In this blog, I will cover the most common questions patients have about the tummy tuck, including the recovery, when you can exercise, what scars are like, and the final results. Since this operation is one of the most common, I hope this blog will be useful and informative, as well as entertaining. The actual surgical details will not be covered here in-depth, instead focusing on the journey leading up to surgery and afterward.
Why Is Tummy Tuck Surgery So Popular?
The tummy tuck is now one of the most common procedures I perform at my Columbus, Ohio, plastic surgery practice, where I routinely do them 2 or 3 times a week. I have noticed over the 26 years I have been in practice that I see more and more patients requesting this operation. What has changed? I think it is the idea that we can choose to improve our physical body—which has changed over the years due to pregnancy, weight changes, and hormones—in a way that will reflect how we feel on the inside, empowering ourselves to embrace our bodies and change what we can.
This is a subtle change from when I started to practice. Some of my patients at the time were reluctant to allow themselves this choice, feeling vaguely uncomfortable with the idea of doing this for their personal happiness. Over the past decades, this notion has gradually been replaced with a healthier perspective to own our journey and make the changes happen that will improve our well-being.
And I will tell you, the tummy tuck is the operation my patients are the most happy after by far—even beating breast augmentation! It is a great feeling to have a patient do their part to get back to the best physical condition they can but still have the issue of extra skin and stretch marks on loose abdomen skin, and then I can step in and take the patient the rest of the way with a tummy tuck.
What About Time Off?
One of the silver linings of the whole COVID crisis was the rapid acceptance of the “work-from-home” or WFH model. Now this option is firmly a part of our culture, and it has changed the game for patients wanting a tummy tuck. Because most patients will need 2 to 3 weeks of resting at home, this used to be a roadblock, but now, with WFH, many of my patients are able to sit at their home workstation just 3 days after the surgery. They are sedentary, at home, recuperating with their drains, and are not taking pain pills, so they could either binge-watch a few seasons of a show or they can work and not have to take time off. This really has been a boon for the lucky ones who have this opportunity.
For the rest of us who cannot work remotely, it is usually 2 weeks at home. But for these folks, I would highlight that this part of the recovery is not too painful, and most of them are not taking any painkillers, so this does free up their time for all those little chores they have been meaning to get to around the house. Maybe now is the time to clean out your closet, drawers, and old DVD collection! Seriously, many of my patients use the pain pills for the first 1 to 2 days only and then are able to manage with ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Exercise Is Another Story Though
You have just had major surgery, and no one is thinking about exercise for a few days after. But around 7 to 10 days from surgery, you will really be feeling better and wondering when you can get moving. This is tricky because, when it comes to exercise, even the same term—like walking—can mean different things. The general rules at Aesthetica for tummy tuck patients are broken into 3- and 6-week milestones. Basically for the first 3 weeks, it is only walking. This means a mall walk, not a walk on the treadmill or track going 15 minutes a mile. It feels annoying not to be allowed to do any more than that, and for the heavy lifters, it seems like forever. But it is not, and we like to say “It is a short-term inconvenience for a long-term payoff.”
After 3 weeks, most patients are allowed to start lightweight exercises for the upper body and start low-impact cardio like a spin bike. Again, these general guidelines are used and then individualized for each patient. The important concept is that this is a team goal. We want you to heal up as quickly and perfectly as possible, so we work with each person to guide them through the immediate post-op time frame.
After 6 weeks, it is possible to resume any type of activity, with the understanding it will take time to build back up to where they were, and full healing takes 6 months, so they should take it easy at first. With all of this in mind, even the most addicted daily runner and heavy lifter can get through the short-term rest period.
‘The Scar Looks Like I Have Been Cut in Half!’
With every decision in life and every surgical operation, some trade-offs must be accepted, and tummy tuck surgery is no different. If you decide to do it, you must accept the time off as a trade-off, and the scar is another trade-off. If the skin is not stretched out enough, and I feel it is not a logical trade-off to do the operation, I will tell the patient this! And though this is not that often, it is something I encounter every so often when a concerned new mother now has a looser abdomen but no stretch marks, and the skin is just a tiny bit loose. For these patients, the tummy tuck is probably too much to do, and the trade-off scar is not worth it. These lucky mothers do not realize how good they look! But for most of us, after pregnancy, the skin is stretched out beyond the point where it can shrink back, and the answer is a tummy tuck.
The other major contributor to the final result of the tummy tuck is the cinching of the muscles inside—like an internal spanx or corset. This is the part of the tummy tuck that also provides improvement in urinary incontinence—since the core is connected to the pelvic floor. The two aspects of the tummy tuck—skin removal and muscle tightening—are the reasons this operation is so powerful and provides such patient satisfaction.
‘How Close to My Goal Weight Should I Be Before Surgery?’
Many of my patients are on a weight loss journey and are curious about when surgery should be scheduled. The best results are when the patient has lost all the excess weight and has been at their goal weight for at least 6 months. This is because I can do a better job and pull off even more skin when there has been some weight loss. And even though it is hard to wait because this is such a big decision, operation, and financial commitment, it is the right thing to do. I am so happy to help my patients who have lost all the weight they need to lose, and then I get to help them get their shape back! You can read my related blog post to learn more about tummy tuck surgery after weight loss.
I hope these honest answers about some of the most common concerns related to tummy tuck have helped you sort out whether or not you should be considering a tummy tuck. The staff at Asethetica is experienced and ready to chat with you and help you begin your journey to your new best self. You can request a consultation online or call us at (614) 569-2649.