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We thought we would put together a must-have list of recovery tips for patients. This post focuses on swelling tips. Most patients who have plastic surgery are worried about post-operative swelling and how they can minimize this unsettling symptom. As swelling can remain for days, weeks or longer, being prepared and knowing the key recovery tips will greatly help to minimize swelling.
Below is a must-have proactive list for anyone having plastic surgery who wants to take the air out of swelling:
Chill Out: 20 Minutes On, 40 Minutes Off
Many patients ice constantly (day & night) during the initial days of post-op. Apply a cold compress for 20 minutes on swollen area, then 40 minutes off, repeating hourly. Don’t put a cold compress directly on skin, as you should put a paper towel or thin, soft cloth on the swollen area to protect it. You can use specialized cold therapy compresses, frozen peas or blueberries in ziplock bags, or gauze pads soaked in water and ice.
Following a tummy tuck, wearing a medical compression garment becomes crucial to your healing. A compression garment accelerates the healing process and allows you to return to daily life sooner by minimizing swelling, improving blood circulation, providing support and comfort to surgical areas, and by flushing the body out of potentially harmful fluids. By applying pressure, a garment helps the skin fit better to its new body shape with less likelihood of skin sagging. It is important that the garment be made specifically for plastic surgery recovery.
Depending on the doctor, you may need to wear both a Stage One garment for the first 1-2 weeks of post-op (garment is designed to be less tight and bigger due to your swelling and has zippers for ease) and then switch to wearing a Stage Two garment (smaller and tighter since you have less swelling) during 2-8 weeks post-op or longer. Wearing garments for both stages gives you continuous compression, which speeds recovery. Some doctors may ask you to wear one garment.
Choosing the right garment can have a significant impact on your healing. It is not recommended to sacrifice your cosmetic results by wearing a non-medical garment from your local store that is not specifically made for a cosmetic medical procedure (such as over-the-counter girdles, athletic shorts, body suits, tights, shapewear, sports bras) because they are not designed for continuous wear during recovery. Wearing a non-medical garment can be bad for healing, as you can slow down your recovery, worsen your swelling and other symptoms, and increase your post-op discomfort.
Most Popular Tummy Tuck Compression Garments: Then, there is a great post that was put together by Make Me Heal that lists all the most popular garments for patients based on years of experience and it lists some tips on compression garments.
Homeopathic remedies such as Arnica Montana and Bromelain can shorten your recovery and lessen the swelling that you experience.
Arnica Montana is a homeopathic herb that can shorten recovery by reducing post-op swelling and bruising. Arnica comes in both pill and topical form. The pill form can be taken several days before surgery and up to a few days post-op. The topical form can be applied on the affected swollen areas once the incisions have been closed.
Rest and sleep on your back continuously in an inclined position (25-45 degree angle) for the initial days of post-op or as long as major swelling remains. Resting in elevation enables optimal blood circulation and helps reduce swelling. You can achieve elevation by using specialized pillows such as a wedge pillow with an incline design, or by propping yourself above 3-4 pillows, or by sleeping on a recliner.
Wedge pillows are specially designed with an incline to provide proper alignment and to keep your affected swollen areas (facial, upper, mid, or lower body areas) comfortably elevated in an angle that helps reduce swelling and enables optimal blood circulation to all the vital healing areas. There are also knee and leg wedges and lifts that also serve the purpose of keeping swollen areas (particularly the legs, thighs, calves, and feet area) comfortably elevated in an angle that is needed for reducing swelling, as well as helping to reduce tension on the abdomen. Many patients find bed wedges to be a superior and more comfortable elevation solution compared to putting oneself above pillows on a bed. The advantages of wedges compared to pillows are that they are sturdy, you do not have to worry about slipping off as you would with pillows, you have far less tension and stress on your body, and you do not have to periodically rearrange the wedge as you would with pillows that shift around and fall.
During the initial weeks of post-op, the water in the shower should be moderately warm because hot or steamy water can worsen swelling. Avoid having the water stream come down directly on fragile surgical areas.
*As salt (sodium) can worsen swelling, avoid foods and drinks containing salt during recovery.
*Eat leaf lettuce, eggs, and yogurt, which are excellent sources of Vitamin K, another possible remedy to swelling.
Last edited by Make_Me_Heal_Team on Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Every plastic surgery patient despises scars, as scars are tell-tale signs of having had cosmetic surgery. For this reason, patients are most preoccupied about how they can reduce their scars following surgery. Fortunately, there are various effective solutions that can significantly help you reduce your surgery scars and minimize their appearance.
Here is a list of our top recommendations for minimizing scars:
Silicone Gels & Sheets
Silicone gels, creams and adhesive silicone sheets promote scar reduction and make your scar less noticeable. These products can reduce, flatten, and soften the scar size, thickness, height, and color of all types of new and old scars, post-surgery scars, keloids, hypertrophic scars, and scars caused by injury, trauma, and burns.
Silicone scar products help reduce scar appearance by forming a protective barrier over the skin surface, increasing hydration, pressure, and oxygen tension, and maintaining the skin’s moisture.
Silicone gels are recommended for areas that are visible to the eye and places where a sheet is not convenient to use. Self-adhesive silicone sheets come in various shapes and sizes and can stick to any body area. Sheets offer the added advantage of putting pressure on the scar, which benefits scar reduction. These gels and sheets should only be applied after wounds have fully closed.
Electromagentic patches are the latest scar reduction home treatments that send an electromagnetic pulsed signal to the wounded area and reduce the appearance of scars. An electromagnetic patch fights the inflammatory response of your body that normally leads fluids to accumulate in the scar area and cause your cells to be pulled apart and result in what is known as scarring. The electromagnetic signal sent by the patch pushes the fluids out and reduces granulation of the scar which leads to less noticeable scarring.
Massaging scars may help reduce their appearance, although it should only be undertaken once the skin is no longer vulnerable to pressure.
No Toasting or Taking A Drag
Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking for 2-4 weeks pre-op and 2-4 weeks post-op because this can lead to poor scar healing.
Protect Scars From The Sun
Once incisions have closed, a sunscreen should be worn at all times during the first few months of post-op. Sun exposure can prolong the period your scar remains red and may cause scars to hyperpigment and darken.
Many patients relate to us how they are concerned and disturbed by bruising discolorations after surgery which can be quite unsettling visually and span all kinds of colors (black, blue, gray, and purple, to yellow and brown) until they disappear.
Fortunately, there are a few effective tips which you can follow to speed up the disappearance of the bruises, as follows:
Once swelling has gone down, you can switch to warm compresses to help reduce bruising. Although the benefits of icing in regards to bruising is not agreed upon by all doctors, some believe that the “20 minutes on, 40 minutes off” icing technique (the technique used for swelling) may also keep the level of your bruising to a minimum. The Cold & Hot 10"x9" Compress and the Cold & Hot Deluxe Compress - 11"x14" can be used for both hot and cold therapy.
If your bruising is not disappearing as quickly as you need it to, you can use professional camouflage makeup to hide your bruising. The best product for this is Dermablend Cover Crème which is recommended by dermatologists, plastic surgeons, make-up artists and even actors! Set the Cover Crème with the Dermablend Loose Setting Powder for all day coverage!
Avoid using or taking products (skincare, hair products, foods, supplements) containing Vitamin E (tochopherol) for 2-3 weeks before surgery and for 2-3 weeks afterwards because it is an anticoagulant that can worsen bleeding during surgery and increase post-op bruising.
Take It Easy
Take it easy during your initial recovery, as excessive activities and movements can raise your blood pressure and lead to greater bruising.
Avoid Bending or Leaning Down
Avoid bending or leaning down, lifting anything above 10 pounds, vigorous activities, and exercising until 3-4 weeks after surgery.
Once surgical areas are not fragile, gentle massaging may help disintegrate the bruises.
We did edit this list to remove the hydrogen peroxide (should not be used - can harm living skin tissue) and any topical ointments unless specifically prescribed by your own ps.
Just a quick note: it's not a good idea to self-diagnose when you have a problem. The best route is to call your own ps and follow your surgeon's specific instructions. Your surgeon is the one responsible for your care and knows your individual circumstances. After all, that 's the expert you paid. We are certainly here to offer support, advice and share our experiences. But bottom line - for anything related to postop care and healing, it's your surgeon who provides the list of instructions for you. And if you don't get one, ask him!
When in doubt, check it out!
AL, BL, TT, WL D & P Board Moderator
320 lbs down to 155 lbs by diet and exercise
AL - 10/14/2005
ETT/MR - 1/6/2006
BL - 10/27/06
BL revisions - 6/13/2007
Lipo 3000cc- 2/29/2008
I took your list to heart and I am so glad I did!! My surgery was the December 16th. I had a tt and breast reduction and lift. I am doing very well so far. I am so glad that I was able to be prepared by purchasing many of the items you listed on this site. The only other thing that I wish that I had on hand was some straws that bend because I could not lift myself to take my medications. I waited to take the Bromelain until bleeding concerns were not an issue. It does wonders for swelling!! I am still watching my salt intake because once I ate something salty and I felt HUGE and miserable. I am back at work and taking it as easy as I can.
This list is extermemly helpful. The only thing that I found I needed once I got home was a saline nasal spray. After TT stomach muscles are obvioulsy very tender, so I found blowing my nose almost impossible. The saline nasal spray helped to wash everything out without blowing (too hard). Careful the first few times if youve never used one before- so you don't sneeze from the wierd feeling- that would be really bad!
A netti pot is a great old fashioned way to keep sinuses clear. Takes a few minutes to get used to but very soothing & cleansing. My GP highly recommends it. I have terrible sinuses & got addicted to nasal sprays. I was able to kick the habit via the netti pot. I was so congested on rebound that I had to take sudafed for a couple of days just to open up enough for the saline solution to flow but now netti is all I use.
Thanks for the information and supply list. I'm not having surgery until the end of November, but I am trying to get as much information as I can beforehand.
I worked in Surgery for almost 30 years as an RN and Surgery Administrator, and after losing 65 pounds over a couple of years, I've decided to have the abdominoplasty and brachioplasty. My weight loss was aided by a medication for Diabetes [Byetta].I've been able to get some info from Plastic Surgery journals I can access, but the info at make me heal is so much better. I have learned much more this week.
Thank you to you brave souls who post your before and after pictures. They are helping me have a more realistic expectation of "after".
It is my third week post op and I am delighted with the results although I still have some swelling between scar & belly button. What I have found is that you may not be able to avoid sneezing or coughing, and following a sneeze in my first week and holding my tummy in the wrong place causing unbelievable pain, I now hold a pillow firmly across the whole of my abdomen. This does hold everything in place whilst you sneeze at 80 miles an hour! it works by distributing the pressure all over your abdomen, provides support and feels less painful. Try also to pinch your nose and tickle the roof of your mouth with your tongue when you feel a sneeze coming on. During my check up, I was reassured that I did not do any damage to my muscle repair and most important at this stage is to continue wearing your girdle. I was also advised to rub in E45 cream to bed in the scar now it's healed.
Thank you for this blog, this website, and especially for the doctors who check in and make occasional recommendations. I noticed the list above is dated 2005, so I thought I'd run through one for 2010.
I'm on day 6 post op, and these are the things that have helped me SO much.
Supply list for home: cotton balls q-tips alcohol or alcohol wipes hydrogen peroxide polysporin ointment pen reading glasses surgical gloves surgical tape-the papery kind guaze pads - lots of them anti-bacterial wipes for countertop and faucet anti-bacterial soap for hands, etc. Cetaphil for sponge baths Baby wipes Mirror and hand mirror to see my naval as I change the dressing compression stage 2 underwear - 2 sets Tylenol because I'm not allowed to use Ibuprofen 2 weeks before or after operation Sudafed Delsyn both because I managed to contract bronchitis 2 days before operation LOTS of pillows or a wedge to sleep on a TV in the bedroom moisture-wicking night gown because I am menopausal and they are awesome Protein powder (Lifetime Fitness Peak Performance Whey Protein has no other forbidden additives/herbs/supplements) Miralax frozen fruit chicken soup - low or no sodium a pick-up thingy. What a great idea. wish i had one. bending down ain't easy.
That's the list for the first week. My doctor gave me stage 1 compressionwear, so I only need to have stage 2 on hand for when the PS removes the drains.
ABOUT SNEEZING: As a professional who has had to sneeze during the most horrible moments on stage, I can testify that pressing your index finger just below your nose will kill a sneeze instantly.
ABOUT COUGHING: The pillow helps, DM and Sudafed saved my belly, I hope. (still have a lot of recovery to do)
I have a "Deluxe Gopher 2 Pickup & Reaching Tool" that has been a HUGE help (Amazon, about $15). It helps me reach things from the floor or overhead without stretching or twisting. Great for picking things up, or hanging clothes in a closet.
Thank you so much for these lists! So nice to have a list from actual people who have been there done that! I will join all these lists together and start shopping in a couple months for my TT list stash!
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