Tummy Tuck Recovery: Tips You Should Know

Your actions during your tummy tuck recovery play a major role in achieving your desired results. A tummy tuck is a surgery that tightens the muscles in your abdomen by removing excess fat and skin. Once the wounds have completely healed, you will achieve a firm, flat abdomen with increased core strength and proven improvements in lower back pain and bladder control. Although the results of this surgery are long-lasting, there are postoperative procedures and restrictions to ensure you achieve your desired results and prevent unwanted complications. Here are some useful tips for you to follow.
 

Add protein-rich foods to your diet

Your diet during your tummy tuck recovery period can help speed up the wound healing process. To help you recover faster, you should include protein-rich foods in your daily meals. This is because cells involved in wound healing need protein in order to perform at their best. With increased protein intake, these cells speed up the healing of damaged tissues in your abdomen by increasing the production of collagen (a protein that helps repair the skin) and enhancing the formation of new blood vessels. [1]

The following are the common foods that are high in protein:

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Chicken or turkey breast
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish and seafood
  • Greek yogurt
  • Lamb meat
  • Lean beef
  • Legumes
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Oats
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Soy
 

Start walking per your surgeon’s advice

Immediately after your surgery, you may feel pain and soreness around your abdomen. While these discomforts can limit your movement, they are usually tolerable and can be best managed by taking pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. A few hours after your tummy tuck surgery, you will be instructed to start mobilising, walking. Early ambulation after abdominal surgery is recommended because it increases the speed of your recovery, reduces pain, reduces the risk of complications and decreases the time spent in the hospital. Light exercises such as walking prevent blood clot formation in your legs, problems with blood flow, lung problems, and bedsores. [2] By preventing these complications, your recovery will go as smoothly as possible. In the first couple of days make sure to have someone nearby to assist you before mobilising.

 

Sleep with your waist bent and legs elevated

Because of the tension in your tummy following the muscle repair and removal of excess skin you need to change your sleeping position after surgery. Sleeping with your waist bent and legs elevated is the recommended position after a tummy tuck surgery because it reduces pressure and stress on your incision lines and muscle repair. By keeping your abdominal area free from extra tension can help to prevent bleeding, wound healing problems, infection, and pain. To keep your waist and legs in the recommended position, you can use large pillows or rolled blankets for support.

 

Wear your recommended compression garments religiously

You will wake up from surgery in your compression garment. These are elasticised pieces of clothing that fit snugly around your abdomen like athletic wear that are used after a tummy tuck to control swelling. Like a bandage on a sore ankle, it also makes things feel a little more comfortable.

The garments are removed for bathing and the garments can be hand washed or gently machine washed at the same time. Before reapplying your compression garments, make sure that the area around your abdomen is completely dry as moisture can promote the growth of microorganisms in the area and could contribute to infection.

 

Increase your water intake

Good skin hydration also plays an important role in speeding up your tummy tuck recovery. Aside from eating foods rich in protein, drinking 3 litres of water daily can help your wounds heal faster by:

  • Increasing the supply of oxygen going to your wound: Water helps in the transport of oxygen and nutrients to your wound. [3]
  • Keeping your skin hydration normal: If your skin is dry and dehydrated, it can cause irritation, infection, itching, and other conditions that can delay wound healing.
  • Pain medication and reduced mobility can cause constipation: the stronger painkillers used early in the recovery in combination with dehydration and reduced mobility can lead to constipation. Increasing water intake int during your recovery is an important way of managing and preventing this from occurring.

To increase your water intake, you should create a plan that you need to follow daily. This includes setting a water-consumption goal, keeping a water bottle with you, replacing energy drinks with water, and setting an alarm on your smartphone or watch to remind you of your scheduled water intake. You can also add fruits such as watermelon, oranges, cucumber, or pineapples to your diet because they are highly rich in water.

 

Pain relief after surgery

Immediately following surgery you will have painkillers administered directly through your vein at the press of a button controlled by you and therefore the dose is directly related to how much discomfort you have. From the next morning, you will be on the same medication that you will be taking home. You will take a combination of stronger painkillers and simple analgesics like paracetamol and anti-inflammatory tablets. You will receive scripts for the stronger medication that are used particularly early in the recovery when discomfort is greatest and in the evening to assist with residual discomfort that might interfere with sleep. Prior to surgery, you should ensure that you have a supply of paracetamol and anti-inflammatory tablets like Ibuprofen at home unless of course, you are intolerant of them. These relatively simple analgesics are still very effective following significant operations such as a tummy tuck and after the first few days form the mainstay of pain relief.

 

Strong pain medications contribute to constipation

Stronger medication early in the tummy tuck recovery in combination with dehydration and reduced mobility can lead to constipation as a side effect. Ensuring adequate water intake and mobilising as we have already discussed as well as plenty of fibre such as fruit and vegetable or alternatively supplements such as Metamucil can be very helpful. For some people, the chemist can provide additional medications that can assist if constipation becomes problematic.

 
References:

  1. Barchitta M, Maugeri A, Favara G, et al. Nutrition and Wound Healing: An Overview Focusing on the Beneficial Effects of Curcumin. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(5):1119. Published 2019 Mar 5. doi:10.3390/ijms20051119.
  2. Liu Z, Tao X, Chen Y, Fan Z, Li Y. Bed rest versus early ambulation with standard anticoagulation in the management of deep vein thrombosis: a meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015;10(4):e0121388. Published 2015 Apr 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121388.
  3. Posthauer ME. Hydration: does it play a role in wound healing? Adv Skin Wound Care. 2006 Mar;19(2):74-6. doi: 10.1097/00129334-200603000-00007. PMID: 16557057.