When Can I Go Back to Work After a Tummy Tuck?

I am 35 years old and intend to get a tummy tuck. When can I go back to work? How long and why do I have to wear a compression garment after the surgery?

Doctor Answers 51

Recovery after Tummy Tuck

I advice my patients to take 1-2 week off from work. Most are able to return to work after 1 week depending on the extent of surgery.

Most of our patients receive an On-Q pain pump, which delivers local anesthetic into the surgical area. Most of our patients are able to go home the same day of surgery. Pain medications are prescribed. Most of my patients no longer require pain medications after 1 week and can control the pain using over the counter medications such as Tylenol.

I use self-dissolving sutures and the wounds are all sealed with Dermabond. All my patients can take a shower immediately following surgery. Patients may receive 1 to 2 two drains which are removed after about one week. I use compressive garment after surgery to help control swelling.

Patients are encouraged to start slow walk on day 1. Most patients are able to drive after 1-2 weeks. Our patients start minor exercise after 2 weeks. I recommend gradually resuming heavy exercise after 6 weeks.

I follow my patients very closely. Patients are seen 1-2 days after surgery, then again after 1 week. The other follow up is at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months and yearly. Patients are welcome to come in as often as they need. There is no charge for all follow up appointment. My patients also have full access to me and have little need to come in more than the recommended appointments.

Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 160 reviews

Tummy Tuck Recovery-Two Weeks Return to Work- No Compression Garment

Thank you for your question.

Generally I advise my patients to plan for a two week recovery after Tummy Tuck. While you should be able to work at a computer and be mobile after 4-5 days you need to not be under any stress during your recovery.

Recovery also depends on the type of Tummy Tuck. Recovery from a Full Tummy Tuck with Muscle Repair will take longer than recovery with a Mini.

Plan two weeks. If you recover sooner that will be a plus for you.

I avoid compression garments after Tummy Tuck. Compression can restrict blood flow to the skin and cause healing problems

It depends on what work you do...

Most all of my tummy tuck patients are able to return to sedentary types of work within 7-10 days and approximately in 2 weeks if their work is more physically demanding. They can connect with work virtually by computer within 2 days, however, and this is a great advantage that didn't used to be possible.

The compression garment helps to speed the healing of the skin and fat back to the underlying muscles. I ask my patients to wear it 24/7 for 2 weeks and on and off for another 2 weeks. Many actually ask permission to wear it longer!

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Tummy tuck and back to work

Different plastic surgeons have different ideas. I try and get my patients back to desk jobs by 10-12 days in most cases.

I am very strong on getting them up moving asap and going up and down stairs etc. I also have all my pts shower the night after surgery, i.e. 24-36 hours later. It is best if you can go back for a light or shorter first day or two, to ease the transition back. However, every patient responds differently.

At 35 years old, you are young and should bounce back quickly. For most patients, it is fatigue and not pain that limits them going back to work. I know other physicians are often more conservative, but I have been doing it this way for years with good results.

David E. Berman, MD
Sterling Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 108 reviews

Time Off Work After a Tummy Tuck

If you have a desk job, most patients can return to work after two weeks. But if you are on your feet most of the day, I would recommend going back part time. Listen to your body, if you are getting tired or swelling is occurring, you are doing too much. If your job involves heavy lifting you should wait at least six weeks. It is important to wear the compression garment for six weeks to get the best result.

Miguel Delgado, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

Return to Work After Tummy Tuck

The amount of time needed to heal before returning to work depends upon the type and extent of tummy tick, how your body responds to the surgery, and the duties of your job.

Generally, 2 weeks is a good guideline for return to work; 6 weeks for return to all normal activities, including athletics.

Paul C. Zwiebel, MD
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Tummy Tuck recovery time: depends on the type of work you do.

Recovery after a tummy tuck really depends on the type of work that you perform. I do not allow my patients to return to work while taking narcotic pain medicine, as that would be the equivalent of drinking alcohol at work. In general, patients need pain medicine for a minimum of 3 days, and most are off medications by 5 to 10 days. After stopping pain meds, patients can work from home immediately, and return to desk-work between 7 to 10 days from surgery. With the tummy tuck, I do a significant amount of tightening of the abdominal wall, and this does not become "solid" until 6 weeks after surgery. Because of this, I restrict patients from heavy lifting and strenuous exercise for 6 weeks. If your job requires a significant amount of physical activity, you may have to take 6 weeks off of work, or modify your work activities. (ie: a professional rodeo rider will be taking much more time off of work than a computer programmer...)
The compression garment does a few things after surgery. First, it gently presses out any swelling that can occur in the abdominal skin, which helps you appreciate the results of surgery sooner than if you just waited for this swelling to go away on its own. Second, it helps "splint" the skin, and reduces the chance of a seroma forming for a period of time after surgery. Lastly, it provides the patient with some support, and actually makes some people feel more secure. I request that my patients wear some type of compression (binder or garment) for the first 3 weeks after surgery, and then they can wear the garment at their discretion. Quite a few wear it for an additional 1 or 2 weeks because of the support that it provides.

Michael A. Bogdan, MD, FACS
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Tummy Tuck Recovery

Tummy tuck surgery can now be performed as an outpatient procedure often with twilight anesthesia. The surgery takes several hours and usually afterwards you are placed in a compressive garment that is worn for 1 to 2 wks. You should ask you doctor about the use of a pain pump to minimize postoperative discomfort and speed recover by releasing pain medication in the abdomen during the first few days after surgery.

My patients generally return to work in one to two weeks. Note that you may walk and sit a little hunched over for a few days after the operation. Don’t even try to stand up straight during this time—you risk separating the incisions. Also, you should minimize the strenuousness or suddenness of such exertions as coughing, sneezing, and laughing.

Michelle Copeland, MD, DMD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Going back to work after a tummy tuck

Most patients can return to work approximately 2 weeks after a tummy tuck if they do not do heavy lifting (i.e., greater than 10 pounds). Support garments are usually required for 4 to 6 weeks depending on how much liposuction has been completed as part of the tummy tuck. The compression garment helps to mold the shape and create an even distribution of any fluid retention you might have post surgery. By the third or fourth week mild support such as Shapers or Spanx are usually okay for most patients.  

Deason Dunagan, MD
Huntsville Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Time off after tummy tuck

I believe in being honest with my patients and providing them with a conservative estimate as to how long they should expect to be out of work.  It is better to tell a patient that they need two weeks off from work than to sugarcoat the recovery, have them return to work prematurely or, worse, to need more time off and incur the wrath of an employer in this terrible economy and job market.  Generally, I recommend two weeks off after a full abdominoplasty.  Patients may return to work sooner after a mini-tuck.  Pa tients may not drive while on prescription pain medication and I do not recommend driving for two weeks postoperatively.   In New York CIty, where many patients take public transportation to work, walking up and down subway steps and standing on the platform for extended periods of time may be uncomfortable.  You can't rush recovery.  Patients whose jobs involve standing for long periods or who are in safety sensitive positions, such as police officers or firefighters, should plan to take at least 3 weeks off prior to returning to work and, if possible, light duty is preferrable for several weeks thereafter.

Robert L. Kraft, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 39 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.