You may be wondering what to expect from a Tummy Tuck procedure. Likely, you’ve heard a variety of reports about pain related to this procedure and they may not be consistent. This is because each surgical recovery is unique just as each patient is unique. The discomfort experienced after an Abdominoplasty relates to the extent and specifics of the procedure performed. Details such as whether or not supplementary liposuction was done as a component of the tummy tuck, and whether a mini or full tummy tuck was performed, can greatly affect recovery. For instance, patients who undergo a circumferential tummy tuck (extended all the way around the body), including muscle repair and liposuction, will likely have a longer and more uncomfortable recovery than a patient who has a mini tummy tuck, involving a relatively small incision and work done below the belly button only.
Though pain is considered subjective there are common ways which patients describe their discomfort during recovery. Long-acting anesthetic is typically injected into the abdominal tissues during surgery so that upon waking, you will not experience the full brunt of surgical pain but rather a tight sensation. Patients are instructed to walk slightly bent over for at least a few days and this means that secondary back pain due to posture and support changes can actually contribute more than expected to discomfort.
A bruised sensation is often reported at the upper abdomen and lateral sides of the tummy rather than lower, above the incision. This may seem unexpected but the tissues closest to the incision in the middle of your belly will often stay numb for a time postoperatively and this means that the upper abdomen and sides where nerves are still intact register the most pain. Patients will report that discomfort is most notable during the first week to ten days post op. Muscle spasms and pins and needles sensations are common during recovery, even after the first couple of weeks, but these sensations are usually tolerable if expected and described as an annoyance. It may take up to six weeks for muscle spasms to resolve, and even longer for nerves to recover (causing pins and needles). You will likely be advised to avoid activity which flexes your abdominal muscles, even prolonged sitting, for a period of time. Depending on the extent of tissue tension and muscle repair, a tight, pulling sensation is to be expected after Tummy Tuck surgery and though it will often ease within a week or two, others will experience this for longer. In the long term, nerve-related sensations are reported such as numb patches or minor, electric shooting pains. After a tummy tuck procedure, your nerves will recover from the outer abdomen, inward towards your belly button and though this usually resolves by 6 months, some small areas can remain numb.
Your Plastic Surgeon will prescribe strong pain medications including narcotic and anti inflammatory medications to be taken post op. Because we each have a different tolerance for pain, some patients do not feel the need to take the standard, recommended dose of pain medication and may have sufficient relief from Tylenol or just rest and distractions. Those who have experienced painful childbirth or other surgeries in the past may fall into this category. Other patients will require a strong, regular dose of narcotic pain medication for the first few days to a week after surgery or even pain control supplied through a small pump which the patient wears for a few days after the operation. All of our surgeries are overseen and monitored by a board certified anesthesiologist and the specialized technique used to mitigate pain during your procedure helps us to greatly minimize discomfort and ensure that most patients can return to work and daily activities within two weeks.
Your personal experience with pain is best interpreted by you and you’ll plan for what to expect partly based on previous experiences and the extent of the procedure that you will undergo. Talk with your Plastic Surgeon about your expectations, your concerns, and let them guide you to plan for the least discomfort possible while you recover.
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