how painful is a mini tummy tuck?

Doctor Answers 9

Pain from a mini-tummy tuck

Hello kpkids1702,

The mini tummy tuck is less painful compared to a full tummy tuck due to the muscle plication, tightening of the abdominal muscles. The pain for a mini tummy tuck can greatly be reduced with the addition of Exparel. Exparel is a long lasting local anesthetic that significantly reduces the pain during recovery from the procedure. It reduces pain for the first 3 days, which typically is the most painful time after a full tummy tuck due to the muscle plication.


Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 65 reviews

How painful is a mini tummy tuck?

Thank you for this important question. 

There is less pain, in general, with a mini compared to a full tummy tuck. I still believe most patients benfit from a strong narcotic pain prescription. However, I prefer to use a multimodal approach to target pain receptors from different directions. My preferred method would be to employ a long lasting local anesthetic (Exparel) to reduce pain sensation significantly. This medication can reduce pain pill usage by 50%. 

Another strategy is for the patient to spend the first night at the surgery facility and treat any discomfort with small doses of fast acting IV narcotics (hydromorphone or morphine). Using a muscle relaxant will also assist in improving the pain experience. 

Another consideration is a short dose of a Cox-2 inhibitor which typically does not increase the bleeding risks and leads to reasonable pain control. Finally, demerol is an option, but has more side effects and is potentially more addictive than some other narcotics already mentioned. I certainly hope this helps, Dr. ALDO :)

Aldo Guerra, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 202 reviews

Pain associated with a mini tummy tuck

It is difficult to predict the degree of pain patients are going to feel since everyone is different. That being said, a mini tummy tuck is generally very well tolerated. The worst pain usually comes from tightening your muscles which is done to a lesser degree or not at all during a mini tummy tuck compared to a full tummy tuck. Also, your surgeon can inject numbing medicine during your surgery to help with the immediate pain once you wake up. I would not let the fear of pain stop you from a mini tummy tuck! Consult with a board certified plastic surgeon to see what is best for you. Good luck!

-Dr. Angelos

Tyler Angelos, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Pain after Mini Tummy Tuck

The majority of the pain from a tummy tuck is from the muscle tightening("plication").  Often the mini tummy tuck does not involve this step so that a mini is usually less painful than a full.  However, it is sometimes possible to tighten the muscles in a mini tummy tuck and in this case the pain approaches that of a full tummy tuck.

Richard J. Restifo, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 106 reviews

Pain associated with mini tummy tuck

Depending on the scope of the surgery and your pain tolerance, the pain will range from tolerable to extremely painful. Consult with an experienced and expert board certified plastic surgeon to understand your options.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

Discomfort level of a mini tummy tuck

Hi kpkids1702.  There are different elements to a mini tuck that determine the level of discomfort.  Some have only skin removed-this will have minimal discomfort associated mostly with the healing incision.  If skin is removed and fat is liposuctioned, there will be some additional aching sensation where the fat is removed.  If muscle repair is done in the lower abdomen, then expect more tighteness in addition to the other discomforts.  Most patients do not require more than 3-4 days max of pain meds.  You will experience limitations in movements for several weeks, and perhaps discomfort with coughing & sneezing, similar actions with an increase in abdominal pressure.  Be sure to consult with your PS to make sure you are a candidate for a mini vs. a full tuck, and review the difference in discomfort level with a full tuck.  Best wishes,

Vaishali B. Doolabh, MD, FACS
Jacksonville Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Pain from mini tummy tuck

Thank you for your question.

Experience of pain for any individual for any procedure can vary widely. I will answer based on the average pain experience of my personal patients although your experience could certainly be different.

In general, operations that involve cutting or manipulation of the muscle to be consistently more painful that those that do not. For example, breast augmentation under the muscle averages more pain than augmentation above the muscle. The addition of any muscle tightening to your procedure will increase your pain post-operatively as well as your recovery time.

A mini tummy tuck is still a significant procedure in that it involves the soft tissues of the entire lower abdomen and you have a long incision to heal. It is a smaller area than a full tummy tuck and thus associated with less pain in general, but it is likely than you will feel pain for several days followed by general discomfort and soreness for several weeks.

There are several strategies to help with post-operative pain including long lasting numbing agents (Exparel) as well as paid medication and muscle relaxants. I have found these to be of great benefit to my patients.

Good luck!

Frederick K. Park, MD
Rocky Mount Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Pain with Mini Tummy Tuck

Dear kpkids1702,

A mini tummy tuck is somewhat of a misnomer in that it leads a patient to think it will be a small, tiny incision. In fact, it needs to go the width of the abdomen to incorporate all the excess or sagging skin and fat. It is very effective at removing the roll below the bellybutton and lifting up the private areas. Typically, there is no muscle repair done with this, and that results in much less pain than a full tummy tuck.

I hope this has been helpful.

Robert D. Wilcox, MD

Robert D. Wilcox, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Pain management options with mini tummy tuck

The pain from a mini tummy tuck depends a lot on whether a muscle repair is done. We have had good results with a medication called Exparel, which is a long acting local anesthetic that is placed into the surgical site. It blocks a lot of the pain for up to 3 days and gets the recovery process off to a good start. Exparel can be placed using a technique called the TAP block, which seems to make it even more effective.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 52 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.