Last Updated on 31st March 2022

Tummy tucks have remained one of the most commonly requested cosmetic surgeries in the United States, so if you’re curious about whether this procedure could be right for you, you’re in good company.

While it’s often done for purely aesthetic reasons, a tummy tuck can also be medically necessary for individuals with large amounts of excess skin. Either way, it isn’t meant to be a quick-and-easy shortcut to a flat stomach; it’s supposed to be done after you’ve gotten as far as possible through diet and exercise. 

Even just a mini tummy tuck is pretty intense for your body to heal from, so it’s key to know what you’re getting into. Even more importantly, you should choose a top-tier doctor like Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon Nicholas Lahar.

This won’t just lower the risk of complications while you’re in surgery and recovering, but it’ll also help you get better results.

How long does it take to recover from a tummy tuck?

On average, you should be able to resume normal activities (including intense exercise or physical labor) after about two months. The swelling will take up to six months to disappear, though, so don’t freak out if you haven’t bounced back after eight short weeks.

The first two weeks will be the hardest; you’ll essentially have to avoid tensing your abdominal muscles, which means very little standing, no lifting, no driving…in other words, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the recliner. Here’s a summary of what to expect in the first month after getting a tummy tuck:

  • Week 1 – Your whole life will revolve around taking care of yourself, and hopefully you’ll have a few people helping out. Whether it’s your family, your house, your pets, or anything else, they need to be someone else’s responsibility while you recover. The surgeon will have prescribed you some pain medication and antibiotics, and there’ll also be tubes installed in each incision to drain them for the first 3 to 7 days. You’ll also have a compression garment to wear for a certain amount of time each day; it’s meant to reduce inflammation, and also to keep everything in place as it heals. 
  • Week 2 – You’ll probably spend a lot less time sleeping at this point, and by the end of this week you’ll likely switch to OTC pain medications (just make sure you aren’t taking anything with aspirin). After you’ve recovered for a couple of weeks, your surgeon may clear you to go back to work provided it isn’t physically demanding. 
  • Week 3 – If you had a less invasive version of the tummy tuck, you may not even need pain medication at this point. Don’t let that fool you, though; you’ll still need to avoid lifting heavy objects and use your compression garment regularly.
  • Week 4 – The surgeon may give you the green light for light physical activities at this point. Occasional pulling sensations or numbness could be present, but that’s a normal part of recovery from a tummy tuck, so don’t let it worry you.

How does a tummy tuck work?

In most cases, recipients of the tummy tuck procedure will end up with a single horizontal scar across the lower abdomen. While the scar is usually several inches long, most plastic surgeons will ensure that it’s easily hidden underneath underwear or even a bikini. The extent of the tummy tuck will be determined by how much loose skin there is; for example, someone who lost a moderate amount of weight will have less loose skin than someone who was pregnant with twins. There are also some individuals who are left with loose skin after massive weight loss, so they’ll probably end up with more extensive scarring post-surgery. Here’s a breakdown of what the three types of tummy tuck would involve:

  • The extended tummy tuck is by far the most invasive; those who get this kind of tummy tuck may have loose skin or fat on their stomach, lower chest and back, buttocks, and flanks. The horizontal incision could extend beyond the hips, and there could be a vertical incision as well. Depending on the individual, the quantity of loose skin removed could amount to several pounds. If a tummy tuck is ever medically necessary, this is probably the type they’re talking about; an individual with this amount of loose skin probably has issues with chafing or irritation, and may run the risk of infection between skin folds without proper care.
  • The standard (full) tummy tuck is what people get when they have some loose skin above and below the belly button. The incision usually goes from one hip to the other, and there may be an incision made at the belly button too. It’s most commonly sought by women who want to get their pre-pregnancy figure back, or by people who’ve lost a good bit of weight. 
  • The mini tummy tuck is the least invasive, and easiest to recover from; it’s used for those who only have loose skin below the belly button. Since the extent of the procedure is much smaller with the mini tummy tuck, there tends to be a lot less scarring as well. 

Since the extent of a tummy tuck will vary with each individual, so will their recovery times. This is one of those cosmetic surgeries where aftercare is key, so it’s vital to follow whatever instructions have been given to you by your surgeon. If you force yourself to do too much too soon, that could negatively affect the end result.

Committing to a tummy tuck is a big deal, so it’s best to talk with a board-certified plastic surgeon before taking the plunge.

Keep in mind that your body already knows how to fix itself after a major surgery; your job is to give it the chance to do just that. With all the relevant information and a great plastic surgeon, you should have a smooth surgery, a drama-free recovery, and the results you always dreamed of for years to come. 

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