How Long is Breast Implants Recovery Time?

I am a phys ed teacher and would like to get breast implants. I want a very natural look and do not want anyone to know. I am afraid that if I take additional vacation time either before or after winter or spring break, everyone will notice. Is it possible to be back to work after only a week of recovery?

Doctor Answers 213

Recovery after Breast Augmentation

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Dear Geneseo,
Thank you for your post. There are a lot of variables to account for after breast augmentation and what to expect in the recovery process. The following is an outline based on some of these variables:

1. Pain: In general, breast augmentation is tolerated very well. When the implant is placed sub-facial or sub-glandular, i.e. above the muscle, there is very little pain post-operative. The muscle is left in place and in general, when I perform this technique, women have surgery on Friday, and are back to work (as long as they are not lifting heavy objects) on Monday. When the implant is placed sub-muscular, then there more pain and soreness as the muscle has been elevated which is similiar to having a pulled or torn muscle. This creates more swelling and takes longer to heal. In these case, most women take at least a week off of work.

2. Swelling and Size: It is very common to be about a size bigger right after surgery than what your final result will be. Swelling starts to occur right after surgery and tends to peak in the first week. After about a month you will have lost most of the swelling, but still not completely at baseline. After about another 3 months or so, you will have lost 99% of your swelling, but still have a pretty good idea of your final size at 1 month. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on bras until 3 months though, as they might not fit perfectly after all the swelling goes away. Also, the more activity you have, the longer the swelling stays, the more that needs to be done as far as lift etc. with surgery, the longer your swelling stays. As stated above, going below the muscle tends to produce more swelling and lasts for longer.

3. Scars: The natural healing process undergoes multiple phases, but in general, the first phase is the inflamatory phase were any scar will be firmer and may turn red or darker initially. This tends to last for 3 months. After this phase is the resolution phase where the scar inflammation goes away and all scars will be at their baseline at 1 year. The scars are mostly at their baseline at 6 months. The scars should be minimal if placed well, and sutured properly. I also like to protect the scars from stretching or widening in the first few months with surgical skin tape. The incision will be weak at first and susceptible to stretch or widening.

4. Massage: Your doctor may recommend early or late massage, depending on what is trying to be accomplished. In general, early massage is to manipulate a high implant or stretch a constricted area, such as in tubular breast syndrome, and late massage is to help fight capsular contraction. Search 'Breast Massage' to find my recommendations on this.

5. Exercise: In general, I ask my patients to keep away from aerobic activities in the first 2 weeks following surgery. Increased activity can increase swelling and hyper-swelling can cause stretch marks. Following this, 'non-bouncing' aerobic activity is fine, such as speed walking or cycling, but would like to keep the implants from moving too much until the capsule that forms around the implant has a chance to heal and become stronger. At 6 weeks, I clear any type of activity.

6. Infection: Infection after augmentation is very rare. Most surgeon give post-operative antibiotics to help protect you from infection.

7. Hematoma/Seroma: These are also very rare after augmentation. If the pocket for the implant that is made during surgery is a hand in glove fit, then there is very little room for any fluid to collect. It is important that the surgical pocket be free of any bleeding prior to closure to keep a hematoma from happening. If a hematoma does occur, it is important to drain the hematoma to prevent capsular contraction.

8. Sleeping: I ask women to sleep on their backs with their post-operative bra on after surgery to keep the implants in their proper position until the capsule that forms around the implant has a chance to heal.

I hope this has answered most of your post-operative questions.

Best Wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD


Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Breast Implant Recovery

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The recovery from subpectoral breast augmentation used to be a rather unpleasant experience, but it no longer has to be. A space for the implant must be developed behind the pectoralis major, and a portion of the muscle's inferior origin must be released. Surgery on a muscle in most cases produces significant postoperative pain, and that is certainly true for breast augmentation. However, by using a local anesthetic infusion device (the On-Q 'Pain Buster') for the first two to three days after surgery, the pain associated with this procedure can be reduced quite dramatically.
While breast augmentation patients in this practice receive a prescription for a mild narcotic pain medication for use after surgery (just in case), most of them never take it. Most patients report little to no pain in the evening following surgery, and perhaps some mild discomfort on Postop day one and two. Patients can resume all normal, non-strenuous activities of daily living immediately after surgery, and can begin pec major range of motion exercises on the evening of their procedure.
Patients are seen in the office the day after surgery, and again on Friday for removal of the Go-Pump catheters (which is painless). Working patients usually return to work the Monday following the surgery; stay-at-home moms may need some help with toddlers for the first two to three days after surgery. Exercise is limited to walking only for the first two weeks; in weeks three and four some light exercise is permissible. Patients can gradually increase their exercise/workout level in the second month (weeks five through eight), however it is a full eight weeks before patients are allowed to return to activities that require forceful, repetitive, sustained pec major contraction - such as pushups and heavy weight lifting. It is important to ensure that the breasts are well supported in snug fitting sports bra (or two) when returning to impact exercise such as running or aerobics.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

Stages of Recovery After Breast Augmentation: Do It Right!

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I advise my patients to consider their recovery in stages:
  1. You will need full-time assistance for the first two days.
  2. If you have small children, plan to have someone else to be primarily responsible for their needs and care for 4 to 5 days.
  3. At 5 days, it's OK to start low impact exercise without raising your pulse above 90-100.
  4. Most women are able to resume the majority of their more sedentary, non-physical daily activities and (depending upon your job) return to work in 5-7 days.
  5. At 2 weeks, it's OK to get back to low impact cardio exercise.
  6. For the first 6 weeks after breast augmentation, I advise against any activity that involves:
    • high impact activity (like jumping, jogging, martial arts)
    • big arm swinging (like tennis, golf)
    • lifting more than 15-20 pounds
      • lifting your baby is OK if you do it with your elbows close to your chest
    • repetitive motions (sweeping, vacuuming, raking leaves)
A good operation can be undone by a bad recovery: take the time and plan to recover well!

Paul C. Zwiebel, MD
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 45 reviews

Breast implant recovery time

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Dear Geneseo,
Most of my patients are back to work in 3-4 days, however most sit at a desk.  The majority of implants are placed partially under the pectoralis major muscle or in the subfascial plane. The recovery from implants placed over the muscle in the subfascial plane is faster.   I you can go back to work in a "light duty" capacity, or you control the workouts and can avoid having to demonstrate or perform any upper body workout or activities that make you chest bounce for that period of time, then you can consider doing it over winter or spring break. Best of luck. 

Time off after breast augmentation

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Every person recovers at their own pace, but one week is generally plenty of time off of work. Given that you teach physical education you may have to modify your lesson plans depending on how "hands-on" your approach is- you'll want to avoid demonstrating any push-ups, pull-ups, or other chest exercises until you are fully recovered. In terms of worrying about everyone noticing you'd be surprised at what a supportive sports bra and a loose fitting shirt can conceal. Best of luck!

Meghan Nadeau, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon

Breast Implants, Breast Augmentation Recovery Time

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Breast augmentation recovery with return to normal activity including driving takes about four days or less for 95% of my patients and three days or less for 85%.  I recommend that patients keep their heart rate under 100 for two weeks.  This keeps their blood pressure down and lessens the chance that they could have bleeding into the pocket after surgery. This seems to work since the incidence of bleeding or hematoma has been about 1/10th of one percent in the last 23 years. Sixty-five percent of patients have no bruising at all and another thirty percent have minimal or slight bruising.

Normal activity is defined as the ability to lift normal weight objects, raise your hands above your head sufficiently to wash your hair, and to drive. If you are a physical education teacher requiring aerobic activity you could certainly return to work, but I would advise against running around so much that your heart rate exceeds the rate of 100. You could have a period of brisk walking or similar activity, but followed by a rest so you stay at or under the 100 limit. This does not mean you would have a problem if you exceeded the limit, but as an arbitrary guideline, it seems to work.  Patients with office-type jobs usually go back to work in three or four days, as soon as they feel comfortable. For example, with surgery on Friday, patients would go back to work on Monday or Tuesday. Patients who have to use their arms a lot, like restaurant servers, usually take five to eight days off, sometimes longer.

After surgery, my patients are advised to lift their arms overhead five times an hour. We start them in the recovery room. This helps hasten recovery by stretching out the pectoralis muscle. They don't wear any special bras or have drains. Specific details of recovery can be found on my website. You should consult your own plastic surgeon for specific guidelines on when to return to work and return to any specific activity.

Robert M. Lowen, MD
Mountain View Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 54 reviews

Breast Implant Recovery Time

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I tell patients no heavy lifting for about 6 weeks.  The amount of pain depends on where the implant is placed above vs below the muscle.  Below tends to hurt more.  Also peoples pain thresholds are very different.  Overall patient recovery with breast augmentation is relatively quick.

Stephen M. Miller, MD
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon

Recovery after breast implant surgery

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Different people recover at different rates after breast implant surgery. I advise my patients to take it easy with no exercise or heavy lifting for at least 2 weeks after surgery. The pain/ discomfort after surgery is affected by how large an implant has been put in (the larger the implant, the more strain on the tissue and the increased chances of post operative pain).

One week off work is reasonable, but try to make sure that you are on "light duties" for the week after that.

Good luck with your surgery!

Recovery after surgery

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If you were my patient, given your active strenous job, I would have you wait till your summer break.  Elective surgery should minimize complications.  If you overdo it early, you may be unhappy with result.  I think one week is plenty for people who are at a desk. 

Breast Implant Recovery: What To Expect and How To Avoid Regrets

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Are you worried about the recovery period? Knowing how to plan for it and what to expect will help ease your concerns.

This answer will cover practical planning for your procedure and what

the whole recovery experience will be like. Also, I will talk about how to avoid second-guessing or feeling regret about your implant choice during recovery.

For different phases in the recovery period, I will describe: pain and medication, sleeping, daily living activities, scarring, exercise, and changes in your breasts.

Please note that these are general guidelines. Every patient is different. Always consult your own doctor and follow their instructions.

PLANNING FOR YOUR RECOVERY PERIOD

Plan to take one week off your main vocation, whether that is work, school, parenting, or caring for the household. And plan on not doing any obligations for the first 3-5 days. You should rest to allow a good recovery.

After one week, you can return to your regular responsibilities, as long as they do not involve lifting 15 - 20 lbs.

Have someone drive you or use a driving service for your first few days. You can drive once you stop taking pain medication. This is around 3-5 days, or up to one week.

Any strenuous exercise, sports or heavy breast contact should be postponed for at least 4 weeks.

WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE RECOVERY PERIOD

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PAIN & MEDICATION

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(In terms of medication, these are my guidelines and what I do in my practice, but you should consult with and follow your own physician's instructions.)

You will be sore the first couple of days. The primary reason for the pain is the muscle being elevated from the procedure.

It is very likely that you will be taking narcotic medication for the pain in the first two days.

Typical, by day 3-5 patients wean themselves off of narcotics and feel much better. There is a lot of variation patient to patient. Some may be done with narcotics by day 3, others continue on.

After a week, there should be no more pain. If you experience any discomfort after one week, Tylenol should be sufficient to manage it.

(Note, this is for a breast implants placed under the muscle. The only difference is that the duration of healing and pain last slightly longer since muscle is being elevated. Along with many other doctors, I believe that implants should always be placed under the muscle because it minimizes the risk of certain complications and improves the results.)

I also prescribe my patients 3 days worth of antibiotics for the first three days following surgery.

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DAILY LIVING ACTIVITIES

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Your daily living activities include basic functioning, like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, opening doors, making a meal.

Technically, by day 1 you should be able to do daily living activities. However, you will feel less energetic than usual so you may opt to be less active. This is normal.

After surgery, you will feel slight pain when you lift your elbows away from your sides. The average time to when you will be able to lift your arms completely above your head is sometime between 48 hours and one week after surgery.

If you have a baby, be sure to lift it with your elbows pegged to your body. This technique will minimize the strain of lifting.

Do not drive while you are taking narcotics. Once you have completely weaned off pain medication, you can resume driving.

Days 3-5 you will have the energy to move around the house and do basic things. There is a one week follow up at the office to make sure everything is OK and that you are feeling well. In the weeks that follow, you can gradually introduce more activity to your body.

There should be ABSOLUTELY no smoking or drinking for at least two weeks after surgery. Smoking interferes with the healing process and alcohol may cause increased bleeding.

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SLEEP

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Try to sleep on your back with your head slightly elevated after surgery. This will help with the swelling.


But, if you really want to sleep on your side and feel comfortable doing so, it’s ok.

I do NOT prescribe sleep medication because it is not needed. Especially if you are taking narcotics for pain, I do not suggest mixing both.

The only reason you would have problems sleeping is because your are in pain. There are three things to do to manage the pain properly.

  1. Do not wait to be in pain until taking medication. Instead, stay ahead of it, otherwise you will be suffering until the medication kicks in.

  2. You may be taking less than the recommended dosage of medication. For example, if your prescription says to take1 to 2 pills and you are taking 1.

  3. If you wake up in pain, consider taking your pain medication right before going to sleep at night.

Following this protocol, a patient without pre-existing problems sleeping should be able to sleep comfortably, even in the first few days.

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SHOWERING & BATHING

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You may begin showering on the second day after surgery and taking sponge baths the day after surgery.

Do not submerge yourself under water (e.g., bath, pool, ocean) for the first three weeks after surgery.

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SCARS

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Your first week out of surgery, you will have medical grade tape over the scar.

After the tape is removed in your one week post-op visit, you can expect the scar to be a little red, raised, and hard.

Over a week to 1 month, the scar will be softer, will flatten out, and won’t be red but the pigmentation may be darker.

In 1-6 months everything improves, but it takes up a year for the scar to “mature”. The last thing to resolve is the dark pigmentation. It takes up to a year for scar to lighten up and camouflage better with your skin.

I recommend to patients certain skin creams to help with this process.

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BRUISING

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In your first week expect minor bruising. Note that the healing process is asymmetric. That means it is possible that one breast may look more swollen, be more bruised, or be slightly higher than the other. This is completely normal and will go away with time.

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EXERCISE/ ACTIVITY

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You may walk around after surgery, but you will find that you do not have the same energy level that you had prior to surgery. This is absolutely normal and disappears somewhere between the first and second week.

In the first week following surgery, you can do light activity. This includes walking on a treadmill or elliptical with low intensity.

For for at least two weeks following surgery, avoid any strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting.

In weeks 2-3, you can add lower body resistance. And in the third week, low intensity upper body exercise can be added to your routine.

After week 4 you may be totally healed.

But again, everyone’s body is different. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, stop, and give it a few more days. Do not push yourself to point of discomfort.

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BREASTS

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Post-op, a surgical bra will be provided to you. Wear your surgical bra during the day for the first three weeks following surgery.

Starting on day 7th day after surgery, you will also want to perform breast massages as directed two times a day. Breast massaging may prevent scar formation, assists the skin in accommodating the implant and helps you get used to the feel of your new breasts.

In the first week, your breasts will be swollen and sit high on your chest. This gives some patients the impression that they are “bigger” prior to dropping.

From the first week to one month the implant  begins to drop. Usually by your third month, you will have the final result.

I hope that answers your question on recovering after breast surgery. It’s great that you’re doing this research. I always say that the best patients are informed patients.

You might also want to research your options for breast implants. Choosing the right implant is the number one concern among women considering breast augmentation. Did you know, there’s actually a way to select a implant shape, size, and profile that is perfect for you?

A term that I use with my patients for the perfect implant is the “Pony Implant”.

So what do I mean by “perfect”? Well, a Pony Implant has three qualities to it. First, the implant meets your beauty goals. For example, you want to your breasts to look fuller while still appearing natural.

Second, when you chose your Pony Implant, you walk out of your consultation 100% confident that you’ve chosen the right shape and size for you. In other words, you won’t be second guessing your decision, and you won’t be afraid of having gone too big or too small.

And third, after your procedure, you are thrilled with your results, and say, "I’m so happy. This is exactly what I wanted!"

That’s the Pony Implant. And the great news is that there is a simple process to go about finding yours.

This issue of selecting the right implant is so important when it comes to patient satisfaction or dissatisfaction that, again, I really encourage you to learn more about it.

Thank you for reading and best of luck on your journey!

William Rahal, MD
Beverly Hills Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 73 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.