Breast reduction, also known as reduction mammoplasty, is a safe and standard procedure. But like any major surgery, it can take a while for your body to fully heal and recover from it.
Although the surgery takes 2-3 hours, the recovery period can feel lengthy, and knowing what to expect post-procedure will help you be better prepared.
So, how long does it take to recover from breast reduction?
Well, that depends on how you define recovery. For some, this could be a fortnight after surgery when returning to work. For others, it could take up to three months post-surgery to resume all pre-surgery activities.
Although each patient is unique, some guidelines can help you prepare for your recovery period, making the process easier.
Breast Reduction Surgery Recovery Timeline
Let’s look at what you can expect in the weeks following your breast reduction surgery.
The First Day
Breast reduction surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure even under general anesthetic. This means you may go home the same day as your surgery once you are alert enough.
Typically, however, you will be in hospital for one or two days.
You will wake up from surgery with bandages covering the incisions and possibly wearing your post-operative compression garment.
You may have drains to remove fluid accumulation around the surgical site. Drains are usually removed within the first three days post-op.
Regardless of when you are discharged from the hospital, arrange for someone responsible to drive you home. You cannot leave the hospital alone.
The First Week
It is normal to feel very tired for the first 72 hours post-op. The anesthetic and sedation take time to wear off, and the analgesics (painkillers) have a narcotic effect. So, you may find that you sleep a lot during the first week of recovery.
Expect post-surgical pain to persist during the first week. Pain varies from patient to patient, but many are surprised and happy to find that the pain is not very intense. It’s more like a feeling of tightness.
Do not let pain get ahead of you, though. Instead of waiting for it to build up until it feels unbearable, take your analgesics as prescribed on schedule. This way, they take effect before the pain escalates.
After the first week, you can expect to feel like your old self. If you have a sedentary job, you may even be able to return to work.
You can get back to driving 24 hours after you stop your prescription analgesics. Potent pain medication is not usually necessary beyond three days, but this depends on the extent of your surgery.
Week Two Post Breast Reduction Surgery
In week two post-surgery, those with more active jobs should be able to return to work. However, you may still need assistance with household chores.
The physical movement of your arms and chest will remain limited and your breasts will still feel tender.
There will still be some swelling and bruising around the surgical site, and the incision may become itchy as it begins to heal and dry.
Your dressings will be removed by the second week, but you will still need to wear your compression garment.
The pressure from your compression bra will help reduce swelling and maintain your breast shape. Plus, you may find the additional support helps ease the pain a little.
One Month After your Procedure
After a month, you will start to feel the benefits of your surgery. Depending on the reasons for choosing breast reduction surgery, you may feel increased freedom of movement, better fitting clothes, and decreased neck and shoulder pain.
Light activities and household chores can resume but remember you are still in the early stages of healing.
Your surgeon may pass you for low-impact exercise at this point but beware of overdoing it. If in doubt about what may be too rigorous, ask your surgeon.
It will be around the one-month mark that you can start to explore scar reduction options. These may include silicone tapes, massage oils, or scar cream that can help reduce the appearance of scars over time.
You can expect numbness in the chest area for many months post-operation as the nerves in the area take time to regenerate.
7 Tips for Enhancing Your Breast Reduction Recovery
Here are several ways to make a recovery from your reduction mammoplasty smoother. However, the number one rule is to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
These fitted garments are a crucial part of your recovery. They help control swelling and inflammation and give your breasts and incisions the support required for them to heal correctly.
Wear your compression bra until your surgeon gives you all the all-clear to stop.
Take pain medication as per the schedule your doctor prescribes. Pain does not benefit healing, and there is a good reason your doctor has given you prescription analgesics.
If you have been given antibiotics to prevent infection, take them as directed and finish the course.
Incision care includes wearing your compression garment and avoiding underwire bras that could damage the incision line.
The incision area should be washed with soap and water daily and patted dry.
Sufficient, good-quality sleep is essential for tissues to heal. Specific hormones are released during sleep that reduce inflammation and facilitate cell repair.
Patients who have had breast surgery should also sleep on their backs until fully healed.
Even better, elevating your upper body 30-40 degrees when sleeping can help improve circulation and reduce swelling. This is because the position encourages fluid drainage and prevents fluid build-up.
You should start walking (gently) as soon as possible after surgery. Walking boosts circulation and prevents blood clots in the legs. Walking also helps to prevent constipation.
Only resume exercises when your doctor advises that you can do so. Avoid heavy lifting, including big grocery bags, vacuum cleaners, or your kids.
Do not lift anything over your head for the first three weeks.
Also, avoid strenuous activities. This means no jogging, aerobic exercise, or bicycle riding.
Now is not the time to comfort yourself with junk food. High sugar nutrient-deficient food will not aid your recovery from breast reduction surgery.
Your body depends on high-quality nutrients to repair itself. You may be given dietary recommendations, including a protein-rich diet and supplements that promote growth and facilitate tissue repair.
Cutting back on caffeine, or avoiding it altogether, may be a good idea as caffeine can cause dehydration.
Drinking a lot of water post-surgery is very important! Hydration is essential for cell repair.
Of course, you are tempted to show off your new streamlined shape and wear tight-fitting clothes.
However, it’s best to stick to soft undergarments and looser clothing that will not interfere with healing at incision sites. Cotton is a good choice because it's lightweight, smooth, and allows air to flow freely
As mentioned, a proper bra will be the most critical part of your outfit in the days after your breast reduction surgery, but that doesn’t mean that you should just wear regular clothes over that.
In most cases, you’re going to want to wear clothes that are easy to take on and off.
Arm movements that require stretching or moving your arms away from your body will cause strain on the pectoralis muscles causing you to experience pain.
Loose-fitting clothing that can easily be put on and removed will minimize arm movement and lessen the chance of discomfort.
Every patient is different and healing times and experiences differ from person to person.
While the internet is full of information, it is not perfectly tailored for your recovery. So, make sure you stick to the regime and instructions that your surgeon gives you.
Healing after reduction mammoplasty is a lengthy process requiring diligence and patience for the best results.
Are you thinking about getting breast reduction surgery? Then why not schedule an appointment with Dr. Shokrain and Millennial Plastic Surgery to find out how we can meet your aesthetic goals.