How Painful is a Tummy Tuck?

How much pain is involved with a Tummy Tuck as compared to a C-section?

Doctor Answers 15

Tummy tuck and C section are very different procedures

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Both surgeries involve cutting through the abdomen skin, fat. The C-section involves cutting through the muscle, entering the abdomen, cutting through the uterus, to then deliver the baby.

A tummy-tuck involves suturing the muscles of the abdomen together to form a tighter abdomen. Recovery for a C-section is different since the patient is also recovering from pregnancy and now has a new child to take care of. It is a little like "apples and oranges." The only real similarity is that both procedures involve the abdomen.

Having said that, most patients seem to indicate that a C-section was tougher to go through, but it is likely due to all the other factors mentioned above.

Portland Plastic Surgeon

New Pain relief for Tummy Tucks

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There is a new and revolutionary break through in the management of post op pain relief in tummy tuck patients.  A new delivery system for a long acting local anesthetic provides pain relief for 3-4 days after surgery!  The medication is placed at the time of surgery and last for at least 72 hours.  This reduction in pain is leading to faster recovery times for our tummy tuck patients.

David Finkle, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Tummy tuck pain: The first week is the worse

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Dear Demikaz,

There will be some discomfort after a tummy tuck.  Regardless of pain medication or pain tolerance there will be some discomfort after a tummy tuck.  The first week will be the hardest.  Most patients state pain is about 6-7 the first few days to a week and goes down to about 3-4 the second week.  The abdominal binder and good pain meds do seem to help as does the amount of numbing medication that your surgeon places.

All the best,

Dr. Remus Repta

Remus Repta, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 171 reviews

C-section pain is often worse than a tummy tuck

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In my experience it's tough to compare the two, simply because a C-section is associated with multiple other variables, including trying to heal while caring for your newborn. In general, my patients say that the pain of a tummy tuck is less than that of a C-section, but both procedures usually require time off from work, help around the house, and pain pills for at least a couple of days.

I actually have discussed this very question with my wife who is an Ob/Gyn, and who agrees it's tough to compare the two. My patients after a tummy tuck usually say it feels like they've done 1000 sit ups, but her patients after a C-section or even a hysterectomy (perhaps a closer comparison) feel pretty wiped out for several days after the procedure.

My short answer: if you're in good overall health, and you got through your recovery after the C-section well, you should not have a problem with the tummy tuck.

Good luck!

Dr. Salemy

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 153 reviews

Post Op Pain

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Hi Demikaz:

The perception and/or tolerance to post operative discomfort is patient dependent and therefore, it differs from patient to patient. For the vast majority of patients, oral medication plus with or without muscle relaxants, is sufficient. Nearly every patient is discharged with local anesthetic injected into the abdominal muscle for post operative relief. Frequently, our patients choose to up the ante with a medication called Exparel which extends to relief to three days of so. However, none of the medications effectively rid the patient of the sensation of tightness that is felt when the internal corset is completed to narrow the waistline and flatten the tummy. Lastly, if teh muscle repair isn't needed, it simply isn't performed (which, in many cases, limits both the downtime and discomfort). 

Pain with Tummy Tucks

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Tummy tuck surgery, like breast augmentation surgery is far less painful today than years ago. Today, plastic surgeons use pain pumps to control pain. 

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 121 reviews

How Painful is a Tummy Tuck?

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It is important to know that everyone has a different experience after surgery. The pain after a Tummy Tuck is typically described as a signficant tightness across the abdomen. Many patients do describe the pain to be very similar to a ceasearean. Especially in the beginning, when you get up you will feel tight and will need to walk hunched over.  Most patients will stay in hospital for a minimum of 2 days to keep them comfortable and manage the pain.
With any abdominal surgery, any straining will cause significant pain. Anything that causes you to strain such as coughing and sneezing will be uncomfortable and should be avoided as much as possible. It is recommended to firmly hold your belly if you do have do this.  

Eddy Dona, MBBS, FRACS
Sydney Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 90 reviews

How Painful is a Tummy Tuck?

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Thank you for the question. As you can imagine, every patient will have a different experience when it comes to discomfort (and overall healing process) after tummy tuck surgery. Generally, most patients will report that the recovery process is similar to recovering after C-section. Anecdotally, when I have asked patients to compare, all have reported that the tummy tuck recovery is less painful than C-section recovery. I hope this, and the attached link, helps.

How painful is a tummy tuck?

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This varies widely from patient to patient and the extent of your procedure. I use Exparel a long acting local anesthetic that I inject while you are under anesthesia and lasts for up to 3 days (the most uncomfortable period) so that the discomfort is tolerated well. Following surgery, you will be walking in a bent-over position to keep tension off the newly tightened skin incision site. Although strenuous activity, and lifting more than ten pounds, must be avoided for 6 weeks, some people can return to work and daily activities as soon as 2 weeks after surgery. Softening of the surgical scars, return of sensation, and loosening of the tight sensation may take several months to a year or more. ?
Abdominoplasty involves a recovery period of 10 to 14 days longer than most plastic surgical procedures. Initial discomfort and decreased mobility is typical.


Pain tolerance varies from patient to patient.

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The pain associated with C-sections and abdominoplasty surgery is relatively comparable, but it’s important to realize that differences do exist. When patients are asked, most would agree that the C-section was a more difficult experience and was associated with more pain than the abdominoplasty procedure.
Although it’s not unusual for patients to experience pain following tummy tuck surgery, the vast majority of patients tolerate this pain without difficulty. This pain is usually related to elevation of skin flaps and tightening of the abdominal muscles. In many cases the pain is more severe in the upper abdomen where the rib cage provides resistance against the pull of the tightened abdominal muscles. In addition, the sensory nerves in this location haven’t been divided and are therefore functional.
The pain associated with abdominoplasty is severe in the first 24-48 hours following surgery, but rapidly diminishes with time. We typically use a synthetic Codeine derivative called hydrocodone, which has a decreased incidence of nausea compared to Codeine. We replace narcotic pain relievers with double strength Tylenol as soon as possible following surgery to avoid the potential for drug problems.
Pain tolerance varies from patient to patient following abdominoplasty, but when these steps are taken, most patients do well and tolerate their pain without difficulty.

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.