How Long is the Recovery Period for Full Tummy Tuck?

I'm 43 years old and had Full Tummy Tuck around seven weeks ago. I could not stand upright for 5 weeks post-op. When do you stop feeling tugs, pulling and tightness?

Doctor Answers 86

How Long is the Recovery Period for Full Tummy Tuck? #tummy tuck #recovery

Thank you for your question!  The tummy tuck recovery in my practice is divided into stages. 

Stage 1 - The immediate post-operative stage which lasts up to two weeks after surgery.  This is the time the drains are in place and I would assess for possible complications such as bleeding, infection, skin loss, etc.

Stage 2 - 2 weeks post-op to 6 weeks after surgery.  This is the time I would be looking for possible fluid collections and taking care of these if needed.

Stage 3 - Beyond 6 weeks to 6 months where the incision is healing, the tummy feels more like your own rather than numb, and your energy increases back to normal. 

Stage 4 - Beyond 6 months where the incisions lighten, soften, and the tummy tuck is now in the past and life goes on.  The incisions may take up to a total of two years to completely heal and lighten as much as they can. 

Hope this helps!!

You should be better a few weeks after Tummy Tuck

Myfatbelly,

I assume you have already discussed this and much more with your surgeon. He or she will be the best source of information.

I typically tell my patients that they will be able to stop narcotics in about a week, stand straight 1-2 weeks, begin driving 2 weeks, begin exercises in 4 weeks, be back to most all activities 2 months, and 12-18 months for numbness to resolve and scars fade. Those general guidelines do not tell you exactly how you'll recover.

You may notice, for several months, that certain things you do cause twinges, tugs, etc. You may notice new areas becoming tingly, sensitive or sore as nerves heal and recover. Most of this is a minor annoyance and does not stop you from doing simple activities. It all tends to get better over time. Best wishes.

Sutton Graham II, MD
Greenville Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Full recovery after Tummy Tuck takes time

Myfatbelly,

After seven weeks of healing, you are pretty far along and it sounds like you are making progress. Standing full and upright is something we expect to see in most patients after the first week, and some actuallly return to work and gentle activities after two weeks though the pace of recovery can vary. You are on the slow side but don't worry.

Full tummy tuck is not a single operation and the methods used in correction will depend on the degree of skin and muscle laxity. Of course, those who have a strong foundation which did not require any muscle repair will recover the fastest. Some may have had a true area of hernia and healing can take eight weeks or longer.

With any tummy tuck procedure, there will be a stiffness and tightness to the stomach, and sometimes a numb feeling that takes many weeks to resolve. If your doctor thinks that you are ready and soundly healed, you can begin with relaxation exercise such as yoga to gently improve flexibility and motion in the abdomen. This will take some time. After you have restored flexibility, then resume aerobic activities such as stationary bike or treadmill. The progress of your return to an exercise program will give you a good idea as to when you will be back to activity as usual.

Best of luck.

Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Full Tummy Tuck Recovery period

Although many patients feel some tightness most of my patients stand comfortably upright within a few weeks at most. Recovery times of course vary from patient to patient.

Here are the general recommendations and healing time course for full tummy tuck procedures:

Following the tummy tuck procedure, you should be in a flexed position to minimize tension on the incision sites by to bending at the hips (waist) in order to reduce tension on the newly tightened skin. A recliner chair is perfect for this purpose but a pillow beneath your knees and several at the head of the bed will work well also.  Immediately after surgery, within the first few hours, the patients will walk in a slightly bent-over position. Start walking flexed at the waist (in a stooped position) for a few minutes every 1-2 hours the evening of surgery and continuing daily except when sleeping. This will minimize your risk for blood clots. Wear your TED stockings
In about one week you can gradually stand up straight.
Gradually increase activity as tolerated.
No sexual activity for 6 weeks after surgery.
Wiggle your toes and move your ankles in circles in bed every hour.
No heavy exercise, bending, lifting, baths, swimming, sun exposure, smoking, alcohol or sports
for 6 weeks following surgery after your surgeon has given you clearance to do so.
Limit napping to one short nap (less than an hour) per day to prevent sleep disturbance at night.
P O S I T I O N
Sleeping in a recliner chair with your legs elevated is helpful for the first several days. In bed
elevate head and back on 2-3 pillows and keep 2 pillows under your knees.
A 'reclined' or sitting position relieves tension on the incision. During the 6 weeks after surgery, strenuous activity and the lifting of more than ten pounds must be avoided.  Many patients are able to return to work and daily activities within 2 weeks of surgery.  Softening of the surgical scars, return of sensation, and loosening of the tight sensation may take several months. Abdominoplasty recovery can be in some cases slow and uncomfortable requiring more time for a full recovery. Light activity is comfortable in 10-20 days. Sports will be more comfortable after 6 weeks.

Tummy Tuck recovery

I encourage patients to stand upright after 3 to 4  days. In my experience, anything beyond that can result  in one heck of a back ache. Sitting in a straight-backed chair is a good way to "relax " the incision.

Barry H. Dolich, MD (Retired)
Bronx Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Tummy Tuck recovery is variable

Since all abdominoplasties are not alike, recovery times are different. The amount of dissection, the tightness of the closure, the need to tighten the muscles and to what degree may all influence post-op pain, sense of tightness, and recovery time. However, most patients should be able to resume most activities by 4-6 weeks and should be able to stand erect within a few days. Most tugging and tight feeling should be gone by the time you resume all activities within 4-6 weeks although an occasional twinge of pain is not uncommon even after a few months. This pain should usually not be disabling, but more annoying.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Tummy Tuck Recovery

In my practice, a tummy tuck +/- lipo of waist/flanks is usually an outpatient procedure. The surgery takes between 2-3 hours. I love performing nerve blocks with long acting numbing medicine (Exparel). These nerve blocks have revolutionized the recovery for my tummy tuck and mommy makeover patient for the past several years. My patients ambulating immediately after surgery. However, immediately after surgery, you will be walking flexed at your waist (in the skier's position). Each day, you will be gradually able to straighten. It generally takes 5-10 days (on average 7 days) for my patients to walk straight. I do instruct my patients to sleep in a recliner or sleep in their bed propped up with pillows to mimic a the recliner or lawnchair position. In about 7-10 days after surgery, you should be getting close to your baseline ( able to drive, walk straight etc). Most patients are able to get back to a desk job in about 10 days. However, no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for 5-6 weeks after your surgery. You need to give time for all your incisions to heal. During this 5-6 week period, most surgeons will recommend some form of compression garments to help minimize your postop swelling. You should see your results right away. What I tell my patients is that if they are happy a few days after surgery, they will be ecstatic with their results in 6-8 weeks (as the swelling goes away). Talk to your plastic surgeon to learn more about his/her specific postoperative care protocol. Hope this helps.

Dr. Basu
Houston, TX

Tummy Tuck Recovery

Thank you for your question.  Tightness, tugs and pulling after seven weeks is not abnormal. You want to have tightness, that is the purpose of your tummy tuck. The muscle tightening in the upper abdomen is what is causing the tugs and pulling.  This will improve over the next several weeks and months. Hope that this helps! Best wishes!

John A. Kotis, DO, FACS, FACOS
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Tummy Tuck Recovery Period: What to Expect

                  Abdominoplasty removes excess abdominal skin while simultaneously tightening the abdominal muscles.  Patients can anticipate limited physical activity for ten to fourteen days following surgery.  I typically tell my patients bathroom and kitchen privileges initially with slow resumption of normal activity over the next two weeks.  Patients can usually return to work in two weeks if no strenuous activity or heavy lifting is involved.  After seven to eight weeks, patients can resume all their normal activities including heavy lifting. 

                  The vast majority of abdominoplasty patients have resumed their normal activities within three months of surgery, but the wound healing process continues for up to a year following this procedure.  These symptoms usually disappear with the passage of time. During this period patients occasionally note swelling, pulling, numbness and tightness. 

                   It’s important to discuss these problems with your surgeon.  Your surgeon should be able to help you address these concerns and alleviate your anxiety.

Tummy Tuck Recovery

In general it takes a few weeks for most patients to recover from a tummy tuck. Some will heal more quickly, some will take longer. The variable that affect recovery the most is the amount of muscle repair required. The more muscle tightening necessary, the long the expected recovery.

Some activities are restricted short term, showering for example. Some activities are restricted for weeks, like heavy lifting. It is important to discuss these details with your plastic surgeon before surgery so that there are no surprises. 

From my own experience the recovery can vary widely. I have some patients feel great in a few days and other take a few months, and it is not always who I would predict. Tight sensations down the middle of the abdomen. especially with reaching overhead, can last for days, weeks or months. As long as you are improving, it is considered normal.

If questions arise, your plastic surgeon should be there to answer them and help relieve the anxiety. If you can't get questions answered before surgery, you probably won't be able to get them answered after surgery, so choose someone you can talk to. It is a professional relationship, but it is still a relationship built on mutual trust.

Joseph Mele, MD
Walnut Creek Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 14 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.