Tummy Tuck Recovery: What to Expect in the First 4 Weeks

Education is the best preparation!  With that in mind, we wanted to give you a realistic idea of what to expect during your tummy tuck recovery. As we tighten your belly muscles, and remove excess skin/fat with this procedure, it’s normal to have discomfort, swelling, and a feeling of tightness. It’s all part of your body’s healing. Preparation is essential and having a recovery plan pays dividends in the first few weeks after surgery.

By the Week Breakdown

Here’s the rundown of the recovery process:

  • Week 1: The hardest part. This is when an extra set of hands is essential—whether it’s a family member, friend, or even someone you hired. Getting in and out of bed, showering, and moving around will be challenging. You will likely walk hunched over to avoid putting tension on your incisions. And your torso will feel really tight. You’ll need lots of help around the house, especially if you have young kids.  Since you won’t be able to drive while on pain medication, you will need a driver! The good news is that your discomfort will be well managed with pain medicine, muscle relaxants, and our in-office treatments like HBO and LED light therapy.  The bad news, sleep will most likely be fitful. 
  • Week 2: You’ll start turning the corner at the beginning of week 2 and feel more like yourself.  Discomfort will only be intermittent. While you may still need assistance around the house and with childcare, you can likely return to most non-physical work duties. You should be able to walk more upright and your belly will feel less tight.  Sleep will be much easier. And you will notice small improvements every day.  Your appetite will return and you will be itching to get your drains out.  Speaking of itching, the incision can start to feel itchy at this time.  That is a good sign of healing but resist the urge to scratch! 
  • Week 3: You should be off pain medicine at his point even though you may still require muscle relaxants after more active days.   Most importantly, you will feel much more like yourself and you will definitely start to turn the corner. Your belly will feel less tight and look less swollen.  Warning: Some people start to swell more here.  It’s hard to predict.  We’ll likely remove any surgical drains, at the latest, by the end of week 3. You can perform your normal daily activities but it’s important to listen to your body.  It is easy to overdo it during this week and pay the price.  Take it easy and just focus on walking.
  • Week 4: You may return to the gym for light exercise, easy weights and cardio. No high-intensity training yet! But you’ll be moving around well and back to most normal activities. Occasional discomfort can persist.
  • Week 6: Most patients are cleared to return to all normal activities and full exercise routines by 6 weeks post-op, though it may take 8 weeks if you had a combo procedure. 

The Pep Talk

The first month of a  tummy tuck recovery is involved.  You will have to rely on other people to help you through and it’s definitely not pain-free. But in our hands, your discomfort will be short-lived. So stay positive and remember, each week gets better. Relying on friends and family for support, using muscle relaxants as needed, and including ancillary treatments like HBO,  will all help you get through the first few weeks intact.  And the equation is simple: planning + preparation + effective post-operative care  = a smooth recovery.  Good luck!