Although swelling after tummy tuck surgery is completely normal and will go down on its own in time, it’s understandably that many people want to know if there is anything you can do to help reduce the swelling during recovery.
Our guide helps explain all you need to know about why swelling occurs, how long it is likely to last and what you can do to help ease it.
What are the stages of swelling after a tummy tuck?
During tummy tuck surgery, the blood and lymphatic vessels that help drain fluids are cut, making it temporarily difficult for the body to remove build-ups of fluid. This, along with inflammation from the incision site, leads to swelling.
In the first few days after surgery, you will experience some discomfort, and swelling will be at its peak. You will be prescribed medication to help manage the pain; however, as pain medication can sometimes cause constipation, this may also prolong the period of swelling and bloating.
In the first few weeks following surgery, you may find that swelling can fluctuate throughout the day, increasing when you stand for long periods and decreasing after a full night’s sleep. You may also find that as scar tissue begins to form, swelling temporarily increases again, but this will decrease as the scar tissue matures.
By six to twelve months, the swelling will have significantly improved, although it can take up to eighteen months in some cases for swelling to resolve fully.
How long does swelling last after a tummy tuck?
The length of time that tummy tuck swelling lasts will depend on a range of factors. For example, recovery may be reduced for those who undergo a mini-abdominoplasty compared to those who undergo the standard procedure. Furthermore, if you have had liposuction at the same time as the tummy tuck, the inflammation from this procedure may prolong the swelling. Additionally, how long you take pain medication may also impact how long you feel swollen, as pain medication can often slow down the gastrointestinal tract, causing temporary constipation and bloating.
In most cases, swelling will significantly improve within two months. However, minor swelling may be present for up to twelve to eighteen months for some people.
How to reduce swelling after a tummy tuck
Although swelling after a tummy tuck is completely normal and will resolve itself in due course, there are some things you can do to help during recovery:
- For the first two weeks after surgery, ensure you have plenty of rest and elevate your lower legs as often as possible.
- Keep the wound site clean to reduce your risk of infection and inflammation.
- Wear your compression garment as instructed by your surgeon. The compression garment applies constant even pressure to your tummy to help fight inflammation, reduce water retention and achieve better abdominal contouring.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids to help flush out your system and reduce the risk of water retention.
- Eat a light, low sodium diet to reduce fluid retention and help the damaged skin, tissue, and muscles heal quickly.
- Undertake gentle movement. Very light walking in the first few weeks can help to reduce swelling, boost circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots. Avoid strenuous exercise, including lifting weights, for at least six to twelve weeks to allow your body time to fully heal. After that, your doctor will advise you on a safe exercise plan.
FAQ for how to reduce swelling after tummy tuck
Does walking reduce swelling after abdominoplasty?
Yes, undertaking very light walking in the first few weeks can help to reduce swelling and improve circulation. However, it is recommended you speak with your doctor about how much walking they feel is safe for you to do.
Does lymphatic massage reduce swelling?
Gentle lymphatic massage can help to reduce swelling and increase circulation. However, lymphatic massage should only be considered if your doctor feels it is safe and only after you have been permitted to remove your compression garment.
What happens if you don’t wear a compression garment after a tummy tuck?
Compression garments are vital to your tummy tuck recovery. They help reduce bruising, swelling and inflammation, reduce pain and risk of infection, and help maintain the abdominal muscle structure while healing occurs. The compression garment also helps connect the skin to the muscle tissues to reduce skin sagging. Most doctors recommend you wear the compression garment for at least six weeks.
If you are interested to learn more about abdominoplasty surgery, take a look at our Q&A session with surgeon Dr Nadir Ali. Or, head to our tummy tuck page for more information on undergoing abdominoplasty surgery with Ramsay Health Care.