Summary: We don’t always discuss plastic surgery recovery in the greatest detail. That’s because, frankly, we’d rather be talking about the results. And who could blame us? The results are what everyone’s interested in. However, the recovery is important to acknowledge because that’s what will actually protect your results. So what happens during plastic surgery recovery? Let’s find out.

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It’s Never Too Late to See What Happens During Plastic Surgery Recovery

In almost all cases of plastic surgery procedures, your surgeon will likely discuss your “recovery” period. This is actually one of the most important stages of your plastic surgery journey and can have important repercussions on how your final results look. But what happens during plastic surgery recovery, specifically?

That question is worth asking, if only because we often discuss somewhat perfunctorily. That is, we tend to talk about recovery quite quickly. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time—we might say that your recovery will be completed in as little as three weeks, for example. But what happens during those weeks?

Let’s take a look at the recovery process, starting with what happens when you get home. Now, keep in mind that you should get personalized recovery instructions from your surgeon. This article is designed simply to give you a little preview of what’s to come.

The First Days of Recovery

Before we begin, it’s worth noting that your recovery will vary based on what procedure you’ve undergone. A recovery from breast augmentation, for example, is very different than a recovery from a tummy tuck procedure. That’s largely to be expected, I think.

When you first return from surgery, you may have pumps or pressure garments on. These are designed to mitigate swelling, and they’re an important part of recovery. Swelling is your body’s natural defense mechanism after something traumatic happens (and surgery is, indeed, trauma—at least, at first). Controlling that swelling is key to making sure you get your desired final results.

There may also be some fluid and some discomfort. That’s not to be unexpected. Your surgeon will tell you how much of these three issues you should expect to see and experience (discomfort, fluid, and swelling). Your surgeon will also tell you how much you should move around.

Because that movement is important. Getting your body moving again is key to healing quickly. But you don’t want to overdo it and cause a setback. So, here’s a brief list of what you can expect in the first couple of weeks:

  • Discomfort, often with medication prescribed to manage that discomfort
  • Swelling, within a certain threshold
  • Bandaging (usually to be taken care of by your surgeon on a follow up)
  • Many patients will have pumps or drains installed for the first week or so to manage swelling
  • Bruising of the area operated on

Longer Term Recovery

Once you get past that initial stage of recovery, most of the pain and discomfort will diminish and you’ll start to get back to your normal, everyday life. There may still be some restrictions placed on your activity, but you’ll be closer to normal. This brings you to the longer-term recovery period.

Because there will still be visible signs of that recovery. Swelling, for example, can last for months after the initial surgery. Now, that swelling is not typically at the same intensity as directly post-surgery. In fact, most long term post-operative swelling exists at a very low level.

This exceptionally low level of swelling will only impact your life (likely) in that it will make your final results difficult to see. In other words, you’ll be able to do all your normal activities, and you’ll see most of your results—but not peak results.

In terms of other things to watch out for over the long term, any scarring that developed will likely start to slowly recede. There are some ways to speed this process along (in fact, massage therapy has been shown to have benefits in this area), and you’ll want to talk to your surgeon about that.

Here’s what you can expect during your long term recovery:

  • A return to normal activities
  • Some persistent, low-level swelling
  • Scar tissue should begin to recede
  • You can start enjoying your results

Recovery is Worth It

If you stop by the plastic surgery social media website RealSelf.com, you’ll likely notice that most procedures have an exceptionally high “worth it” rating. That’s because most patients that have gone through the recovery process love their results. As such, recovery becomes totally “worth it,” as does the procedure itself.

You’ll want to talk to your surgeon about what to expect. A tummy tuck, for example, has a much more intense recovery period than does a breast augmentation. Your procedure will tend to dictate how long your recovery will last and how much discomfort there might be. Just remember that your recovery is designed to protect your results. The better your recovery goes, the more likely your results are to be spectacular.