Tummy tuck recovery takes three to eight weeks and during this period the internal scar tissue that holds the “new contour” is not yet as flexible as the normal tissue. Hence, coughing and sneezing may cause feeling of tightness or pain, or in rare instances even result in suture break along the abdominal wall.
Leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley has recently posted a video on Snapchat to show how permanent sutures are used to “tighten” the rectus muscle. The pair of muscle between the lower and upper abdomen becomes separated due to pregnancy or large weight fluctuations, and thus suturing them together in a side-by-side configuration is one critical component to achieve flatter results from surgery.
In the video, Dr. Smiley said the stitch right above the belly button is the most important aspect of muscle repair and may sometimes experience suture break due to abrupt force generated by a “strong” sneeze or an incessant cough.
To prevent too much tightness, pain, and accidental suture break during the critical period of tummy tuck recovery, Dr. Smiley recommends his patients to press a pillow against their abdomen when they feel that a sneeze or cough is imminent. The idea is to minimize the abdominal movement and ultimately the stress on the sutures and scar tissue.
Sneezing and coughing is not the only thing that can put stress on the healing tissue and sutures. Any activity that results in sudden tensing of the abdominal wall should be avoided for a minimum of eight weeks; hence, all patients are advised to postpone rigorous exercise until their scar tissue becomes more flexible.
In general, patients should wait eight weeks before they can gradually resume core body exercises. Nonetheless, light activity (walking and other light aerobics exercises) can be started sooner provided that the patient does not feel any pulling or discomfort.
Most of the tautness and discomfort following tummy tuck stems from muscle repair. Thus, many patients feel more comfortable when they are slightly bent at the waist within the first 10 days, but after this period most can stand up straight without any issue.