Downtime for tummy tuck may differ from person to person, although the general rule of thumb is to take things slow for at least 2-3 weeks. Ideally, patients should take a time off from work during this time so they can focus on rest and avoid stressors, which have been known to delay healing.
As expected, the first few days are the most challenging period; patients need help getting up from a reclined position, and when going to the bathroom as well. Despite decreased mobility, it is highly advisable to walk as frequent as possible to prevent blood clot formation (deep vein thrombosis), to keep swelling to a minimum, and to ultimately promote recovery.
Due to the pulling sensation and discomfort around the midsection, it is not uncommon to walk slightly bent at the waist for about a week postop. But after this period most patients can resume their normal posture.
After 2-3 weeks, patients can gradually increase their physical activities, although anything that involves straining the abdominal muscles and doing rigorous exercise are best avoided for one to three months. People heal differently and so each patient may receive a slightly different postop instructions from his/her surgeon.
Pain and Discomfort
The pain mostly stems from muscle repair in which the pair of abdominal muscles is stitched together to achieve a flatter appearance. However, the amount of tightness and discomfort greatly diminishes by one week.
Because pain is one of the most common concerns of patients, leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley has started using a new way to control pain: Exparel injection. This drug is injected directly into the muscle during surgery and is expected to provide numbing effects for up to four days.
Exparel has eliminated the need for pain pump, a somewhat cumbersome device that is worn underneath the clothes. It is similar to a balloon with tubes where local anesthetics slowly drip into the surgical site.
Going Back to Work
The ideal time depends on factors such as the patient’s type of work (office vs. physically demanding job), pain threshold, and individual healing. In general, a two-week off will suffice, whereas a three-week vacation is considered as a nice luxury.
At three weeks postop, most patients are back on their feet although it is not uncommon to tire easily or to feel like going to bed earlier than their usual routine. This is expected as their body is still in the process of healing.