Arm Lift Recovery

I'm thinking about an arm lift and just wondering what to expect. What's the recovery like after the arm lift? What can I expect in terms of downtime and scarring?

Doctor Answers 37

Arm lift recovery

I often explain recovery in stages:
1)  Discomfort - you may have a several days of discomfort that requires narcotic support.  This can be minimized with the use of pain pumps or injectable numbing medications like Exparel
2)  Swelling/bruising - this may linger for 2-3 weeks with each week showing less swelling/bruising than the previous week
3)  Activity restriction - you should refrain from stretching the arms, or any heavy lifting/exercise for 6 weeks.

Arm lift recovery expectations

Arm lift procedures should be tailored to your unique needs and desires. Patients with less contour issues may only require liposuction with laser therapy or armpit incisions to reduce skin laxity. The downtime and recovery for those procedures is minimal, most patients are back to work in several days and resume normal activity in 10-14 days. More extensive soft tissue laxity requires a formal brachioplasty, typically with placement of operative drains and minimizing heavy activity for several weeks while the tissue heals. The scar from this procedure usually heals nicely but can be prominent in some individuals. Postoperative scar therapy can help to minimize scar formation. Be sure to discuss your concerns with your board certified plastic surgeon.

Andrew Goldberg, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Recovery of an arm lift (brachioplasty)

The recovery is proportional to the extent of the surgery.  If you have had major weight loss and are having a brachioplasty with an elbow to armpit incision, then you need more time.  In our practice, arm lift surgery is not one that patients qualify as painful, and most patients are off pain medicine within 5 days. The scar is long, and the final result can be somewhat unpredictable. The scar goes from armpit to elbow and we aim to place it in a relatively inconspicuous place.  Most patients feel it is a good trade off to remove all the excess skin, even when the scar is somewhat thick.   How much time off you need depends entirely on your line of work. Consulting in person with a board-certified plastic surgeon with post-weight loss plastic surgery will give you the best answers. 

The link below shows a fully healed brachioplasty (arm lift). 

Heather J. Furnas, MD
Santa Rosa Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Brachioplasty (arm lift) recovery

The recovery for an arm lift (brachioplasty) is different for each patient.In my practice I tell patients they will be in a compressive dressing for about 2 days.There are dissolvable sutures, but we typically put in a few “anchor” sutures about every 2-3 inches that come out at 10 days.There are steri-strips on the incisions that should not be removed for 5-7 days.We ask patients to avoid heavy lifting for about 10-14 days.After the incision is healed, patients can resume normal activities.It is about 4-6 weeks before patients are feeling 100% “normal” again.

Arm Lift Recovery

What I tell my patients always is if you follow the indications properly especially the first week everything should go smoothly from there. The indications I recommend to my patients to follow are , to limit yourself to minimal activities at least for 10 days and no lifting heavy object for a month. As for driving approximately 10 days also. The use of the bandages or garment is very important this is to prevent serious complications like hematomas, seromas inflammatory liquid that could accumulate. Some stitches will be removed in 10 days after the surgery, others are not necessary. The scar tends to diminish in 6 months. I recommend this surgery it has a amazing results and patients leave very satisfied. 

Hope this helps !


Luis Suarez, MD
Mexico Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 40 reviews

Recovery After Arm Lift Surgery

A brachioplasty is essentially an upper arm lift. In this procedure, the excess hanging skin and fat in the upper arm is removed. Its the procedure used to correct the common "bat wing" of skin that manifests in patients who have lost a significant amount of weight.   Most of my patients are able to get back to a desk job 5-7 days after surgery.  However, I recommend no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for 3-4 weeks.   If an upper trunk lift is involved, I may recommend holding off working out (heavy lifting/strenuous activity) for 5-6 weeks.  I generally recommend compression garments for about 3-4 weeks after surgery.

Arm Lift Recovery

This is a very satifying surgery and has a short recovery for the gains you get.  Most of my patients need about 2-3 days of recovery and are back at work as long as it is a desk job at about 3-5 days.

Arm movement at the shoulder is restricted for the first 4 weeks.  After that there are no restrictions.

Good luck.

Farbod Esmailian, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 65 reviews

Arm Lift Recovery

Hello and great question. Arms lifts are performed as an outpatient surgery (you go home after surgery). The total time you are in the operative room (including anesthesia, prep time, and surgery) is 2 to 2.5 hours.
Arm lifts are a great procedure and significantly improve the “hanging” skin and “tighten” the skin of the arm. The easiest way to think of this procedure is that we (the surgeons) are tailoring the skin on your arm. If you have a shirt that has excess fabric and you want the excess fabric taken in; then you would need to place a seam (also known as a dart) to do it. An arm lift has the same requirements. In order to take in the excess skin and tighten the remaining skin a incision or scar (or you can think of it as a seam) needs to be placed along the arm.
How long does the incision or scar need to be? The incision or scar needs to be as long as the length of the excess skin. This can be halfway down the arm for some individuals or the full length of the arm for others. I think this is extremely important; because some individuals will show before and after photos at angles that do not adequately show the scar. Revising the analogy to a tailor: if you went to the tailor and said you wanted the excess fabric taken in on a shirt, but then you told the tailor you didn’t want a seam opened up or a dart made on the shirt then the tailor would say it is not possible.
How noticeable will the scar be? Healing or scarring is an extremely individual process. If you are a person that makes thick or red scars, then there are different treatments we can do to minimize the scars.
What is downtime? The typical downtime is 1 to 2 weeks. During this time, you will have a compressive garment helping to decrease your swelling and further contour your arm. I like the compressive garment to worn at all times (except when showering) for 4 to 6 weeks.
I hope that helps. Best of Luck!

Matthew J. Nykiel, MD
Ontario Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Arm Lift Recovery

Despite an active lifestyle and healthy diet it is not uncommon for people to experience loose, sagging skin anywhere on the body including the underside of the upper arms. Often, the natural aging process, weight loss, and genetics can cause skin to lose elasticity and lead to sagging skin. You candrastically enhance the contour of the upper arms with an arm lift, otherwise known as a brachioplasty. This procedure can eliminate excess skin and fat from the underside of the arms to restore tighter, firmer, and sleeker arm contour.

Although an arm lift procedure requires an incision in the targeted area the incision can be strategically placed in the most discrete location possible that is easily concealed by clothing or the body’s natural shape. Excess skin, fat and tissue are removed from the targeted areas to restore a flatter, tighter figure. Next, liposuction may be performed to eliminate any stubborn fat deposits. The remaining skin is then pulled taut and realigned as needed before closing the incisions with sutures or surgical adhesive tape.

It is common for patients to experience swelling, bruising, and mild discomfort or pain in the treated areas. Ice packs and oral pain medication will help relieve these symptoms during the initial recovery period and any discomfort will taper during the healing process. Individuals undergoing the procedure should plan to take about one week off from work or their daily routine. During this time, it is crucial to avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activity and to get plenty of rest. Your surgeon should provide complete preoperative and postoperative care instructions.

Scott Chapin, MD, FACS
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Recovery after Arm Lift

Thank you for your question regarding arm lifts. There are several different types of arm lifts or brachioplasties. There is the crescent arm lift where a crescent area of armpit skin and fat are removed. The amount of arm skin and fat removed is minimal, however, the scar is hidden in the armpit. There is a full upper longitudinal arm lift where an elliptical area of inner arm skin and fat is removed. The incision extends from the armpit to the elbow. This full arm lift removes much more skin and fat than the crescent arm lift. There is a limited or modified T arm lift. This is a combination of the crescent and the full longitudinal arm lift. There is a moderate amount of upper arm skin and fat removed. There is well hidden armpit scar and a more visible scar that extends down the upper inner arm. The shape of the scar resembles the letter “T”. There is also a full upper and lower longitudinal brachioplasty. In this extensive surgical procedure, an incision is placed from the armpit to the elbow and then extends to the wrist. Upper arm and forearm skin is removed. This procedure is usually reserved for severe cases of upper arm and forearm excess skin and fat.

The recovery from the arm lift is similar for almost all types of arm lifts. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia. Depending on your plastic surgeon’s comfort level and speed and which procedure is being performed, the arm lift can 2- hours. The arm lift is usually an outpatient procedure. Drains are not used usually.

During the first week, my arm lift patients should have their elbows extended and their wrist above their heart level. I do not let my arm lift patients drive for at least 2 weeks. Usually, after 2 weeks, patients can return to desk work. If your work entails a significant amount of lifting, I would suggest returning to work 3-4 weeks after your arm lift.

Post-operatively, I have patients wear ACE bandages from the hands to the arm pit for the first week. Then, if there is minimal forearm swelling, I have patients wear ACE bandages from the elbows to the arm pit for the second week. Once the incision has healed at about 3 to 4 weeks, I have patient wear compression garments from the forearm to the axillae for 6 weeks. While patients are wearing their garments, I encourage silicone strips to minimize scarring. After the garment, I suggest Bio-corneum silicone scar cream.

Good luck with your quest for skinnier arms.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Sincerely, Dr. Katzen

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.