Is Tightness After Tummy Tuck Normal?

I'm a 60-yr old female with good physical health. I had a Tummy Tuck on 5 weeks ago, and now I am having a lot of tightness. One day I think I'm progressing well, and then the next I feel as if I've stepped by several days. I have been wearing a fairly tight compression garment and am uncomfortable without it. I thought I would start feeling better and not as tight as time goes on but haven't. Is this tightness normal at this stage? Also, should I change to a less fitting garment? Please provide any additional suggestion for a speedier recovery. This surgery has really taken its toll on me. I don't seem to be improving as quickly as I feel that I should.

Doctor Answers 31

Too tight or too loose, that is the question!

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Dear Beaches2961,

I'm writing to endorse the excellent comments on your question. I do think that Dr. Rand hit the nail on the head when refering to the age of a tummy tuck as affecting the recovery. My 60+ tummy tucks seem to want faster recovery and notice more subtle changes than my 30+ tummy tucks do. I don't know if this is entirely age related but consider this:

You've lived with your body shape for a long time and your ligaments and muscles are used to a certain function and shape. Your skin has become less elastic and any attempt to 'tighten' it as it was when you were 17 will result in wound healing problems, like wound edge separation, delayed healing etc.

There is a very frequent loss of sensation after a tummy tuck that leads the brain into thinking 'things are bigger, fuller or tighter' than normal (much like when the dentist numbs your mouth making it feel like it's 4x its normal size). Sensory recovery (the rate of nerve function restoration) slows down as we get older, thus these 'feelings' will remain around much longer in the older than in the younger crowd.

This lack of feeling is compounded by normal tissue swelling (interstitial edema) that 'peaks' at about 6-8 weeks and starts to lessen with time. Because of this swelling, my patients love the Lipoinabox garments, which they wear up to 12 weeks 'because they feel so good', specially when they return to exercising... check them out.

Under these conditions, patience is a virtue, but so is Vitamin E, massage, swimming, pilates exercises, whirlpool and hot sauna, surface moisturizing lotions containing aloe, cocoa/shea butter etc.

The worst is behind you, enjoy what's coming up! Happy New Year!

Dr. C

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon

Tightness after 5 weeks is still possible.

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Most abdominoplasties or tummy tucks result in tightness for two different reasons. First, the abdominal wall skin/fat is lifted up to the rib level. The patient is often then sligtly flexed at the waist, the excess skin is remove and the incision is closed. Removal of this excess skin results in the incisional tightness that patients often feel immediately after surgery. It it this tightness that ocassionally prevents patients from standing completely vertical for a day or two. However, the skin will relax and this tightness resolves in just a few days.

Second, during most tummy tucks the rectus or six-pack muscles are stitched together. This "plication" can significantly reduce the intraabdominal volume. This causes the most significant pain and tightness following surgery. The fascia or tissue covering the muscle that is stitched is much less forgiving than skin and therefore does not stretch, which is the point.

It is very common for patients to feel this thightness even after 5 weeks. Remember, your body was used to the old abdomen; it will take some time to get used to the new one.

Hang in there and enjoy the look of the new you.


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Tightness at your stage is relatively par for the course, and is most likely due to the ongoing healing of the muscular repair (although this assumes you had muscle tightening performed).

The tight feeling you are experiencing usually begins to loosen up a bit after 2-3 months, but don't be surprised if you continue to feel an occasional pulling feeling with certain movements of your body for the first 6 or 7 months. This is caused by stretching of the scar tissue formed under your skin with these movements- it's nothing to be alarmed about, but I always prepare my patients for it so they aren't alarmed by the experience. Again, this assumes you had muscle tightening performed- ask your surgeon about the technique and whether this is normal for the type of surgery performed.

Hang in there- the recovery can be a bit difficult and lengthy, but I'm sure you'll love the new you in the mirror when it's over!

Happy Holidays!

Stop wearing the Garment

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Tightness after 5 weeks is not abnormal. You want to have tightness, that is the purpose of your tummy tuck. Feeling more tightness after 5 weeks may indicate some inflammation or increased activity and contraction of the muscle. A tight garment at 5 weeks only causes irritation and has little benefit. A comfortable garment will help reduce discomfort and reduce swelling of the skin and fatty tissue.

If there is redness or increased swelling at 5 weeks, you should contact your doctor and let them know about the change. This could be a sign of infection.

If none of these signs are present, contact your Plastic Surgeon. They will most likely recommend anti-inflammatories, such as Motrin or Aleve. At 5 weeks, the chance of any bleeding from this medication is essentially zero.

Have a Merry Christmas and feel better.

Tightness is expected and even desired after Tummy Tuck

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As you are aware the tummy tuck procedure involves tightening the muscle/fascial layer which flattens the anterior abdominal wall. Additionally, when the fat/skin layer of the abdomen is cut out (excised), it is removed in an oval shape. The middle portion of the excised fat/skin layer which is directly above the pubic area is very tight. So the feeling of tightness is expected and even desired.

Try to avoid prolonged standing. We usually instruct our patients following a tummy tuck procedure to massage the operated areas, sweeping upward towards the arm pits. This is repeated for several minutes 5-6 times per day.

In general, compression garments are helpful and are worn by our patients for 5-6 weeks. It would be prudent to make sure it is fitted properly. I would advise that you continue your follow up and address any of your concerns with your plastic surgeon.

I hope your find this helpful!

Stephen A. Goldstein, MD
Englewood Plastic Surgeon

Tightness is normal

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At 5 weeks post tummy tuck, tightness is normal. You might consider wearing a less compressive garment - the Flexie line makes nice ones and is available at Macy's, JC Penny's, and Mervin's. Also, age 60 is a bit advanced for a tummy tuck so it is not surprising to me that you are having a longer recovery than you might have anticipated. It is a big procedure to recover from for sure! There will be good days and not so good days, but the overall trend will be towards normal by the time you get to 2-3 months out.

Tincture of time

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I agree with the vast majority of comments below.

Scars generally build for 6 weeks after any injury and you have just about reached the peak. So tightness at 5 weeks is not unusual

Scars will soften after the following 6 weeks and therefore I tell my patients to allow 6 weeks to pass before things will relax.

If muscle tightening was performed with your procedure, this can add to the sensation of tightness. This can be worse after meals and I find that many of my patients have a sense of tightness and fullness after consuming a meal. This is similar to wearing tight jeans followed by a big meal and then feeling very uncomfortable afterwards.

I have also found that some individuals use their abdominal muscles in fashion that "fights" the repair. This is similar to the bulging of stomach muscles that occurs with stomach crunches. Instead, I highly advise that you pursue a course of core strengthening that is recommended with Pilates or Yoga regimens. This is also excellent for your back which tends to become sore from compensating for bending over to protect your stomach. Exercise, if permitted by your physician, will generally speed your recovery and promote softening of the areas.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Talk to your surgeon

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Patients often feel tight after an abdominoplasty, especially if the muscles have been tightened. The garment/binder also becomes a comfort crutch and patients often become attached and dependent to it. At five weeks, unless there is unusual residual edema or significant liposuction had been performed as well, a tight garment is not necessary. Anything you wear should be mainly for comfort at this time, not compression. Certainly have your surgeon examine to be sure you do not have fluid accumulating under your skin flaps (seroma).

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon

Tummy Tuck Recovery

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Tightness is expected following an abdominoplasty procedure as this procedure tightens your abdominal wall. You can expect to feel that tightness for several weeks. Every surgeon has a post-operative protocol that they feel will work best for their patients. Contact your Board Certified Plastic Surgeon's office to inquire about switching to another garment.  Most of my patients complain for the first 2 weeks...eventually they return and will tell me that the tummy tuck was one of the best things they have ever done. Hang in there!

Christine Sullivan, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Tightness after abdominoplasty

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Providing abdominoplasty is not overdone, tightness in the abdominal wall and overlying skin should gradually go away in 6 weeks or two months. If residual tightening persist, aggressive soft tissue massage and professional physiotherapy including ultra sound should be considered. 

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.