Hard Stomach After Tummy Tuck
After having her stomach surgically removed and then stapled back together, former model Victoria Principal experienced what she describes as “the worst pain of my life.” But it was nothing compared with the agony that awaited her when she tried to return to work four days later. She had trouble breathing and felt nauseous, and she couldn’t eat anything without vomiting. The discomfort lasted for weeks. Now, nearly two years after her procedure, Principal still suffers from severe indigestion and heartburn.
“I didn’t realize how much I’d taken for granted until I lost all my excess weight,” says Principal, who is now known by her real name, Sheryl Crow. Although her body wasn’t perfectly flat before the operation, it looked better than ever thanks to the results of the tummy tuck. And although she’s not one to try risky cosmetic procedures, she decided to go ahead with the surgery after consulting with her plastic surgeon.
As more women are choosing surgical options over liposuction or other minimally invasive techniques to achieve a slimmer appearance, the number of people undergoing abdominoplasty — removal of loose fat pads followed by repositioning of the abdominal muscles into a new shape — is on the rise. In fact, in 2008 there were nearly 1 million such operations performed in the United States alone. Of course, some patients choose nonsurgical methods because they don’t want to be bothered with recovery time, though this option carries its own risks and drawbacks.
The good news is that most tummy tuck patients do end up experiencing little or no side effects after surgery. However, many will notice temporary changes in their appearance. For example, the area around the navel may become red, swollen and painful, especially immediately following the procedure. This is actually an expected occurrence since the incision site must heal before any further scarring can occur. Other common complaints include bruising and drainage from the wound.
Because these symptoms usually disappear within three months, many patients find themselves eager to get back to normal activities and resume their usual routines. But if you’re among those who have difficulty gaining full use of your abdomen again, don’t despair. While it might take a bit longer to recover, experts say that getting through the initial postoperative period should help ease your way toward speedy healing.
In addition to the physical restrictions of the early stages of recovery, some patients worry about a harder-than-usual sex life after a tummy tuck. If you’ve gone under the knife, however, it’s important to know that sexual intercourse doesn’t necessarily cause problems after a tummy tuck. Some plastic surgeons recommend waiting at least six weeks between major surgeries, but others suggest trying to resume normal activity sooner. Your doctor will likely give you specific instructions regarding whether or not you can engage in strenuous exercise while recovering, and he or she will probably advise against any kind of heavy lifting or contact sports for several months afterward.
So how long does it take to feel completely healed? Read on to learn more about healing times.
Healing Times After Tummy Tuck Surgery
Although tummy tuck patients rarely encounter complications, there are certain things to avoid during the first week or so after surgery. First, refrain from smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products; doing either could slow down the process of healing. Second, keep the area clean by soaking the affected areas in lukewarm water. Use a soft cloth or sponge rather than paper towels, which can irritate the wounds. Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen or any other nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medicines reduce fever and inflammation, but they also thin the blood. When treating cuts, scrapes and burns, apply antibiotic ointments. It’s also wise to skip hot baths, showers and saunas for the first few days, as heat can make the wounds even more susceptible to infection.
While avoiding hot tubs, swimming pools and saunas may seem like a hassle, it’s worth it. Heat can raise your internal temperature too high, which causes increased fluid loss through perspiration. Since dehydration is already a concern for everyone, overheating only makes matters worse. Soaking in a warm pool isn’t going to make you sweat less, but it will increase swelling and promote faster healing.
During the second phase of recovery, called the convalescence stage, you’ll need to stay out of bed for at least seven days and resume walking, running and other forms of moderate exercise. You can expect to regain your strength and mobility in just a couple of weeks, but you shouldn’t attempt strenuous workouts right away. If you haven’t exercised regularly prior to surgery, it’s best to begin slowly with simple exercises such as yoga poses, stretching and gentle walks. Overdoing it during this period could delay the healing process.
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