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Reducing Pain after Tummy Tuck Surgery

Posted Feb 13, 2014 by Stephen Greenberg, MD

Manhattan Tummy Tuck PainAt our Manhattan and Long Island plastic surgery offices, we want our patients to be as comfortable and satisfied as possible. This is especially true during the recovery stage of a procedure, when patients are likely to experience certain side effects of surgery. After a tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, patients commonly experience pain or discomfort near the treated area. Although pain varies among patients and will resolve in time, everyone can benefit from following a few simple steps in the days and weeks following treatment. To make your post-surgical experience as easy as possible, follow the guidelines listed below. 

Reducing Pain In the First Week

You can expect side effects of surgery to develop within the first 24 hours, increasing over two to four days. Typically, patients experience pain, bruising, and swelling, with the latter two also resulting in residual soreness. Therefore, anything to alleviate these effects will have a positive influence on one’s general comfort. To reduce pain immediately following surgery and in the days to come, we suggest the following:

  • Take pain medication: First and foremost, take your prescription pain medication as directed by your doctor. Painkillers are more effective at preventing discomfort than stopping it, and should therefore be continued through a doctor’s recommended timeline or until patients are confident that their pain has significantly subsided.  
  • Wear your compression garment: You should be given an elastic compression garment to wear around your abdomen in the weeks following surgery. This will help reduce pain and swelling through recovery, but is especially important in the first week, as it will decrease the risk of infection and other complications.
  • Apply an ice pack: By applying a cold compress to the area over the first 48 hours, you can decrease the onset of swelling. This will both temporarily numb pain and alleviate most side effects later on. Apply the compress near the surgical site, but not directly on the incisions.
  • Use antibiotics: Whether you are given oral antibiotics or a topical cream, it’s important to use this medication as directed. An infection would not only increase your pain, but it would endanger your overall health.  
  • Position yourself accordingly: When lying down or reclining, keep your hips in a flexed position to improve comfort. While standing or walking around, you may find that being slightly hunched over will alleviate stress from your abdomen.

Reducing Pain Throughout Recovery

After your incisions have healed, you may still feel sore due to swelling and damaged tissues. Until your doctor has determined that you have fully recovered, consider what you can do to hasten your recovery and limit discomfort:    

  • Stay hydrated: Hydration is essential to the healing process, as it is necessary for proper circulation, organ functions, digestion, and a host of other vital processes. Water intake will also flush out other fluids, reducing swelling.
  • Avoid sodium: Salt intake tends to worsen or prolong swelling; when possible, avoid foods that are high in sodium. On the other hand, a healthy, balanced diet will improve side effects and promote tissue repair.   
  • Avoid an upset stomach: Any foods that may result in gas or constipation should be avoided, as this will put stress on your stomach and lead to further pain. Carbonated drinks may also irritate the stomach or bowels.
  • Avoid heavy lifting: Anything that requires upper body strength, including the lifting or carrying of moderately heavy objects, should be avoided. For the first three weeks, nothing over 10 pounds should be handled.
  • Gently massage your abdomen: Although you should avoid touching your incisions, it may be beneficial to lightly rub your abdomen as needed in the weeks following treatment. This can help alleviate tightness in the muscles.
  • Herbal supplements: Ask your doctor about any possible herbal ointments or supplements that can reduce swelling and pain, such as arnica topical gel.

Enjoy an Easy Recovery

Between your surgery and your final results, we want you to have the easiest and quickest recovery possible. For additional information on what you can expect after treatment or how you can reduce your pain, contact us. If you are experiencing an increase in pain or extended side effects after surgery, schedule an appointment to meet with Dr. Greenberg.

Read more about: Tummy Tuck Plastic Surgery
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