Does Breast Augmentation Hurt?

Doctor Answers 10

Pain After Breast Augmentation Very Subjective: Think Positive!

I have found that pain after virtually all cosmetic surgeries is very subjective. There are a few factors that I believe effect a woman's perception of pain after breast augmentation.  If a woman is "happy" and "eager" before her surgery, she usually has very little pain, and she frequently describes her sensation as "pressure", and not pain. This type of woman frequently takes a dose or two of a prescription pain pill, then either changes to Tylenol, or discontinues oral medication entirely.    If a woman is very "anxious" and "nervous" about her surgery, she always seems to require more pain medication. So preoperatively, I discuss this observation and suggest the patient put herself in a "happy state of mind", so she has a greater likelihood that she will only have "pressure" and not "pain". Sometimes this type of patient can benefit from a prescription of a low dose anti-anxiety medication.  Regardless of which type of patient a woman may be, I always give a pain med prescription, but many tell me they hardly used them.

Another factor that parallels that mentioned above is the current "psyche" of the something bad going on in her life (recent loved one's illness, job uncertainty, etc.), then she may be more likely to be in the "anxious" and "nervous" category, even if it is not the surgery that is causing that mental state.

Of course, one's expectations always adds to a woman's pain perception.  If a woman has a friend that told her it was painful, she will be more likely to have pain. Or if she is told by a friend she doesn't understand why she would want to "have a boob job", that negative opinion can also negatively effect how one perceives post operative "discomfort".   So I always tell my patient to surround herself with friends or family that have "positive attitudes"  toward her decision to have breast implants. 

Finally, there are a few technical factors that may effect post op discomfort.  Some patients that have sub pectoral implants may have slightly more "pain" than those who have sub mammary implants, although I find the "subjective" factors to out weigh the implant position. And post op activities can also have an effect.  I usually restrict my patient's arm movements (i.e., I ask her to keep her upper arms by her chest).  This limits motion of the muscle or of the tissues around the muscle, thereby decreasing the chance for significant pain. After a week, the healing has had significant time to diminish the sensation of the immediate perioperative  discomfort and resuming normal arm motions is not an uncomfortable sensation.

Here's to your "positive attitude" preop and very little discomfort postop!

West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon

Discomfort from breast augmentation varies


Breast augmentation tends to be a "mid-range" operation in the pain department. Really young patients tend to report more pain. Larger implant sizes are associated with more pain as well. Pain is very subjective though. Some patients act like virtually nothing happened afterward. Hopefully, that will be you.

Even in the patients feeling more discomfort, recovery tends to be fairly rapid.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

Hurt is a subjective emotion

Cowgirl (again?),

Pain does have a subjective component to it. Additionally, pain tolerance varies between individuals. One patient will tell me that their breast augmentation hardly hurt at all, while the next may tell me that it was excruciating.

I wouldn't expect to have no pain at all, but if you do have pain, there are medications that can very effectively ease it.

Also, if you are afraid of pain, let your surgeon know and he/she may offer to insert a pain pump (usually at extra cost of a few hundred dollars), which is very effective at limiting your postoperative pain.

A word of caution- you were talking about your children before and getting back to your activities. If your pain control is too good, i.e. you have no pain at all, you might try to do too much and injure yourself or your results.

Be careful and good luck!

Kenneth R. Francis, MD, FACS
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

I Hate Pain

This is a very common question in breast augmentation.  As most Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, including myself, recommend placement of the implants below the pectoral muscle, if no measures are taken, the breast implant surgery could be very uncomfortable.  This is because we have to lift the muscle and actually detach it from the rib cage near the breast bone in order to accommodate the implant.  This can cause significant postoperative discomfort.  However, there are remedies.  I personally like the On-Q pain pump, which is a tiny, little tube that we place at the time of surgery and this will drip Novocain local anesthetic (not narcotic) right onto the muscle and keep the patient quite comfortable.  That way, there is less need for oral pain medication, especially narcotics, which, I believe, should be avoided whenever possible.  The On-Q pain pump has been incredibly successful in relieving postoperative pain in my practice.  Others prefer to use the infiltration of local anesthetic blocks, with great success as well.  The important thing is to find a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon who is sensitive to these issues.  

Richard A. D’Amico, MD, FACS
Englewood Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Pain Management Following Breast Augmentation

It's not unusual for patients to experience pain following breast augmentation surgery. This pain is usually related to elevation of the muscles during sub-muscular breast pocket formation. In addition, spasm of these muscles can contribute to post-operative discomfort as well.

The pain associated with breast augmentation is severe in the first 24 to 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 Tylenol as soon as possible following surgery to avoid the potential for drug problems. We also use muscle relaxants in the immediate post-operative period.

Pain tolerance varies from patient to patient following breast augmentation. If you're considering this procedure, it's important to discuss pain management with your surgeon prior to surgery.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 194 reviews

Breast Augmentation Pain

This is a very common question. During the surgery patients are sedated so they feel no pain at that time. Post surgery there will be some pain during the recovery time, but patients are given pain killers to help with this. How much pain a patient experiences is subjective and depend on the patients pain threshold.

Francis X. Fleming, MD
Kennewick Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Recovery After Breast Augmentation

Thank you for your question. I have included some typical expectations of breast surgery recovery and signs to watch for following breast augmentation:

  • Stiffness, swelling and bruising in the chest region: These are normal experiences as the skin, muscles and tissue heal. Pain medication and muscle relaxants will help you cope with any discomfort. Consistent sharp pain should be reported to your board-certified surgeon.
  • Hypersensitivity of nipples or lack of sensitivity: This is normal and will gradually resolve over time.
  • A mild to severe itchy feeling of the breasts is possible as healing progresses. An antihistamine like Benadryl can help to alleviate severe, constant itchiness. If the skin becomes red and hot to the touch, contact your board-certified surgeon immediately.
  • Asymmetry, the breasts look different, or heal differently: Breasts may look or feel quite different from one another in the days following surgery. This is normal. No two breasts in nature or following surgery are perfectly symmetrical.
  • Discuss returning to work with your board-certified surgeon, in our office it is typically 3-5 days post-surgery but you may not overexert yourself or do any heavy lifting.
  • You may resume exercise and your normal routine at six weeks unless your surgeon advises otherwise.
I hope this information is helpful. I suggest consulting with a board-certified plastic surgeon and they will determine if you are a candidate for breast augmentation. Best of luck!

Brian Coan, MD, FACS
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 58 reviews

Pain from breast implant augmentation surgery

Breast augmentation implant surgery DOES hurt but it varies from patient to patient. I have had some patients take only Tylenol while others have been on potent narcotic analgesics for 6 weeks even when the same procedures were performed.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Breast augmentation

Breast augmentation like any other surgery can cause discomfort. This can usually be controlled with some post operative oral pain medications and usually resolves over 3-5 days.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Breast augmentation is still surgery, but there is a rapid recovery

Everyone experiences some degree of discomfort with any surgical procedure, but it is short lived in breast augmentation. Most all of my patients that undergo breast augmentation have implants placed under the muscle which is better for many reasons including better appearance, less change of implant visibility, better for mammography, and less change of firmness or scarring around the implant.

Most patients experience some "chest tightness" in the first few days which is normal as the body is getting used to the new implants and patients may also experience crampy pains similar to a "charley horse" or muscle cramp one might get from sports.

I give all my patients pain medicine and muscle relaxants for the first few days to help with this. My patients all go home the same day of surgery and I recommend they go out to dinner that evening. They can shower the next day and 85% of my patients are pain free in 3 days. I have many that take Motrin instead of pain medicine and they do great. I think it is a rapid recovery with a high rate of patient satisfaction.

James F. Boynton, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 42 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.