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 39

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.

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

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 71 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

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
4.7 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
4.8 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

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
4.3 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Arm lift recovery and scars

During the post-op recovery period you'll likely be given specific written insutructions depending on your specific case but arm lift surgery is generally well tolerated. You'll need someone to drive you home after surgery and someone to stay with you for the first 48 hours. You'll be fairly sore for the first few days and will need bed rest with your arms elevated, avoiding movement as much as possible for the first 10 to 14 days following surgery.

Your plastic surgeon will follow your recovery closely and recommend the level of activity you may resume at the appropriate time, but be prepared to have limited movement of your arms for up to 4 weeks. Most patients are able to resume all regular activities between 4 and 6 weeks after undergoing brachioplasty.

During your initial consultation your board certified plastic surgeon will evaluate your specific needs to help you determine which type of arm lift is best suited for you. The incision length and pattern will depend upon the amount and location of excess skin to be removed to give you the best looking results. As such, the scarring will depend on your specific procedure details. Common types of arm lifts include:

* Invisible Arm Lift - removes excess skin at the crease of axilla (armpit) and results in a short scar (this is usually combined with liposuction of the upper arm.

* Traditional Arm Lift - removes excess skin and fatty tissue, the incision is placed on the inside of the arm or on the back of the arm and extends to just above the elbow.

* Extended Arm Lift (or Thoracic Lift) - removes excess skin and fatty tissue that is on the side of the chest, axilla, and upper arm. The incision is like the traditional arm lift except that it is extended from the arm all the way down the side of the chest.

Ricardo L. Rodriguez, MD
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 88 reviews

Arm Lift (Brachioplasty) Recovery

An upper arm lift or brachioplasty is essentially the removal of excess fat and hanging skin from the arm . This defomity sometimes referred to as "bat wings" can be addressed in a variety of ways. In carefully selected patients, liposuction alone may suffice if the problem is excess fat.

When Vaser Utrasonic Liposculpture is utilized there is a significant shrinking of the offending skin. Any remaining skin can often be removed by an hidden underarm (axillary) skin removal which obviates the need for a full length arm scar to the elbows.

As the type of brachioplasty procedure is tailored to your unique needs and desires recovery times vary. Typically a compression dressing is worn for several days. Compression helps limit the amount of swellings and guards against more serious complications like hematomas and seromas .Scarring is variable and depends on the patients ability to heal.

Most patients are able to get back to a desk job 5-7 days after surgery, but no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for 3-4 weeks

Brachioplasty recovery

We recommend limiting strenuous activity for 2 weeks. You can go back to a desk job after about 5-7 days but are limited with arm movement. Scarring will be minimal eventually but you need to give it time to heal.

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.