3 Years After Facelift Still Experiencing Strange Sensations and Aching, When will this Subside?

I had a deep plane face and necklift 3 years ago (I also had my nose and upper eyelids done at the same time). I am still experiencing aching, and strange sensations in the sides of my face, temples and up to the top of my head (together with the feeling of a tight band running from under my jaw up to the top of my head...) the whole area has altered?reduced sensation and some areas are numb. Is 'complete' recovery normally such a long process? When can I expect the aching etc to subside?

Doctor Answers 8

3 years after facelift; still experiencing aching and "strange" sensations.

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After 3 years of healing, scar maturation, and nerve regeneration, you are unfortunately in a minority of patients who have not accomodated to their "new normal" after surgical recovery, which in fact IS as complete as it will ever be. There are still things that may be of value here, and this will require a return visit to your surgeon, or consultation with another who is willing to address your concerns. For your part, you must realize that scar tissue and sensory nerve injury associated with surgery is permanent and cannot be "taken back," just as many if not most mothers who have had C-sections note some degree of numbness around their incisions permanently. This goes with any surgery in any location, but you do have several components that may have some addressible value.

One of these is the tight band-like sensation that runs from under your jaw to the top of your head. If your surgeon used a permanent suture to act as a neck-tightening and jawline-defining part of your procedure, this could be cut, released, and the band-like tightness improved. But this will work only if your surgeon used that very specific technique and permanent suture that obviously is still too tight, and will remain so until released. The loss of appearance improvement may actually be worth the improvement in reducing the tightness and aching pain, if that is indeed the cause.

The altered and numb sensations you describe are likely permanent, and passage of more time will not make any additional improvements other than what your mind and awareness can adjust and accomodate to. Desensitizing massage, biofeedback, acupuncture, TENS units, or other options may exist as possibly-helpful options for you to consider. These would be discussed by a pain specialist, neurologist, or physical therapist, in addition to non-traditional medical providers.

You should also read Dr. Steinsapir's thoughtful reply as well. Yours may be a complex situation that would benefit from consultations as he suggests. This does NOT mean you are "crazy" or that your symptoms do not merit serious consideration, but that you may benefit from psychologic techniques or neuropsychiatric medications to help you overcome awareness of these sensations.

If they are "not that bad" and you were just curious, these symptoms don't mean that you have a problem with your healing or any sort of concern to be worried about; it's just that you are in an extremely small subset of patients who remain aware of the normal effects of surgery when most of us get used to them and forget that they are still there. Everything is in different degrees for each patient. Best wishes!

Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 262 reviews

Pain - 3 years after face lift.

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Thank you for your question.

Pain that is reported 3-1/2 years postsurgical face lift is very uncommon. I recommend that you followup with your surgeon as well as your primary care provider. I wish you the best of luck.

3 Years After Facelift Still Experiencing Strange Sensations and Aching, When will this Subside

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At this point what you are feeling will likely be permanent. It could be caused b scarring developing in the tissues and irritating the nerves.

Julio Garcia, MD
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

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3 years post-op

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After three years it is unlikely that any nerve symptoms you still have will fully resolve on their own

Sam Naficy, MD, FACS
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 229 reviews

Aching 3 years after facelift

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Thank you for your question. Chances are, the aching will not change as the recovery period is long enough. This is very uncommon but it DOES happen. I suggest you return to your plastic surgeon for an evaluation.

Unusual but not unheard of result after extensive or even minor facelifting

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There are a very small group of patients who will have prolonged sensory changes after any form of surgery and this includes facelifts.

This can often be helped even at this late date by a neurologist evaluation and perhaps the use of several meds that they commonly will prescibe. Typically you are more likely to get help from a neurolgist than other specialists. 

Dr, Mayl

Fort Lauderdale

Nathan Mayl, MD (retired)
Fort Lauderdale Plastic Surgeon

Aching and numbness after facelift

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I am sorry to hear about the symptoms you are experiencing after your surgery.  These symptoms are not very common, but they can happen after almost any type of surgery.

Plastic surgery, whether cosmetic or reconstructive, involves necessarily cutting nerves and blood vessels.  These tissues heal following a fairly predictable pattern, but with a degree of variability.  Your symptoms persisting after three years falls outside the normal range.

Unfortunately, these symptoms may never go away completely.  There are a number of medications that can make them more tolerable (examples include neurontin, elevil and trazadone).  Talk to your surgeon to see what they can offer.  You may need to seek consultation with a neurologist.

Good luck.

Michael S. Hopkins, MD (retired)
Albuquerque Plastic Surgeon

Commonly there is some altered sensations after a facelift.

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Generally these sensory changes resolve in the first 6 to 12 months after surgery.  Sensory abnormalities that persist after this time frame may be permanent.  In addition to this type of common sensory change after surgery, occasionally there can be somatization associated with the sensory changes.  Essentially one's emotional issues are experienced thorough these altered sensations.  While this statement is an over simplification, these sensory changes can take on emotional meaning.  Since it is easier to treat say depression, it is sometimes useful to explore if these sensory changes have taken on an emotional valence.  It does not necessary fix the sensory changes but it can make it easier to deal with.  A psychologist or neuropsychiatrist can help you with this.  Ask your primary care physician for a referral.

Kenneth D. Steinsapir, MD
Beverly Hills Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 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.