Tips For Recovery and Activities After Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

Top Tips for Recovery and Activities After Abdominoplasty with Dr Craig

A tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic surgery procedure used to make the abdomen both smaller and firmer. It focuses on the removal of excess fat and skin around the stomach. In most cases, it can also restore weak muscles creating an abdominal profile that men and women often both desire. Abdominoplasties are common cosmetic procedures and below you will find tips for recovery and activities you can do after surgery.

Unfortunately, sometimes strict diets and exercise can’t achieve the abdomen contour you desire. It is common for people to have a healthy body weight, but still develop descending or loose skin around the abdominal area.

Dr Craig Rubinstein is one of the leading plastic surgeons in Australia, and he has performed thousands of abdominoplasty procedures with and without muscle repair over the years.

URGENT UPDATE – The Australian Government has reinstated a Medicare Item Number for a Tummy Tuck for some post-pregnancy patients suffering from Diastasis Recti (split abdominal muscles) if you are eligible and meet the new criteria. This new 30175 Medicare Item Number is effective 1st July 2022. Read the 30175 Medicare Item Number factsheet.

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What Does an Abdominoplasty Seek to Achieve?

An abdominoplasty can provide a variety of advantages to the appropriate patient, including:

  • Regaining their pre-pregnancy tummy
  • Remove the loose fat and skin following significant weight loss
  • Achieve a flatter, firmer stomach
  • Provides a more contoured mid-section
  • Repair muscle separation
  • And easier to maintain weight loss

What to expect after your surgery?

The length of recovery from a tummy tuck can vary from person to person. Generally, it takes 3 months if not longer to feel completely recovered. Although the majority of the healing period is within the first couple of weeks, it is important to put off important plans, physical activities, and work stresses during recovery. Strenuous activities such as weight lifting, running, sports, motorbikes etc. should be avoided for at least six weeks after surgery.

Below are some routine things you need to care for as you heal after your surgery:

  • Compression garments:
    • You will be given a compression garment to wear after surgery.
    • This will reduce swelling and support the abdomen.
    • It promotes healing and recovery.
    • You should expect to wear this for between two weeks and two months depending on your healing progress and your surgeon’s instructions.
  • Incision care:
    • The incision wound is covered by a surgical dressing or bandage to keep it safe from the external environment.
    • You will be instructed about what to do and when regarding wound care.
    • You should keep your wound clean and remain gentle with it to avoid injury or bleeding.
    • Any swelling, intense pain or discharge from the wound should be immediately reported to your surgeon.
  • Drain care:
    • A temporary tube MAY be placed in the surgical site under your skin following tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) surgery.
    • This is only used when required and will be removed once fluid stops accumulating.
  • Antibiotics and painkillers:
    •  You will be given a prescription for both antibiotics and painkillers.
    • These are to be taken orally to reduce the risk of postoperative infection as well as to help you manage your pain levels.

Some recovery tips following abdominoplasty are:

  • Take pain medication as directed
  • Wear a compression garment
  • Use ice packs to minimize pain and swelling
  • Limit jerky and quick movements
  • Move around the house to keep your circulation going. In other words, do not be too stationary.
  • Drink lots of water
  • Get adequate bed rest
  • Don’t stay in one position too long

Activities following abdominoplasty surgery:

An important question after abdominoplasty is how soon can patients return to their daily activities? Below is the general activity guideline. The information supplied is general in nature and you should always confirm with your surgeon before undertaking any of the below, no matter what we of recovery you are in.

Exercise: Exercise is an important part of recovery following abdominoplasty surgery. Follow the instructions given by your doctor. Exercise combined with healthy eating will maximise your abdominoplasty result.

Week 1 and 2

  • Wear a compression garment for four to six weeks after surgery. It maximises tummy tuck results and reduces swelling.
  • Walk for a short distance while maintaining a flexed posture. Your abdominal muscle and fascia will be protected from being pulled, by walking flexed.
  • You should be able to return to your job at the end of two weeks, as long as your job is not physically demanding.

Week 3 and 4

  • You can resume light exercises like walking and recumbent cycling.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise.
  • Do not do exercises that target the abdominal muscles. This includes sits ups and weight lifting.
  • Avoid jarring steps, work in a continuous motion.

Before resuming exercise always confirm with your surgeon as everyone’s recovery differs.

Weeks 4 to 6

  • You can start a normal exercise routine at a low level.
  • Exercises including;
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Water aerobics
  • Long walks
  • Very low-weight lifting for arms and legs can be done.
  • Ease your way back into things.

It is important to take it slow and pay attention to any warning signs such as pain or discomfort.

Weeks 6 to 8

  • Generally, you will receive the all-clear for most types of aerobic activity at this point.
  • Running outside or on a treadmill can be done.
  • Moderate swimming can be done at around 8 weeks.
  • Body strengthening exercise including heavy lifting can be done without putting too much strain on the abdominal wall.
  • Remember, you won’t be able to start training where you were before surgery you need to build back up slowly.

After week 8

  • Most lifestyle and exercise activities can resume with the exception of martial arts, boxing, Cross Fit, F45 and anything on a similar level.  You need to wait until the three-month mark before you resume this kind of activity.

Driving after Abdominoplasty

You will need to take some time off following your abdominoplasty surgery. You should not rush to get behind the wheel after surgery. The healing time should be uneventful to get optimum results.

As recovery varies from person to person, there is no standard answer for how much time you need to avoid driving after abdominoplasty surgery. Therefore, it’s best to use your body as a guide and only go short distances to start with.  Your surgeon will advise you.

Safety reasons to avoid driving after abdominoplasty surgery:

  • After surgery, you will not be able to drive due to anaesthesia. This is because anaesthesia can cause tiredness and confusion.
  • You will not be able to operate a car or any machinery after waking up from anaesthesia for a couple of days.
  • Furthermore, surgery can cause pain and exhaustion. On average, anaesthesia drugs remain in your body for up to 24 hours before leaving your system.
  • You cannot drive yourself home after surgery, you will need a family member or friend to take you home and stay with you for a couple of days.
  • After surgery, your body movement will be tender. Even simple things like turning your body to see a blind spot, and opening the car door can be harder and painful, along with delayed reaction times.
  • Turning the wheel can be difficult as it requires core strength.
  • For the above reasons, it is not safe to drive until you have recovered and truly feel ready.

How to know when you are ready to drive?

Driving after abdominoplasty surgery does not have a specific timeline and completely depends upon your recovery and pain levels. You should assess yourself in the car before you start to drive again. For example:

  • Can you sit comfortably in a car?
  • Can you open the door without difficulties?
  • Is there any rubbing or pressure when you put on a seatbelt?
  • Can you turn the wheel comfortably?
  • Can you make an emergency stop to make a sharp turn to avoid an accident?

It is also important to note that driving is not recommended using certain pain medications. If you feel ready to do all of these things, then you are ready to drive. Usually, you have to wait 2-3 weeks after surgery to start driving.

Swimming after Abdominoplasty

You need to make sure you’ve had enough time to recover before you start swimming again. Swimming can take place in most cases, at the 8-week mark.  You need to have had an uneventful recovery.

  • Swimming can increase the risk of infection if the incision site isn’t fully healed.
  • This is due to the fact that swimming pools and other bodies of water can carry a lot of germs and bacteria. While skin protects them from entering into the body. Incisions that are not healed properly are vulnerable to infection.
  • Swimming can cause splitting of the incision site if done too soon as your body stretches out during the activity which can, in turn, stretch your scar or re-open it.
  • Help scar heals optimally. If scars are exposed to the sun, it will impair how they heal.
  • Even after you get the green signal to swim, ensure adequate protection to your scar and apply waterproof sunscreen before taking a dip.
  • Typically, we instruct patients to take a break of a minimum of 6 weeks but preferably 8 weeks before submerging any incision in the ocean or pool.

Sexual Intercourse After Abdominoplasty

An abdominoplasty procedure will involve stitching together the abdominal muscles so they appear firm and toned. Muscle tightening is combined with abdominal skin being sutured together, this is why you should avoid sexual activity right after a tummy tuck surgery. It is necessary to allow the abdomen to heal and the incision to close before placing stress on them. Irrespective of position, sex puts too much stress on your healing abdomen.

The extent of the procedure and how you will recover will both play roles in how soon you can engage in intimacy. A patient requiring minimal surgery may be able to have sex after two weeks. However, following abdominoplasty surgery, you should wait until at least four weeks as a standard guideline.

Always ask your surgeon if you’re unsure about anything.

Do’s and Don’ts After Abdominoplasty Surgery

Do follow your cosmetic surgeon’s instructions

After surgery, your surgeon will provide postoperative guidance to maximise your comfort and encourage recovery. Typical instructions might include:

  1. Taking pain medication and antibiotics at regular intervals.
  2. Wearing support compression garments for approximately six weeks.
  3. Wearing comfortable underwear, specifically, ones that don’t put pressure on your incision.
  4. No exercise, swimming or driving until they clear you.

It is important to remember that an abdominoplasty takes time to produce a result. It can take months or even up to a year for your body to fully recover and adapt to its new improved figure. There will be scarring, but this will fade over time as you heal. The incision scars are made as low as possible and hidden within underwear where possible.

Don’t overexert yourself after the procedure

Spend at least a few days relaxing at home after your abdominoplasty. You can take a short walk after a few days and light exercise after a few weeks. The more you are active, the more prompt the recovery. Staying active will help to reduce swelling, minimise the risk of blood clots and make you feel better too.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

Abdominoplasty recovery is a lengthy process and can take months. You will have both good and bad days. You should have realistic expectations as you are healing, follow the surgeon’s advice, and discuss any concerns you are dealing with.

Frequently Asked Questions about Abdominoplasty Recovery

How soon can you drive after an abdominoplasty?

  • You will need to take some time off following your abdominoplasty surgery. You should not rush to get behind the wheel after surgery. The healing time should be uneventful to get optimum results. As recovery varies from person to person, there is no standard answer for how much time you need to avoid driving after surgery. Usually, you have to wait a minimum of 2-3 weeks after surgery to start driving again.

What are the restrictions after abdominoplasty?

  • Your initial recovery time requires at least 2-3 weeks and for a few days, you need to rest and have downtime. This is to reduce scarring and avoid bruising and swelling. Some restrictions right after an abdominoplasty include:
    • No Heavy lifting at all during your recovery.
    • Avoid strenuous physical activities, swimming and driving until your surgeon gives you the green light
    • Stay home and get rest for 2-3 weeks.

What happens 2 weeks after an abdominoplasty?

  • At 2 weeks, there is still swelling in the treatment area, however, the pain, bruising, and feeling of tightness are starting to ease.
  • The patient should continue to wear compression garments.

What are the dos and don’ts after an abdominoplasty?

  • The do’s and don’ts after an abdominoplasty are;
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions regarding your recovery – no question is silly – not asking the questions is silly.
  2. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take recreational drugs, as they interfere with the healing
  3. Don’t be inactive but DO be careful in your movements
  4. Do have realistic expectations on your cosmetic aspirations
  5. Do follow your surgeon’s instructions

 Can I bend over after abdominoplasty?

  • Patients are asked to try and walk as normal as is comfortable. If there is a slight hunch that’s ok as you will straighten up over time.  We don’t encourage hunching all the time.

What happens if you don’t wear a compression garment after an abdominoplasty?

  • Compression garments will support your stomach while it is inflamed and assist in the recovery process.
  • Compression clothing should be worn 23 hours a day and should only be removed for showering or washing the garment.
  • If you don’t wear a compression garment as advised following tummy tuck you can risk splitting of sutures, seroma formation, haematoma formation, increased swelling and bruising, etc.
  • COMPRESSION GARMENTS ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE.

When can I wear jeans after an abdominoplasty?

  • Most patients after surgery feel comfortable wearing jeans about 3-4 weeks after surgery. This gives time for the drains to be removed (if they were used), the incision to heal and some of the swelling to go down. Leggings are a great option over your garment initially or flowing dresses or tops. Read more about Drains vs No Drain Cosmetic Surgery Options.

What is the fastest way to recover from an abdominoplasty?

  1. Eat foods high in vitamins and minerals (vegetables, fruit, protein source)
  2. Drink plenty of water.
  3. Limit the work hours as well as physical activity at work, for the first six weeks after surgery.
  4. Follow your surgeon’s instructions
  5. Wear support compression garments for roughly six weeks.
  6. Stay away from junk food, alcohol, smoking, drugs. As they all hinder recovery
  7. Keep moving (as comfortable) to assist circulation.

 How long does the tightness last after an abdominoplasty?

  • Although the tightness can feel alarming, it is quite normal to the healing process. The patient should expect this to last anywhere from six to twelve weeks following the procedure. However, it may take up to a year to regain normal sensation in the abdominal areas as the nerves may be affected.  This can result in numbness or tingling that takes time to normalise and in rare cases, there is a chance some feeling may be lost on the skin.

Can I lay on my side after an abdominoplasty?

Why are my thighs so swollen after abdominoplasty?

  • It is normal for swelling to be present in the thighs several months after surgery as swelling migrates toward the thigh. At three weeks, gravity pulls swelling toward your thighs and ankles and from there it will resolve.

 How do you get out of bed after abdominoplasty?

  • Patients need to be careful not to stretch the skin of the lower abdomen when getting out of bed.
  • The steps to get out of bed after a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) are:
    • Roll on to your side
    • Maintain flexion at the hips
    • Use your hand to push yourself in a seated position
    • Rock forward and use your leg to help you stand.

Further Reading – Medical References:

  • Hernandez, Teri L; Kittelson, John M; Law, Christopher K; Ketch, Lawrence L; Stob, Nicole R; Lindstrom, Rachel C; Scherzinger, Ann; Stamm, Elizabeth R; Eckel
  • Dixit, VV; Wagh, MS (May 2013). “Unfavourable outcomes of liposuction and their management”. Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery. 46 (2): 377–92. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.118617
  • Tierney, Emily P.; Kouba, David J.; Hanke, C. William (December 2011). “Safety of tumescent and laser-assisted liposuction: a review of the literature”. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 10 (12):

About Dr Craig Rubinstein
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Dr Craig Rubinstein FRACS (Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons) is an experienced Melbourne Specialist Plastic Surgeon for breast and abdominoplasty surgery.

Dr Rubinstein offers women personalised abdominoplasty surgery and all forms of cosmetic breast surgery.

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