Let’s be honest…A tummy tuck is a big operation and you can expect it to take a couple of months before you get back to normal. There are many types of tummy tucks, and the recovery time can vary depending on the extent of the surgery.
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Every patient is different, and so is every tummy tuck surgery. The bigger the operation the more time it will take to get back to normal. In Dr. Beldholm’s experience, patients often say they start feeling “normal” again by three months post-op. But even at this stage, there is ongoing swelling and the scar is still red. Keep reading to find out more about what to expect as you recover from abdominoplasty.
Tummy tuck recovery stages
Below, you’ll find a handy timeline for what to expect after tummy tuck surgery. Again, keep in mind the extent of your surgery can vary. For example, a mini tummy tuck is far less invasive than an extended Lipo-abdominoplasty, which means a shorter recovery time. Your mileage may vary.
Now that we’ve said that, let’s dive into a typical tummy tuck recovery timeline that you may find useful as you prepare for tummy tuck surgery:
Week 1: This is no doubt the most difficult part of tummy tuck recovery. Tummy tuck pain, swelling and even bruising are common.You may even regret having a tummy tuck. Don’t worry – these feelings are normal and this, too, shall pass.
You’ll be walking bent over at this point, and will be spending most of your time resting from the comfort of your bed or sofa. Walking every day is vital to recovery. Even just a few minutes every few hours can help.
Driving is off limits for the first 2-3 weeks.
At the 7 day mark, you will come in for a follow-up appointment. Dr. Beldholm will change the PICO dressings. Click here to learn the benefits of PICO negative pressure dressings.
Week 2: The worst is behind you. You’ll still have some discomfort, but it will decrease day by day. Swelling is still prevalent. Numbness in the lower abdomen is also normal. Your tummy still feels tender, so you will likely still need help around the house from friends, family members or an aid. By day 10, most patients will start walking upright. You’re doing great. Hang in there!
Download our short guide: “Preparing for your Abdominoplasty Surgery Checklist”
Week 3: Congrats! Most patients are allowed to start driving after a tummy tuck at 2 to 3 weeks. Now that you can drive, it frees you up to have a lot more independence. You’ll still need assistance carrying heavy groceries, etc. at this point, though. By now, you should be feeling a lot better overall.
Swelling, discomfort and bruising will decrease greatly by this stage.
The lower tummy will most likely still be numb and feel a bit “alien” for the time being. That’s because the sensory nerves in the skin were damaged during surgery (this is normal, after all, you just had surgery). Feeling will return eventually. Numbness usually subsides within 3 months as the nerves repair themselves.
Week 4: Most patients return to work around 4 weeks post-op. Returning to work signals how far you have made it in recovery. It also helps patients feel good knowing they are back in a familiar routine, so you will start to feel more “normal” again.
Week 5-8: Each day is easier and easier. You will be amazed at how far you have come in such a short time. The worst of the swelling will start going away 1 to 2 months after surgery. Most patients can resume a full exercise routine at the 8-week mark.
Exercising after tummy tuck is beneficial. It not only shows how far you have come physically, but exercise can also improve your tummy tuck results by keeping you fit and healthy. You’ll also be able to handle lifting heavy objects like groceries without assistance, which makes life easier.
Week 9: You’ve made it to the 3-month mark. This is when most of Dr. Beldholm’s patients say they really start feeling “back to normal”. Some swelling will still be present, but it will be substantially less than it was a few weeks ago. There shouldn’t be any pain or discomfort at this stage and you will be completely independent. The scars will still be red at this stage. It can take a long time for surgical scars to mature.
In the weeks and months that follow, you will notice swelling reduce even more. As the swelling settles, your tummy tuck results will become more visible. It’s amazing to see the transformation that takes place.
Remember, just a few months ago you had a totally different body with loose skin and unwanted fat that made you feel pretty low. Clothes will fit better now, and you will start feeling more like yourself as you get used to your beautiful, flat tummy.
How long until I see the results of a tummy tuck?
Getting a tummy tuck is a big landmark in many patients’ lives. It is no wonder that they feel both excited and anxious to see the results of surgery. After all, it took a lot of time and effort finding the right surgeon, taking time off work, arranging rides to doctor appointments, etc. Not to mention, the cost of tummy tuck surgery.
After all that, of course patients wish they could see results right away. The truth is, you will see a noticeable improvement immediately after surgery. That unwanted loose skin and fat will finally be gone for good. But — and this is a BIG “but” — it takes a while to see the final results because of the swelling after surgery.
In Doctor Bernard’s experience, 12 to 18 months is how long it takes to see the final results of tummy tuck surgery. However, you will feel “normal” again by the 3-month mark.
Tummy tuck scar fading is usually what takes the longest. (Hint: If you want to fade tummy tuck scars faster, try Laser Genesis to reduce scar redness.)