Getting back on your feet the right way after a tummy tuck
The road to recovery from any surgery can be frustrating, and tummy tuck surgery is no different. You may have been surprised to hear how long the recovery process will take and be a bit anxious about your ability to manage it. Generally, I find that it’s easy to be most afraid of the unknown, and often people don’t tell you about what will happen “after.” However, armed with some knowledge and preparation beforehand, you’ll know what to expect and can plan for an easy and successful recovery. Soon, you’ll be ready for beach gatherings and slinky dresses, but first, a bit of a rest.
Tummy Tuck Recovery Time
The first days home
When you first come home the day of your surgery, you’ll probably immediately notice things are rather uncomfortable. With the skin on your stomach pulled taught and the soreness and pain from surgery, you’ll be walking in a bent over L shape for at least a week or more. Go slowly!
Take it easy on yourself and don’t be alone. Let your support person help you when you need to use the bathroom or move around. I know this can be so difficult, but injuring yourself at this stage is just not worth it. A note to all those moms out there – resist the temptation to pick up those kiddos or join in on enthusiastic hugs. Lifting and any sort of strenuous movement is a huge no-no as you recover. Wait for your doctor to give you the all-clear first.
Also, be sure you understand your after-care instructions, especially regarding your medication and any drains that may have been inserted into the wound area. While it is difficult, try to walk around at least a little bit every few hours. This keeps your blood circulating and can decrease the likelihood of a blood clot forming. If you have any questions or concerns about what is “normal” at any time during your recovery, contact your doctor’s office. Make sure you keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor so they can monitor your recovery and let you know when you can up your activity level again. It generally takes a few weeks before you’ll be back on your feet. Prepare for this in advance and have some quiet activities like reading, knitting or several binge-worthy shows waiting on Netflix before your surgery.
My First week Home After Tummy Tuck
Truthfully the first week was awful. Well, the first few days were awful and every day it DID get better but looking back, that first whole week sucked. I can’t even remember HOW I got home or in the house, although my husband said I walked. My doctor had sent home these things that went on your legs to help circulate your blood for a few days and help prevent blood clots.
I also had to wear a tight wrap, had a drain on my lower right side and stayed propped up by about 7 pillows when I was on the bed. I ended up sleeping in a zero gravity chair for about 10 days, but more on that later. I think the first few days are the worst because you are battling tightness, you cannot stand up straight at all and any amount of movement hurt my upper AND lower muscles.
Laughing hurt, coughing hurt, SNEEZING WAS THE WORST.
(tummy tuck pictures Post Op Day 1)
The first time I had to pee after surgery I thought it might be better to just get diapers.
I literally just stood over the toilet to pee, which by the way is a good tip. Pee like a dude for the first few days. Pride…gone. Sitting down meant standing up and I learned pretty quickly to limit my usage of abs. My husband had to help me remove my clothes for about 2 days any time I needed to use the restroom or get in the shower. This is also going to sound crazy, but I used a walker the first week as well and it really helped me feel a lot more stable and be more independent getting from the bed to other areas in the house.
I had not bought one prior to surgery but my husband brought one home and it ended up being used quite a bit.
Stay on your meds!
Keeping on the pain meds, stool softeners, muscle relaxers, vitamins, and whatever else your Doctor asked you to do is very important. Throw that whole “toughing it out” thing out the window. I slept for a good 4-5 days, in and out of watching TV and falling back asleep. Your body just went through something major and it needs recovery time. I thought, since I worked from home and have an office here, that I could be back at my desk pretty quick. I could…but NOT the first week.
You will absolutely need to take the time off. I had a few moments where I thought I was getting better (and I was) but then I had a set back of pain or exhaustion. Do not over do it!
The surprise about Lipo
I had lipo of my flanks in conjunction with my tummy tuck. It helped transition the area a lot more smoothly. What I didn’t expect was how bad it hurt! My tummy tuck incision area hurt the least, my muscle repair hurt the second, but that lipo…I was way under prepared for the swelling, numbness and bruising. While I do believe lipo is a necessary evil to make all this worth it and wouldn’t have it any other way, it was probably the worst part of recovery.
I am going into week 4 at the time of this article and I am still slightly swollen on my lower back and still numb.
(lipo picture Post Op Day 4)
(lipo picture Post Op Day 6)
(lipo picture Post Op Day 9)
(lipo picture Post Op week 4)
Prior to surgery, drains were my biggest fear. I did a lot of research on a drainless tummy tuck. To be honest, my fears were unfounded. I had one drain that came out on my right side and stayed clipped to my wrap. The drain had to be emptied during the day. My spouse took care of it the first few days and after that, I did it. I noted the drainage the last few days prior to my follow up appointment and as the fluid had slowed down, the Dr. removed the drain.
Removing the drain was WEIRD. There really is no way to describe it. The doctor clipped the drain at the site, then pulled the tube out. I could feel the tube slide over my abdominal muscles, but it did not hurt. There was a small hole where the drain site was that closed within a few days. It’s now a small scar that I am treating and will fade over time.
(tummy tuck pictures Post Op Day 4)
At some point, you’ll get rather bored sitting around. Your body will start to swell, and you’ll get frustrated. About two weeks in you will also wonder if you will ever be able to walk upright again.
Hint: You will.
This stage of recovery, regardless of what type of surgery, is the most challenging mentally. It’s usually a good sign; it means you’re starting to heal, and your body is adapting. This is the time when it is most crucial that you closely follow your doctor’s instructions about exercise, activity, and diet. It can be easy to overdo it physically, languish in unhealthy foods, and feel a bit lonely and isolated. I think I ate more Oreo’s this week than I have my entire life.
Use this time to take gentle walks around your house and start to get back to your normal routine. Rest when you feel tired and listen to your body. Give yourself time and space to heal – enduring this short period of time is worth it. Week two felt like 10 weeks laying around. I thought it had been FOREVER.
I wanted to make dinner.
I wanted to go on walks.
I wanted to do ANYTHING.
You can do those things but do not be surprised if they suck more energy out of you than you realize. Enjoy the down time. I kinda miss watching Friends all day now that I am back to work.
I did try driving week 2 and my back hurt too much, so I decided not to drive anymore that week.
Otherwise known as “swell hell” in the online tummy tuck community, swelling is just part of recovery. To help alleviate this, you will wear a wrap for several weeks before your doctor will allow you to change to compression garments like Spanx. Many women also wear fajas, but I personally have not moved to heavy compression. I have followed instructions on the wrap given by my Dr. but when the Doctor says I can kick it all to the curb, I will. The entire reason I had a tummy tuck was to get rid of those!
I have went through several types of garments and the ones I like the most is the wrap my doctor office sent me home with and boy short spanx. I also wore compression socks a week after surgery and liked these ones the best. I experienced the most swelling in the first few weeks and now it appears to be fading.
Week 3 after Tummy Tuck: Getting back to normal
After a few weeks, I was ready to get back to my office. I started transitioning in the middle of week two, but it took about 3 weeks before I could sit and work a full day without any issues. This is the week I was also able to stand up straight again. WOO HOO! Unfortunately this was also the week my sutures decided they did not want to self dissolve and began making their way to the surface of my scar and busting through.
My former clean nicely healed scar is now a bit of a mess with redness and my doctor had to cut them out, which was super un-fun. He assured me its a normal complication and the scar should still heal normally. If it doesn’t, he will visit a scar revision in about 8 months. I will blog about my scar at a later date when it has a chance to heal more.
(tummy tuck post op day 20)
With the exception of the stitch abscess, all is well. I am doing most things normally, I can stand up straight, I can shop and drive. My lower back is still numb, slightly swollen and slightly bruised. My scar is very red still due to the stitch issue. I will update about that in the near future. Also these lines on my stomach around my belly button waistline are not stretch marks or surgery lines, they are just from my compression garment over night. 🙂
I will also mention here that as your numbness goes away at your incision site and your back/sides, your nerves start to fire off and it pings and itches all to heck. Its like an itch you cannot scratch. I will probably miss that the least!
Tummy Tuck Before and After
So its only been a month, but here are my before and after pictures:
- Starting weight 122 pounds pre-surgery, 28 inches
- Current weight 120 pounds, 28 inches
I know it seems like my waist should have gotten smaller. Swelling made it bigger (got up to 33 inches) and it’s just now back to where it was. I am assuming it will get a bit smaller in the coming months but if it doesn’t, I am still pleased.
All that pain…are you happy you did it?
I wanted to be clear that this is not a totally easy road and not undersell the amount of change your body will go through. There is soreness, swelling, aching, complication risks, expense, time off of work and flat out pain. That being said…I would do it again. And again. And AGAIN! From the minute I was laying there bandaged up on day 1, I knew I was thrilled. Any time I am having a moment wondering when I will be normal again, I look in the mirror and realize that my new normal is FAR better.
Pain is fleeting and managable. I could not be more happy with my decision and wish I had had the courage to do it 5 years ago.
And for you?
No more will you have to worry about what feels like piles of extra skin hanging off your body. No more buying a size bigger than you actually are to accommodate “the belly.” No more mandatory one-piece swimming suits! One day you’ll look back at the anxiety and discomfort associated with your tummy tuck and wonder what you were so worried about. Ideally, you’ll be too busy getting the most out of your life to ever give your “before” pictures a second thought.
I’m already there.
For those interested in my Dr., I live in the Daphne/Fairhope area in the Alabama Gulf Coast. My surgeon was Dr. Koehler from Eastern Shore Cosmetic Surgery. I have been very pleased and look forward to updating again in 2 months.
Questions on my surgery or recovery? If the comments are closed on this article and you have a question, feel free to reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org