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How Painful is a Tummy Tuck?

How much pain is involved with a Tummy Tuck as compared to a C-section?

Doctor Answers 12

New Pain relief for Tummy Tucks

There is a new and revolutionary break through in the management of post op pain relief in tummy tuck patients.  A new delivery system for a long acting local anesthetic provides pain relief for 3-4 days after surgery!  The medication is placed at the time of surgery and last for at least 72 hours.  This reduction in pain is leading to faster recovery times for our tummy tuck patients.

Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Tummy tuck and C section are very different procedures

Both surgeries involve cutting through the abdomen skin, fat. The C-section involves cutting through the muscle, entering the abdomen, cutting through the uterus, to then deliver the baby.

A tummy-tuck involves suturing the muscles of the abdomen together to form a tighter abdomen. Recovery for a C-section is different since the patient is also recovering from pregnancy and now has a new child to take care of. It is a little like "apples and oranges." The only real similarity is that both procedures involve the abdomen.

Having said that, most patients seem to indicate that a C-section was tougher to go through, but it is likely due to all the other factors mentioned above.

Sirish Maddali, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon

Tummy tuck pain: The first week is the worse

Dear Demikaz,

There will be some discomfort after a tummy tuck.  Regardless of pain medication or pain tolerance there will be some discomfort after a tummy tuck.  The first week will be the hardest.  Most patients state pain is about 6-7 the first few days to a week and goes down to about 3-4 the second week.  The abdominal binder and good pain meds do seem to help as does the amount of numbing medication that your surgeon places.

All the best,

Dr. Remus Repta

Remus Repta, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 130 reviews

C-section pain is often worse than a tummy tuck

In my experience it's tough to compare the two, simply because a C-section is associated with multiple other variables, including trying to heal while caring for your newborn. In general, my patients say that the pain of a tummy tuck is less than that of a C-section, but both procedures usually require time off from work, help around the house, and pain pills for at least a couple of days.

I actually have discussed this very question with my wife who is an Ob/Gyn, and who agrees it's tough to compare the two. My patients after a tummy tuck usually say it feels like they've done 1000 sit ups, but her patients after a C-section or even a hysterectomy (perhaps a closer comparison) feel pretty wiped out for several days after the procedure.

My short answer: if you're in good overall health, and you got through your recovery after the C-section well, you should not have a problem with the tummy tuck.

Good luck!

Dr. Salemy

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 124 reviews

Pain tolerance varies from patient to patient.

The pain associated with C-sections and abdominoplasty surgery is relatively comparable, but it’s important to realize that differences do exist. When patients are asked, most would agree that the C-section was a more difficult experience and was associated with more pain than the abdominoplasty procedure.
Although it’s not unusual for patients to experience pain following tummy tuck surgery, the vast majority of patients tolerate this pain without difficulty. This pain is usually related to elevation of skin flaps and tightening of the abdominal muscles. In many cases the pain is more severe in the upper abdomen where the rib cage provides resistance against the pull of the tightened abdominal muscles. In addition, the sensory nerves in this location haven’t been divided and are therefore functional.
The pain associated with abdominoplasty is severe in the first 24-48 hours following surgery, but rapidly diminishes with time. We typically use a synthetic Codeine derivative called hydrocodone, which has a decreased incidence of nausea compared to Codeine. We replace narcotic pain relievers with double strength Tylenol as soon as possible following surgery to avoid the potential for drug problems.
Pain tolerance varies from patient to patient following abdominoplasty, but when these steps are taken, most patients do well and tolerate their pain without difficulty.

Post Op Pain

Hi Demikaz:

The perception and/or tolerance to post operative discomfort is patient dependent and therefore, it differs from patient to patient. For the vast majority of patients, oral medication plus with or without muscle relaxants, is sufficient. Nearly every patient is discharged with local anesthetic injected into the abdominal muscle for post operative relief. Frequently, our patients choose to up the ante with a medication called Exparel which extends to relief to three days of so. However, none of the medications effectively rid the patient of the sensation of tightness that is felt when the internal corset is completed to narrow the waistline and flatten the tummy. Lastly, if teh muscle repair isn't needed, it simply isn't performed (which, in many cases, limits both the downtime and discomfort). 

Managing Tummy Tuck's Discomfort

There will be some discomfort after tummy tuck. However, with modern anesthesia and post operative nerve block the pain is rarely significant. Usually after 2 to 5 days, regular oral medication will be sufficient to control the post surgical pain.

Colin Hong, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

Pain with Tummy Tucks

Tummy tuck surgery, like breast augmentation surgery is far less painful today than years ago. Today, plastic surgeons use pain pumps to control pain. 

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 70 reviews

Somewhat less.


 Almost all of our patients in Manhattan who have had both a C section and a tummy tuck tell us afterwards that the abdominoplasty was less painful. But it certainly is uncomfortable.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Pain / discomfort is experienced differently by different people

In general, there is more dissection involved with a tummy tuck than a c-section. However, people experience pain and discomfort differently. In c-section, there is an intraabdominal component to the operation and the fascia is cut. In abdominoplasty, the fascia is plicated leading to tightness. For the first few days after surgery you are going to feel like you had a big operation. However, by the next week, most people are doing just fine. Most patient do not even finish the first prescription of pain medication that I give them. Good luck with your surgery.

David Shafer, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 66 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.