Generally speaking, operations that involve the muscles, bones or joints tend to be more painful operations that involve only the soft tissues. The soft tissues are usually not involved with necessary movement and are not weight bearing. A breast lift traditionally does not involve bones, joints or muscles and thus tends to be relatively well tolerated. This is especially true if a good support bra is worn to prevent movement of the breasts after surgery.
A breast lift and a breast augmentation are really two different operations and have different levels of pain associated with them. Of the two procedures a breast lift is often the less painful especially when the breast augmentation is done by placing the implants under the chest wall muscle (pectoralis major). Nevertheless, it is sometimes better to place the implants underneath the muscle in order to achieve the best cosmetic result.
The best way to minimize pain and discomfort after either a breast augmentation and/or breast lift is to follow your surgeon’s advice. He or she has a lot of experience in managing postoperative pain. Take pain medications as needed and do not wait too long to take the medication. Sometimes instead of taking two pills every four hours better relief can be achieved by taking one pill every two hours. Support the breasts with an appropriate bra to minimize movement (often a good sports bra will suffice). And use ice packs as much as possible during at least the first four days. Ice packs will minimize swelling and this in turn will make it more comfortable. If the implants are placed underneath the muscle, discuss with your surgeon the option of taking a muscle relaxing medication. This can decrease muscle spasm that can occur during the first week from the muscle being stretched over the implant.
Finally realize that the pain is temporary – usually only a few days. These operations are in general much less painful than most surgeries. I’ve performed this procedure thousands of times and no woman has ever had intolerable pain and no one has ever regretted the procedure because of the recovery. It is a short-term recovery for a lifelong improvement in appearance.