vaser lipo using local anesthetic. This dramatically reduces any pain in the first 24 hours after surgery.

You will be quite swollen after surgery. After surgery, patients will be given a compression garment to wear day and night for four weeks to reduce swelling. After that, you will only need to wear it half the day. Many patients say they feel comforted by the gentle compression.

The next day after surgery is usually the worst in terms of discomfort. By the afternoon, you will feel very sore since the local anesthetic will have worn off. Non-narcotic pain medication will ease your discomfort. It is important to get out of bed and do your breathing exercises even if you don’t feel like it starting on day one. Dr. Beldholm will go over the breathing technique with you before you head home.

The first 2-3 days are usually the hardest to get through. After that, you will still be sore and have some discomfort, but you will also notice that your discomfort gets a little easier each day.

 

Dr Beldholm meeting with Patient

How painful is a tummy tuck really?

One of the top questions patients have is how much pain they should expect after a tummy tuck. While recovering from any surgery isn’t a walk in the park, most patients compare their post-op pain as similar to a C-section.

After surgery, you will be markedly sore the first week. However, most patients are surprised that the first evening of surgery is surprisingly easy to get through. Because Dr. Beldholm performs Vaser lipo with the tummy tuck, you will have local anesthetic that wears off the next day. Swelling and moderate discomfort usually peak between days 2-3.

In terms of pain, you won’t feel 100 percent the first week after surgery, but most patients find the pain and discomfort surprisingly manageable. You will also be given pain medication to help make you feel better.

That said, you won’t be running a marathon a few weeks later, nor will you be doing sit ups or carrying heavy groceries during week two of recovery. That is just the reality of it. It is important that you give yourself time to heal.

The truth is that the average patient mainly just feels uncomfortable and quite sore during the first week, along with some mild pain as they get accustomed to moving around. You will not experience excruciating pain if you treat your body gently and take it easy.

The hard part is really just adjusting to limitations on your mobility due to soreness. This can be frustrating or surprising at first, since trying to move as freely as you normally would might hurt at first.

Download our short guide:
“Preparing for your Tummy Tuck Surgery Checklist”

Why do patients report such differences in pain after having tummy tuck?

If you’ve ever used a search engine to ask about pain after tummy tuck, you likely read a lot of conflicting information. There are several reasons for this. Let’s take a look at four reasons why patients may experience pain differently after a tummy tuck:

1. Individual pain tolerance

First, pain tolerance and also perception of pain can vary greatly. What one patient might describe as “the worst pain I have ever felt in my life” to what another might call “pretty sore” can sometimes be a matter of semantics. We all express and feel things differently.

For most patients, a tummy tuck involves moderate soreness with swelling and discomfort that is well managed with pain medication.

2. Pain can vary based on the type of surgery

Some tummy tuck procedures are more involved than others. There are nearly 28 types of tummy tucks. Dr. Beldholm performs the four most effective tummy tuck surgeries available today: Mini Tummy Tuck with Lipo, Full Vaser Tummy Tuck with Lipo, Extended Tummy Tuck with Vaser Lipo and Body Lifts. Let’s discuss each of the four types:

Mini tummy tuck

A mini tummy tuck is the least invasive procedure. It has the fastest recovery time and the least amount of post-op discomfort. This is a great option for patients who only need to remove the small flap of skin that remains after a C-section, pregnancy or modest weight loss.

Also known as Mini Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty, this technique is known for a quick recovery time, low risk of complications and smaller incisions. This means you will have less pain and scarring than other methods. Vaser liposuction is recommended with this procedure for the smoothest possible results.

Full Vaser tummy tuck with lipo

Full Vaser Tummy Tuck with Liposuction is a modern technique that delivers exceptional results. This cutting-edge method is one of Dr. Beldholm’s preferred techniques. It not only makes your belly appear smooth and tight, it also has less pain and fewer side effects associated with it than other kinds of tummy tucks.

VASER stands for Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance. Using advanced ultrasonic liposuction, a probe is inserted to melt fat and suck it away in an instant. After the fat is removed, the patient undergoes a tummy tuck. Adding liposuction to tummy tucks improves the results as well as recovery.

Extended tummy tuck with lipo

An Extended Tummy Tuck with Liposuction addresses both upper and lower abdominal skin, along with fat removal. This surgery is recommended for patients who have a lot of skin to remove not just on the belly, but on the flanks as well. The typical patient for this is someone who has had major weight loss, naturally or with the help of a bariatric or gastric bypass.

Since it is a more extensive procedure, the Extended Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty is understandably associated with more soreness, pain and swelling. The incisions are longer than a standard tummy tuck, but the vast majority of patients report that it is well worth their new slim figure.

circumferential abdominoplasty recovery

An extensive procedure, Body Lifts have the highest reported post-op soreness and discomfort. Sculpting the belly, thighs and buttocks means that there is a larger surgical area. It can even extend around to the patients back depending on how much excess skin there might be. Since more tissue is addressed, patients can expect some degree of soreness in all these areas. The vast majority of patients rate body lifts highly. It gives the body a major transformation and refined silhouette.

 

3. Every patient’s surgery is different

The amount of skin and fat removed during body contouring varies by patient. No two patients are exactly alike. Naturally, some patients need more tissue removed than others, even if they have the exact same procedure. The differences may be slight, but it can contribute to how much discomfort they report after surgery.

4. Your age and health can affect your recovery

Fourth, your age and general health may affect how easy or difficult you find recovery. Patients who lead a healthy lifestyle will logically experience a faster recovery than someone who is in poor health. Being in good physical health means your body is in optimal condition to recovery quickly.

Another factor to consider is age. For wound healing, younger patients heal faster than to older patients. Younger patients produce more collagen, for example, which speeds tissue healing. This means wounds heal quicker. While young patients heal faster, older patients have the advantage of scars that lighten and fade sooner.

 

Getting healthy for your best recovery possible

While you can’t wave a magic wand and turn back time, there are some things you can do before surgery to boost your physical health. This includes eating a nutritious diet, taking a daily multivitamin, staying fit and drinking plenty of water. Taking steps to better your health may help improve your ability to “bounce back” after surgery.

Water is especially important after surgery. Staying hydrated is essential to wound healing. You will experience post-op swelling, and your body will need more water than usual. It is advisable to drink plenty of water following surgery, even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty.

 

Ways to reduce your pain after a tummy tuck

Dr. Beldholm prescribes Panadol as well as anti-inflammatory medications for pain. These non-narcotic medications offers mild to moderate pain relief. Most patients do not require anything stronger than that to recover from tummy tuck surgery. Panadol is well tolerated among patients with few, if any, side effects. Narcotic medications are prescribed as a backup and you can take these as needed at home.

The key to curbing pain after surgery is to always stay ahead of your medication. Pain relievers are designed to “take the edge” off your pain and discomfort. Panadol is a very effective medication. However, this can lead some patients to believe that they are further along in their healing than they really are, leading them to skip a dose. That is a mistake in early recovery. It can feel more difficult to get rid of new pain than it is to prevent pain from starting in the first place.

 

Compression garment after tummy tuck surgery

Swelling is also part of recovery. After surgery, you will be given a specially-fitted compression garment to wear day and night for four weeks, which will reduce swelling.

Then, from weeks 4-6 you only need to wear it half the day. You can wear the garment day or night during this time— whichever is more comfortable for you. If you notice more swelling during the day, wear it during the day. If this occurs more at night, wear it to bed instead.

Most swelling diminishes in the first 3-6 months, but mild swelling can persist for up to 12 months, usually on the lower belly.

Another way to reduce pain is to listen to your body, rest and relax. Eating well, drinking plenty of water and giving your body time to heal can make a meaningful difference in your recovery. In the days following surgery, it is recommended for you to have assistance from a friend or family member. This is your time to take it easy.

Light walking and breathing exercises can also improve recovery. Dr. Beldholm will go over instructions for this before your surgery. 

Want more information about compression garments? see our article: “Complete guide to wearing compression garments”

 

Mobility after a Tummy Tuck

Contrary to popular belief, you will not be bedridden after having a tummy tuck. In fact, Dr. Beldholm encourages his patients to get up and walking the very next day. You don’t need to overexert yourself, but it is good to push through the discomfort and get moving a little early on.

Patients who walk after surgery tend to recover faster, plus walking is the easiest way to lower your risk of a blood clot forming. The first few days, you can just take a few laps around your home every few hours. By the next week or two, you can start going for nice walks outside.

 

 

Getting back to the gym after a tummy tuck

Active patients and fitness junkies will need to take it easy post-op. You will begin feeling up for more activity around 2-4 weeks, but you should avoid exertion, heavy lifting, working out, etc. Walking is ideal at this stage.

By week 3-6, many patients start feeling back to normal. By 6-8 weeks after surgery, most can resume exercises, going to the gym and light running. At this point if you feel up for it, you can get back into your fitness routine. Just don’t overexert yourself. Always listen to your body and take it slow until you feel comfortable.

Driving after a tummy tuck

One of the first things patients want to know is how soon they can drive after a tummy tuck. Patients are usually eager to get their independence back after surgery, but it is important to listen to your body and follow your surgeon’s advice. Don’t rush getting back behind the wheel until you are truly ready to do so.

 

Timeline for Driving After a Tummy Tuck:

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Mini Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Typically return to driving in 10 days

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Full Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Typically return to driving in 2-3 weeks

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Extended Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Typically return to driving in 2-3 weeks

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Body Lift:
Typically return to driving in 4 weeks

Let’s talk about some reasons why you shouldn’t drive early in recovery. To start, you could not drive immediately after surgery even if you wanted to because of the anesthesia. Anesthesia leaves your mind groggy. After any surgery with anesthesia, it would be unsafe drive for at least the first 24 hours. You will need a ride home from the hospital.

Not only should you not drive right away right away, but really, you wouldn’t be up for it! The first 1-3 days after surgery are the most challenging. Expect to be sore with limited mobility for a few weeks after surgery. Because of your reduced mobility, reaction times will be slower. This is unsafe for proper defensive driving, and it could harm you and others around you.

 

Requesting time off work for a tummy tuck

Most patients take 2-4 weeks off work on average. The length of time you will take off work depends on two things: the type of tummy tuck, and the physical demands of your job.

For example, a receptionist can return to work sooner than a warehouse worker. If your job doesn’t require heavy lifting, a lot of running around or driving, you can return to work in about two weeks.

 

Timeline for Time Off Work After a Tummy Tuck:

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Mini Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Typically back to work in 10 days to 2 weeks

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Full Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Typically back to work in 3-4 weeks

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Extended Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Typically back to work in 3-4 weeks

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Body Lift:
Typically back to work in 3-4 weeks

Allow yourself plenty of time to heal after surgery. If you have concerns about when you can return to work after surgery, you can always discuss this with your surgeon.

 

Duration of your hospital stay

This can vary depending on the procedure you’ve had. For smaller tummy tuck surgeries, you can leave the hospital the same day of surgery. For bigger procedures, you will stay in the hospital for a few days. This is a guideline for each of the four tummy tuck procedures Dr. Beldholm offers:

 

Timeline for Your Hospital Stay After a Tummy Tuck:

Let’s talk about some reasons why you shouldn’t drive early in recovery. To start, you could not drive immediately after surgery even if you wanted to because of the anesthesia. Anesthesia leaves your mind groggy. After any surgery with anesthesia, it would be unsafe drive for at least the first 24 hours. You will need a ride home from the hospital.

Not only should you not drive right away right away, but really, you wouldn’t be up for it! The first 1-3 days after surgery are the most challenging. Expect to be sore with limited mobility for a few weeks after surgery. Because of your reduced mobility, reaction times will be slower. This is unsafe for proper defensive driving, and it could harm you and others around you.

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Mini Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Return home same day of surgery

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Full Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Overnight hospital stay

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Extended Vaser Lipo Abdominoplasty:
Overnight hospital stay

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Body Lift:
2-5 day hospital stay or longer based on your needs

 

Final results after a tummy tuck

Immediately after surgery, you will be elated to see that all the excess fat and skin is gone. However, it will take around twelve months to see your final cosmetic result (longer if you had a more complex surgery with a lot of skin and fat removed).

Patients are understandably eager to see their new body. So why does it take so long to get the final results? There are a few reasons. One reason is that you will be swollen after surgery. Most swelling subsides in 3-6 months, but a little swelling can remain for twelve months or so.

Secondly, surgical scars take time to fade. This usually occurs in the first 1-2 years. During surgery, Dr. Beldholm will close the incision with surgical glue placed on your skin. The glue will peel off in about ten days to two weeks. He will also place absorbable stitches inside the wound where you cannot see them. These will dissolve on their own, so you do not need to have the sutures removed.

Scars take time to heal. The perfect scar is a thin, faint white line that blends into your skin. Of course, every patient’s body responds to scarring differently. While the best surgeons make clean, minimal incisions, no one can control how your skin heals. Younger patients usually take a bit longer to resolve scars, while older patient’s scars tend to fade more quickly.

Well-placed scars can be hidden under clothes, and scar gel can be used to help scars heal attractively. Most patients feel the outcome of surgery is well worth it.

As you can see, recovering from a tummy tuck is a process that takes time, but the results can be truly spectacular.

Download our short guide:
“Preparing for your Tummy Tuck Surgery Checklist”

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