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How Long After Tummy Tuck Does Pain and Soreness Usually Last?

I had a tummy tuck 2 weeks ago. The pain and soreness I feel at the top of my belly just below my chest is the most tender pain in the world. Is this normal?

Doctor Answers (11)

Abdominal pain and nerve recovery after Tummy Tuck

+4

This is not at all uncommon.

When looking at your belly, you see the incision and everbody expects the pain to be down low. Quite the opposite is true due to several factors.

The lower abdomen is actually numb due to the surgical "lifting" of the tissues. However, the nerves of the upper abodmen are relatively more intact making the upper abdomen feel more painful than the lower. The pain in the upper abdomen is usually due to the uppermost repair of the rectus muscles. This will worsen with spasms and may take up to 3 months to ease but is generally worse during the first 10 days.

As the nerves recover, they progress from the outside to the inside (hips toward the belly button) and from the top to the bottom. Sometimes the area immediately below the belly button never recovers completely but that is seldom a problem.

Sensations of " pins and needles" are very common dring the recovery period and tend to be worse if liposuction was performed. This can be most active from 10 days to 3 weeks after surgery. Long term some people report phantom sensations/pain from transposition of the tissues from the upper to lower abdomen. For example you may think your rib cage is itching but you need to scratch your groin area to relieve it.


Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Tummy tuck pain

+2

Upper abdominal discomfort after a tummy tuck is common during the first few weeks after surgery. This is most likely secondary to the plication of the muscles.

Steven Wallach, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Pain after a tummy tuck

+2

 The muscle tightening in the upper abdomen is what is causing the pain.  This is because your ribs make the area tighter and because you are less numb there than in the lower abdomen.  This will improve over the next 4 weeks.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

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Tummy tuck pain can last longer than two weeks

+2

The pain you are feeling is probably normal. Remember that the surgery extended from the low incision all the way up to your ribs. If you had a tightening of your abdominal muscles called a rectus plication, that procedure extended from the breast bone all the way down to your pelvis. The area around your incision is probably more numb than the skin in the upper part of your belly. This to is normal, but may explain why the upper part hurts more; you have more sensation in that area.

While I hope this helps set your mind at ease, I recommend that you share your concerns with your surgeon who can examine you and make sure that there is nothing wrong, just the discomfort of normal healing.

Elizabeth Slass Lee, MD
Bay Area Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Probably normal for a non pain pump case

+2

Hello,

This is the location of the top of your muscular repair. That is the area where things tend to hurt the most after a tummy tuck. It is also the position where a pain pump catheter can really help things. I usually place them at the time of surgery to help control the pain afterward.

The pain gets better slowly, but you should be seeing your doctor who may have specific recommendations for your case.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

So early after surgery

+1
At 2 week safer tummy tuck you are so early after surgery that it is very common to still have pain.  Some pain will be present for months after surgery, although it will be mostly resolved by 4 weeks.

Gary Lawton, MD, FACS
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

How long after tummy tuck does pain and soreness usually last?

+1
Hello! Thank you for your question! Numbness after any surgical procedure is expected for several weeks to months following. As the nerves to the area are traumatized and will then experience a temporary neuropraxia, a transient loss of nerve conduction. This usually resolves over the next 6-12 weeks, but depending on the procedure performed, sometimes much longer. Typically this should resolve by 1 year. As it goes past this date, the likelihood of the sensation returning is small. However, it can take up to 2 years. If no return from there, it is unlikely to return. It should be discussed that persistent sensory changes may develop following any surgical procedure.  Postoperative pain may last for several weeks following the procedure alone.

The usual signs of the nerves regenerating and neuropraxia resolving is itching, followed by a burning sensation and then occasional sharp, shock-like pains. These will be normal to experience, and actually a promising sign. Usually, normal sensation returns, but is is also possible to have decreased sensation or even increased sensation to the areas affected. Re-educating nerves postoperatively is often helpful and will allow proper instruction for the affected sensory nerves - methods include using different textures to the affected areas when showering, bathing, applying lotion, etc. If bothersome, there are some medications that may be helpful, including Neurontin for pain for hypersensitivity. You can try various textures such as washcloths, loofahs, cotton sheets, etc. Massaging the areas is also beneficial for the incision to make the finest scar possible. The last place to regain the sensation will be directly adjacent to the incision/scar as the nerves will make its way from the periphery to this location. If continual pain arises, evaluation is warranted. After ruling out other causes, one rare explanation may be that a neuroma has developed and may require surgical excision. This is very unlikely unless a large sensory nerve has been transected inadvertently during the procedure. Hope that this helps! Best wishes!

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Healing Process Following Tummy Tuck: What to Expect

+1

                  It’s not unusual for patients to experience pain following tummy tuck surgery.  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.  It’s important to consult your plastic surgeon if your continuing to have severe pain two weeks after surgery.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

New Extended Pain relief is possible

+1

A new medication, Exparel, can provide for up to 3 days of post op pain relief for tummy tuck patients.  This decreases the need for post op narcotic pain medications and all the possible side effects of these drugs.  Women are returning to normal activity much quicker and with less pain.

David Finkle, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

Tummy Tuck soreness can usually last between one and four weeks

+1

Tummy Tuck pain and soreness lasts between one and four weeks.  It depends upon so many factors that generalizations are hard to go on.  I have had patients go out walking the very next day, and other's still walking hunched-over a month later.  The factors include: The patient's individual pain tolerance, The patient's motivation to get better, The extent of the procedure, the age of the patient, the weight of the patient, and how fit the patient was before surgery.  There are probably many other factors as well. At The Plastic Surgery Center in New Jersey, we provide pain medication and in some cases can even provide some additional pain management strategies as well.    Most importantly, the surgery and pain management after the surgery need to be individualized on a case by case basis, which is best addressed at the time of consultation.

Michael Ian Rose, MD
Red Bank Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 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.