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Tummy Tuck Post-Op

  • Neodyne
  • September 3, 2021

A tummy tuck surgery—otherwise known as abdominoplasty—is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures. While the surgery is generally quick, recovery can take up to several months, especially when it comes to scar prevention and management. It can be frustrating not being able to get back on your feet right away, but it's important to give your body enough time to heal properly. If you're considering having a tummy tuck or if you've just begun the recovery journey, we've gathered the best advice for post-op tummy tuck care to help you see your way to a smoother and sleeker you.

In this post, we'll provide a week-by-week look at the tummy tuck recovery process so you know what to expect. From possible side effects to post-op care and scar prevention tips, you'll be able to bounce back to normal looking better than ever. Avoid post tummy tuck scars and achieve the firm, attractive abdomen you deserve by following this guide for a speedy recovery.

Post-Op Recovery Considerations

While the results can be spectacular, a tummy tuck is a major surgery that requires time off to heal. In general, most individuals are ready to return to work and begin exercising again six to eight weeks after their tummy tuck. However, there are some factors that may impact your recovery, including timeline and tummy tuck procedure. Let's take a close look at a few considerations to keep in mind as you enter the tummy tuck post-recovery phase.

Recovery Times Vary

All bodies are different, so recovery times will vary from person to person. Ultimately, how long it takes for your body to heal after a tummy tuck depends on your age, overall health, post-op care routine, and type of tummy tuck.

The Type of Tummy Tuck Matters

Regardless if you get a full tummy tuck or mini abdominoplasty, you'll need to rest and heal for a few weeks. However, the time frame depends on the type of tummy tuck you receive. This is because different procedures will remove more skin, resulting in a larger incision, or affect the abdominal muscles in the area. For example, a full abdominoplasty requires the belly button to be repositioned, while a mini tummy tuck does not. As a result, there's often a difference in recovery time.

Normal Post-Op Symptoms

There are numerous symptoms that'll arise from your tummy tuck surgery. However, most of them are nothing to be alarmed about. This includes:

Tightness and Stiffness in Abdomen

Experiencing tightness and stiffness in the abdomen after a tummy tuck is normal. As the skin and tissue in the area begins to heal, this feeling will gradually decrease. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication if it's too uncomfortable or painful.

Bruising, Swelling and Redness

It's expected that your abdomen will bruise, swell, and become red where incisions were made. This can become more noticeable if you have drainage tubes to decrease the accumulation of fluid. While your skin may not look the best during this time, have patience since your abdomen will typically look worse before it can get better.

Skin Firmness, Hypersensitivity or Lack of Sensitivity

During the recovery process, you may experience skin firmness, hypersensitivity, or a lack of sensitivity in the abdomen. This is because the tummy tuck procedure will reposition various abdominal nerves and muscles in order to contour the area and reach your desired results. In rare cases, this may also cause a loss of sensation in your upper thighs.

Shiny Skin or Any Itchy Feeling

When a scab begins to form on the incision, you may start to feel itchy, ranging from mild to severe discomfort. Despite the incision site being itchy, avoid scratching the area. Scratching the scab that's forming can open the wound and delay the healing process, resulting in a much more visible scar and even infection. As these areas swell, the skin may also appear shiny.

Asymmetry: Both Sides of Your Body Heal Differently

One side of your abdomen may look and even feel different than the other as it heals. Rest assured that this is normal.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

As with any surgery, there's a risk of infection, which is why it's so important to follow the post-surgical guidelines outlined by your doctor. Below is a list of post-op symptoms that are not normal and should be examined by a doctor right away. Use it to identity signs of infection as you recover from your tummy tuck at home:

  • Fever and chills
  • Drainage of pus
  • Foul smelling incisions
  • Excessive redness and soreness
  • Site is hot to touch

If you're worried about any tummy tuck complications, including infection and improper healing, speak to your doctor about ways to minimize these risks.

Woman in hospital bed

What to Expect Day 1 Post-Op

Post-surgery, many patients can go home so that they can rest more comfortably. Remember to plan ahead and arrange for a friend or relative to drive you home, as movements will be limited during this time.

Possible Side Effects

After the anesthesia wears off, you'll likely feel drowsy since this process can take a few hours. You may also experience the following side effects:

  • Pain that may be either dull or throbbing
  • Swelling in the abdominal area
  • Sensations of itching, tingling, or numbness
  • Feelings of grogginess or nausea

Tips for Care Day 1 Post-Op

Here are a few tips to help you rest and take care of yourself the first night at your home post-surgery:

  • Have a loved one stay with you: Ask a loved one to stay at your home to provide tummy tuck post-op care, as you'll need around-the-clock assistance the first two days after surgery for help with dressing, lifting, and other small tasks.
  • Limit your movements: With such a fresh injury, you must restrict your movement as much as possible to avoid the risk of tearing your wound. Avoid heavy lifting or partaking in activities that put a lot of strain on your abdomen. Any movement you make should be only goal-oriented, such as using the restroom.
  • Don't shower: As much as you may want to shower after your surgery, you won't be able to because your wound may reopen. Instead, you'll have to bathe with a sponge or body wipes and wash your hair with dry shampoo.
  • Have the necessary post-op supplies: Having the necessary tummy tuck post-op supplies on hand is essential to alleviating and managing your pain. This includes gauze pads, ice packs, compression garments, and medication. Prescription-strength and over-the-counter pain medications can help reduce tenderness, while an ice compress may reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Use medication as prescribed: Follow your doctor's directions regarding any prescribed antibiotics and/or anticoagulants. Misuse of medication can result in it not working properly and delaying your healing.
  • Rest: It's best to remain immobile in bed as soon as you get home. Make sure to keep your head elevated with multiple pillows propped underneath your knees. An elevated torso helps expand the lungs, decreasing the likelihood of respiratory issues caused by post-op tummy tuck complications. It also relaxes the skin on your belly, alleviating pain and improving blood flow.
  • Use Compression to Your Advantage: Wearing compression garments at all times is one of the most important things you can do during your recovery time. Purchase one in advance and include it within your essential tummy tuck post-op supplies.
  • Drain Care: After your surgery, your medical team will place small, thin tubes into your incision to drain excess fluid that builds up. These drains are connected to small bulbs, where fluid collects. You'll have to clean these bulbs frequently to prevent fluid from building up.

Be sure to follow your drain pump instructions diligently, especially during the first days after surgery. Fluid accumulates rapidly within the beginning phase of your post-op tummy tuck recovery, so empty your drain pump whenever it's full, and be sure to record the amount of fluid each time.

Tummy Tuck Scar Care Day 1

In the first few days, your incision will remain red while the body works to close the wound. During this time, keep pressure off the area and clean it as directed by your surgeon.

What to Expect Week 1 Post-Op

The first couple days after your abdominoplasty are typically the most uncomfortable, as your movements will still be very limited. However, following the doctor's post-op instructions closely can help heal the incisions more quickly and prevent deep scarring.

Possible Side Effects

Once you've made it through your first day, expect the following symptoms during your tummy tuck one week post-op:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Sensation of tightness
  • Skin numbness

Tips for Care Week 1 Post-Op

A few tips to keep in mind during the first week of healing are:

  • Drink plenty of fluids: Staying hydrated is crucial for tummy tuck recovery, as it'll help reduce swelling, flush out toxins, and alleviate any disrupted bowel movements due to medications you may be taking.
  • Always wear your compression garment: Your compression garment is your new best friend until your doctor gives you the green light to stop wearing it. It's important to continue wearing it to minimize swelling and maximize the results of your tummy tuck. However, make sure to remove it when showering.
  • Do not shower until the drains are removed: You won't be able to shower until the drains are removed completely by a doctor or nurse 5-10 days after your surgery.
  • Take your medications and use an ice compress: Keep using an ice compress and pain medications to reduce sustained discomfort and swelling.
  • Walk for a few minutes each day: Your doctor may suggest moving around slightly once you're able to improve circulation and blood flow and prevent blood clots.
  • Avoid sodium: If you can, try to maintain a low sodium diet full of fruits and veggies, as excess consumption of salt can cause your body to retain more water and bloat.

Tummy Tuck Scar Care Week 1 Post-Op

Be sure to avoid any reaching, bending, or extraneous activities within the first three weeks of healing to prevent the incision wounds from reopening.

What to Expect Week 2 Post-Op

The second week following your surgery, your wound will continue to heal, so be patient with your recovery time. You should also be able to see noticeable progress on your incision healing.

Possible Side Effects

Two weeks after your surgery, you may find that:

  • Pain is lessened
  • Swelling is more minimal
  • Bruising is starting to fade

Tips for Care Week 2 Post-Op

As you enter week 2 of your abdominoplasty recovery, use the tips below to keep your healing on track:

  • Get moving: Walk around the room at least three times a day, making sure not to strain your incision, for lung expansion, muscle movement, and improved blood flow.
  • Keep your compression garment on: Continue to wear your compression garment at all times unless you're showering.
  • Shower carefully: When you shower, make sure not to rub your incisions too hard. Doing so can cause them to open.

Tummy Tuck Scar Care Week 2 Post-Op

Start your tummy tuck scar removal before the scar forms, widens, or thickens. embrace® Active Scar Defense can be applied as soon as the incision is closed and dry, which is typically between two to four weeks after surgery—the earlier you treat, the better the results.

What to Expect Week 3 Post-Op

At three weeks post-op, many patients have already returned to work and stopped taking their prescribed medication. However, don't feel rushed if you're not ready yet. Continue speaking with your doctor about what's best for you.

Possible Side Effects

You should begin to feel improvement by three weeks post-op tummy tuck. During this time:

  • Pain is lessened
  • You may be able to stand straight
  • Swelling and bruising is minimal
  • Numbness may still be present
  • Incisions are healing normally

Tips for Care Week 3 Post-Op

While you may feel almost normal, continue to follow your doctor's recommendations and the tips below to not derail your healing.

  • Keep up with compression efforts: Wear your compression garment at least half of the time, removing only when needed to shower or bathe.
  • Avoid lifting: Don't lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk to avoid stretching the skin and placing undue strain on your abdomen.
  • Let your body be your guide: Don't push it if your body is resisting. You may be able to move more freely, but be careful not to overdo it.

Tummy Tuck Scar Care Week 3 Post-Op

If you began using embrace® Active Scar Defense, it should be replaced every ten days with new dressings. When removing embrace®, use baby oil to loosen the adhesive and peel the dressing away from the skin slowly. Then, allow the skin to breathe for around 12 to 24 hours before replacing the dressing.

Woman basking in sunlight

What to Expect Week 4 Post-Op

Week four post-op is generally the halfway mark for many patients. By week four, you can begin exercising lightly, return to your normal diet, and drink alcohol again in moderation. At this point, you should also be able to see some of the results of your tummy tuck.

Possible Side Effects

Four weeks post-op tummy tuck will see you feeling stronger and more restored. During this time, you'll likely find:

  • Reduced pain and swelling
  • A healing ridge or hardness may form around the wound
  • Your body will be able to stretch more easily

Tips for Care Week 4 Post-Op

Use the tips below to help you recover past the halfway mark:

  • Going back to work: You should be okay to return to work, as long as it's not a physically demanding job, but speak to your doctor first.
  • Compression care: You no longer need to constantly wear the compression garment.
  • Don't rush into exercising: You may be excited to start up your workout routine again, however, this must be done gradually. Rushing into a vigorous exercise program can hinder all the progress you've made so far.

Tummy Tuck Scar Care Week 4

Reapply our scar removal products as necessary to continue treating your tummy tuck scarring. It's important to continue this treatment for the full 60 days to get the best results possible.

What to Expect Week 8 Post-Op

You should feel significantly better two months after your surgery, although your body is still going through the healing process.

Possible Side Effects

Your tummy tuck two months post-op should leave you experiencing little-to-no side effects, meaning pain should be gone, scars are healing nicely, and swelling is gone or minimal. This varies on a case by case basis, but many are able to enjoy life as normal again.

Tips for Care Week 8 Post-Op

As mentioned, your body is still recovering, so take it easy and apply the following tips to your post-op healing:

  • Be patient: It could take between three to six months to see the final effects of your tummy tuck, and for some patients, it may be a full year before the healing effects of embrace® Active Scar Defense are complete.
  • Practice healthy habits: A tummy tuck is only effective with weight management, so be sure to follow a healthy diet and exercise plan.

Tummy Tuck Scar Care Week 8 and Beyond

The first eight weeks following your surgery are the most important for scar prevention, and embrace® offers visible results in as little as four weeks. However, it's important to remain committed to your scar treatment and reapply as necessary.

What to Expect 1 Year Post-Op

By following the right tummy tuck post-op instructions and using clinically-proven scar treatments like embrace® Active Scar Defense, you can expedite the healing process—and get beautiful results. While the results of a tummy tuck may vary from person to person, you should be able to see the full outcome of your tummy tuck procedure and postsurgical efforts after one year. This is an exciting time, so take a look at your before and after photos. Before and after tummy tuck scar revision pictures can motivate you to stay in shape and keep your abdominal muscles lean.

Woman in white under-garments looking in mirror.

Using embrace® Active Scar Defense for Post-Op Care

Among the biggest post-op tummy tuck concerns is scarring. Because the procedure both tightens the abdominal muscles and removes excess skin, surgeons must make rather sizable incisions. After surgery, if the skin is pulled and tension rises, collagen will build up near the incision site and form dark, thick scar tissue.

To prevent tummy tuck scars, you must address the root cause of scarring: tension on the wound. embrace® Active Scar Defense is clinically proven to reduce and prevent scarring by relieving this tension following surgery. Whether you're six weeks post-op or five months post-surgery, here's how to use embrace® Active Scar Defense to minimize the visibility of scars:

  1. Clean the incision site with soap and water, then wipe it down with rubbing alcohol and let it dry.
  2. Ensure the area is as flat as possible; this may require you to lie on your back during application.
  3. Gently open the applicator and center the dressing over the scar. Press and hold the dressing on the skin, and rub each of the vertical bands on the applicator.
  4. Hold the applicator firmly in place, then pull one tab to the side while maintaining pressure; repeat this step with the second tab.
  5. Before removing, rub each of the vertical bands one more time.
  6. Smooth out any air bubbles for even application and repeat with subsequent dressings across the scar.

If you're worried about post-op tummy tuck scars, embrace® Active Scar Defense is the only product clinically proven to prevent scar tissue formation through tension relief. It's easy to apply and gentle to remove and significantly reduces the appearance of scars less than six months old. Read our reviews and see why doctors and patients alike recommend embrace® tummy tuck post-op treatment.