Tummy tuck patients at my Columbia practice are usually more worried about the recovery process than anything else, so I thought I’d share some tips that patients have shared with me over the years to ease this sometimes uncomfortable period.
Of course, I provide patients with detailed postoperative instructions regarding care for their incisions, medication information, and so on. But this is a list of insider insights you may not have considered:
- Get in shape before surgery. Patients who exercise regularly and are used to strenuous activities tend to bounce back faster after a tummy tuck. Abdominoplasty isn’t a substitute for exercise or a healthy lifestyle, so it’s great to make exercise a lifelong habit. Healthier before surgery means healthier after surgery.
- Eat something light the day before the surgery. Mexican food, steak and potatoes, or a greasy burger don’t qualify as light. Your doctor can give you more details about any special dietary restrictions.
- After surgery, be patient. Seriously, just relax. Healing following a tummy tuck takes some time. Yes, it varies from patient to patient, but rest assured that you won’t be running around doing the things you’re used to doing for at least 2 weeks. It’ll be a week before you can stand up straight and may actually be 3 weeks before you really feel like resuming normal activities. Don’t expect to hit the gym for a month or more, and then ease back into your routine.
- Don’t do too much, but don’t do nothing. It’s actually important to move around starting the day of surgery to promote good circulation, which is a key to healing. Plan lots of light, short walks.
- Enlist help. First, take care of all the chores you can before surgery, because afterward, you’re going to need help lifting laundry baskets and washing dishes. Make sure you’ve got some loved ones lined up to pitch in.
- Be prepared. Have magazines, books, a tablet, DVDs, a TV remote, and anything else you believe is essential on a bedside table before you leave for surgery.
- Make sure those DVDs aren’t too funny. Belly laughs can be painful.
- Don’t clothes shop too soon. Although most of your swelling will fade after a couple of weeks, you can expect your pants size to continue shifting slightly for months. So don’t buy a whole new wardrobe until you’re stable.
- Avoid your scale for at least 2 months. Patients who expect to drop weight right after tummy tuck surgery are usually disappointed initially. That’s because swelling and fluid retention last for several weeks, and that’s reflected when you weigh yourself.
- If you have toddlers, don’t pick them up no matter how much they whine. Lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds isn’t a good idea and may reopen your incision. An easy alternative: Have them snuggle next to you on the couch or bed.
- Incisions continue healing for as much as 3 months. Minimize scarring by using silicone gel strips. Because tension is the primary reason scars develop, avoid stretching the abdominal area as much as possible. Once you are healed and ready to don a swimsuit, be sure to put sunscreen on any portion of the incision that isn’t covered. You should be wearing sunscreen anyway, but it’s especially important on your scars if you want them to fade.
Do you have any questions about recovery? Leave them for us in a comment below.