When it comes to an abdominoplasty—commonly known as a “tummy tuck”—the excitement for a sleeker stomach is often coupled with concerns about the post-op process. It helps to know what to expect during recovery. Fortunately, in most circumstances, the recovery process is well tolerated by healthy patients.
It is important to be gentle with yourself, avoid rushing the process, and above all, listen to your doctor (and your body).
To avoid any post-surgery surprises, below are some of the most common questions we field on navigating your tummy tuck recovery and returning to your radiant self.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Tummy Tuck?
The timeline for a tummy tuck recovery varies across patients.
However, as a baseline, most individuals will heal within one to three weeks following the procedure. This is a good time to settle in because your post-op recovery will require some downtime. There are measures we recommend to hasten your recovery, but full recovery in under a week is unlikely.
Depending on your health and medical history, our experienced staff will provide guidelines to enhance the recovery process after surgery. Known as “E.R.A.S,” this includes nutritional support supplements as well as multimodal pain management to minimize opioid requirements.
Your surgeon will likely recommend resting for a few weeks to support healing. Even if you feel ready to return to physical activity, it is critical to avoid rushing back to any pre-surgery routine.
What is the Recovery Timeline after a Tummy Tuck?
Once your procedure is complete, you may want to get back to your regular routine right away. However, it is paramount that you set realistic recovery expectations.
Here are the most important recovery milestones:
- Hours to days post-surgery – You can expect some bumpiness, discomfort, or tenderness at the incision site, and you may have some swelling or inflammation in the skin around it.
- One to two months post-surgery – Some swelling or raised skin can remain for up to two months post-surgery, but afterward, the incision site should be completely healed.
- Three to six months post-surgery – Although some scars may remain visible even after six months, they will be closer to your natural skin tone. Overall slimming and shape improvement should be very good at this point.
- One year post-surgery – About one year after your tummy tuck, the scarring may not be entirely concealed, but it should complement the skin adjacent to it.
Remember, everyone heals at their own pace. Your tummy tuck recovery might breeze by, or certain milestones may take you a bit longer to surpass. If you have any concerns about your recovery process, reach out to our skilled staff for support.
What is the Fastest Way to Recover from a Tummy Tuck?
Your recovery timeline heavily depends on your physiological makeup and overall health at the time of surgery. Still, there are several surgeon-supported suggestions to help speed up the healing process. These include:
- Light walking – Walks during recovery increase blood circulation and facilitate faster healing. Be sure to walk gently, preventing damage to your sutures.
- Minimizing intense physical activity – Avoid any strenuous exercise, such as running, for six weeks after surgery. Wait about eight weeks to return to your usual exercise routine.
- Caring for your incision – We will recommend moisturizers and very effective scar treatment products to support the healing of the incision.
- Staying hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids before and after your tummy tuck. Proper hydration supports cell metabolism and better absorption of the medicine you are taking, ultimately speeding up your healing process.
Beyond these tips for post-tummy tuck care, pay attention to any advice Dr. Herbstman provides based on your specific circumstances—such as whether to use an abdominal pressure garment.
How Long Can I Walk After a Tummy Tuck?
Most surgeons recommend light walking after a tummy tuck. This may or may not be possible in the short term, but it will become easier gradually. Make sure to listen to your body and avoid any intense bouts of walking during your recovery—especially if you are walking alone.
Take plenty of breaks and stop if you notice any pain, fatigue, or discomfort. Or, if you prefer to stay indoors, try a treadmill or indoor track while listening to your favorite music or audiobook.
How Do You Shower After a Tummy Tuck?
Your first few baths or showers post-op may be difficult. If you typically enjoy a longer shower or a stronger water pressure, you may need to adjust in the short term.
Until you’re fully healed, make sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions for bathing, such as:
- Gently removing your dressing before showering or bathing
- Tip: You should leave the steri-strips, or skin tape, on your incision site. They are most likely water-resistant and should come off later on their own.
- Carefully wash, avoiding the wound, with soapy water
- Drying your tender skin through a combination of blotting and air-drying
- Reapply the recommended pads and compression garment.
Keep in mind that the amount of time needed before showering post-tummy tuck will vary.
If your incision was fitted with temporary “drains” to help remove excess abdominal fluids, you will still be safe to shower after 36 hours.
How Long Do You Sleep on Your Back After a Tummy Tuck?
You will need to sleep mostly on your back for at least two weeks after a tummy tuck. Some side sleeping is allowed with additional pillows/padding.
Most surgeons recommend sleeping in a “semi-Fowler” (“beach chair”) position.
To maneuver into this position, lie on your back with your body tilted about 30 to 45 degrees to one side and your legs out in front of you, either flat or slightly bent. This angle may feel slightly uncomfortable at first, but it greatly reduces strain on the tummy tuck incision site—resulting in a smoother sleep.
Additional Dos and Don’ts When Recovering from a Tummy Tuck
The most important “Do” after a tummy tuck is to follow your doctor’s orders verbatim.
Your surgeon’s recommendations will be personalized to your recovery journey and should supersede general advice. Beyond these and the suggestions above, also consider:
- Using the right medication – Ensure you take all medications prescribed by your surgeon to the full term and specifications listed. Avoid adding new medications (or supplements) not recommended by your doctor, as certain drugs can impede healing, delay recovery, and even counteract the tummy tuck medications you are prescribed.
- Applying lots of sunscreen – Slather on some SPF and acquire some UV-protection clothing. To lessen the appearance of your scars in the long term (and help them heal faster), you will need to minimize their exposure to the sun. This is especially important for the first year post-operation.
- Asking questions – The recovery process can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you have never had this kind of surgery before. If you feel uncertain about your post-op process, reach out for advice! Your surgeon is invested in your safe, speedy recovery.
As with any surgery, other keys to swift recovery include timeless essentials of self-care: eating clean foods, sleeping well, and minding your mental health. Your tummy tuck is an act of self-care—one that will lead to more self-assurance and satisfaction in your health and body goals.
Contact a Tummy Tuck Specialist in New Jersey
If you are still on the fence about getting a tummy tuck, rest assured that the healthy lifestyle it catalyzes will make your recovery process worth it. Plus, by following the best practices we outlined above, you will be taking an active role in making it as swift and seamless as possible.
If you live in New Jersey and are interested in a tummy tuck, contact Contemporary Plastic Surgery for more information. With more than 25 years of plastic surgery experience—from patient consultation to full recovery—Dr. Robert Herbstman provides superb, personalized care for patients.