For most patients complete tummy tuck recovery—i.e., getting back their preoperative energy level—takes six to eight weeks. It is important that during the initial healing stage they avoid activities that can pull on the abdominal stitches, lead to increased heart rate, and anything that can compromise their healing.
- Pain and discomfort
Pain pumps and oral painkillers are commonly used together during the initial healing stage, or first few days postop, allowing you to get the much needed sleep and rest. But after a week or two, it is ideal to start tapering the dose to avoid [excessive] lethargy, constipation, and straining at stool which might harm the muscle repair.
Also, a “little” pain is beneficial at this time because it tells you to take a rest if you are over-exerting yourself. To promote recovery, you should take things slow and avoid physical and emotional stress.
The first five to seven days postop, you should be flexed at the waist (even during sleep) to prevent pulling on your wound. At this period, you should also avoid physical activities, including walking unless it is goal-driven—i.e., going to the bathroom.
After about a week, you can sit and walk straight up and may gradually perform light activities such as walking. The idea is to keep your blood flowing without increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, promoting quicker recovery and reducing the risk of blood clotting.
While most patients can return to a “quiet” work two weeks postop, it remains important to avoid rigorous activities and heavy lifting for about a month or sometimes longer.
For about a week, you can only sponge bathe because the dressing and compression garments must not get wet or be removed. Take note that you must always be accompanied by someone when going to the bathroom at this time.
- Recovery diet
While there is no strict diet plan, most surgeons recommend increasing your protein intake because it promotes healing. Of course, eating more fruits and veggies and avoiding empty calorie food can also speed up recovery and prevent weight gain during the time when your activities are restricted.
It is also important to increase your fluid intake to counteract the effects of painkillers such as constipation and lethargy, and to hydrate your skin which can promote good healing.