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How to Reduce Pain and Swelling After Liposuction

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Anyone considering a liposuction procedure probably wonders what the recovery process is like and just how much swelling and pain they’ll experience during the procedure and recovery. Liposuction’s popularity is growing rapidly as more Americans opt for this quick and easy operation every year. Liposuction procedures reduce body fat by trimming and sculpting the body’s problem areas that have proven stubborn to a changed diet and exercise alone.

It’s a minimally invasive surgical procedure with a manageable healing process. If you’re thinking about getting liposuction, here’s everything you should know about recovery, including what you can do to help alleviate any discomfort and enjoy a better experience.

What Is Liposuction?

Liposuction is also known as lipoplasty, liposculpture, suction lipectomy and lipo. It removes fat cells from the body and sculpts the body’s shape, usually for cosmetic reasons. Liposuction can be performed on many areas of the body and is most commonly used on the stomach, thighs, arms, buttocks, back and the under-chin area.

Depending on the location of the liposuction, among other factors, the procedure may be performed while the patient is asleep under full anesthesia. In others, the patient is awake, and the area is simply numbed locally. In either case, you won’t feel a thing during the operation itself. Procedures generally last around one to five hours, and your doctor or anesthesiologist will ensure you feel no pain or discomfort during it.

Liposuction Recovery Pain

After a liposuction procedure, you may experience some pain and discomfort, but it is manageable, and your doctor will give you clear instructions on how to manage the pain during recovery. The recovery and results will vary depending on the location of the procedure and the type of anesthesia used. Recovery experiences can also differ from person to person according to pain tolerances, body types, underlying health conditions and more.

What Is the Pain Like After Liposuction?

In general, you can expect some pain and discomfort for the first two to four days after liposuction. After this time, the level of pain will gradually decrease. The area around the surgical site may feel tender and sore but will get better fairly rapidly. Local anesthetics last for 12 to 24 hours after the procedure and continue to reduce pain levels during that initial recovery period. Even with general anesthesia, some local anesthetic should also be used, which will help comfort levels post-procedure.

During the initial recovery period when the local anesthetic is still taking effect, pain levels should be very low. Many patients describe their discomfort during this time as more of a soreness or tenderness. As recovery progresses and the local anesthetic wears off, pain and discomfort levels should still be low. Clients liken their pain quality as being similar to a sunburn or muscle soreness after an overly vigorous workout.

Some doctors may prescribe pain medication to use during recovery, especially if they use general anesthesia for the procedure and no local anesthetics. However, for many liposuction patients, a little acetaminophen after the surgery is more than sufficient for dealing with any pain. Some patients may not even need to use pain medication after liposuction, as their discomfort level is very mild.

How Long Does Pain Last After Liposuction?

The recovery process after liposuction can vary for each individual and depends on the type of anesthesia used, the area of the body affected and personal health history and conditions. Here’s a timeline of what to expect regarding pain during the recovery process:

  • The first day: Most liposuction procedures are outpatient, which means you can go home that same day. However, you will need someone else to drive you home, especially if general anesthesia is used. Sedation and pain medications may make it unsafe for you to drive yourself on the day of the procedure. Anesthetics and pain medications you receive during the operation will help keep pain at a minimum during these initial 24 hours post-surgery.
  • The next two to three days: During the first few days following surgery, you may experience moderate pain and discomfort levels as the anesthesia wears off. You may have prescription medications or instructions to use acetaminophen for any pain you experience. You might have to wear compression garments to protect the treatment areas. You will also want to continue to rest and avoid too much physical activity.
  • Weeks one and two: After the first few days, most patients notice a significant reduction in pain and discomfort and may need to rely less on pain medications of any kind. Compression garments may still be recommended. Depending on the details of your procedure and personal health, it may be safe to return to work at some point between three days and two weeks post-procedure.
  • Weeks three to five: During this point in recovery, most people feel little to no pain or discomfort. At about four weeks’ time, light exercise is fine to resume, although strenuous activity should still be avoided for a while.
  • Weeks six and beyond: At this point, there should be no pain at all, and the procedure’s results should be more visible now as the swelling should also have subsided. All normal activity is safe to resume unless a doctor instructs otherwise.

For the most part, pain and discomfort after liposuction are mild to moderate and highly manageable. Your own timeline may vary, but you can expect the pain to subside rapidly after the procedure, which will allow a gradual return to all of your normal activities.

How to Reduce Post-Liposuction Discomfort

If you’re wondering what the fastest way to recover from liposuction is, there is no one answer. There are several things you can do to lessen the pain and discomfort associated with liposuction surgery and recovery. Below are our favorite tips for the best liposuction recovery.

Compression Garments

Your doctor will likely provide you with a compression garment to use during recovery. These garments are tailored to the area of the body where the liposuction occurred and provide support for this area, reduce swelling and help manage pain and discomfort. Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding when and how long you should wear these garments for best results in your recovery process.

Lymphatic Massage

Many patients find relief and relaxation with weekly lymphatic drainage system massages. These specialized massages focus on releasing toxins that build up in the lymph nodes. One study has shown that lymphatic massages reduced edema more than standard compression garments after core liposuction and abdominoplasty for 20 post-surgery patients.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is an essential component of an easy recovery. Healthy, whole foods can help reduce swelling during the recovery period and aid in the healing process. Try to choose low-sodium foods. Too much salt can make the body retain water, increasing the amount of swelling. Healthy, lean sources of protein will aid in muscle recovery and wound healing, so include some protein in every meal and snack.

You should also avoid sugar, as it can decrease immune function and slow down healing. Fruits and vegetables high in fiber, vitamins and water content are some of the best foods you can eat while recovering, so stock up on items like celery, watermelon, grapefruit, zucchini and berries. If you are struggling with bloating or nausea, eat smaller meals more frequently instead of three large meals per day.

Be sure to drink lots of water and other low-sodium, low-calorie beverages like tea or diluted juice. Before your procedure, you can stock the kitchen with healthy foods so it’s easier to make good choices during recovery.

Light Activity

The first 24 hours of recovery should be very restful, but after this, it’s important to keep moving. Light exercise in the first couple of weeks, like taking walks, is a good idea in early recovery. Remember that you should avoid strenuous activity until after the first few weeks of recovery.

Pain Medications

Your doctor will instruct you on what types of pain medications to use and how often to take them. You may have prescription pain medications or may use acetaminophen as needed. Avoid anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen, as they can increase bruising and drainage at the wound sites.

How to Reduce Swelling After Liposuction

After your liposuction procedure, some swelling is to be expected and is totally normal. You may even notice the swelling increasing for the first few days — this is also normal. Some of the swelling occurs due to the types of anesthesia used during the procedure, some of which remain under the skin for a while afterward. The amount of swelling you experience will vary, depending on the type of procedure, the area of the body affected and your personal health history.

During your liposuction recovery time, you can reduce swelling by following a few easy tips, many of which are also similar to the advice you should adhere to to reduce pain:

  • Use your compression garments: This will be the most important factor in reducing the amount of post-procedure swelling. Your compression garment should cover the full surgery area and extend a little past it both above and below. The compression garments apply the right amount of pressure to the surgery area to encourage the body to absorb the lymphatic fluids, which prevents them from building up and causing excess swelling.
  • Get a lymphatic massage: A trained massage professional will know how to massage the lymphatic system safely to help you reduce swelling in the area. Note that this is not the same as a deep tissue massage and should only be performed by a professional.
  • Go for a walk: After the first few days of rest, light walking is encouraged and will help your body heal and get rid of swelling. Walking stimulates the lymphatic system and prevents fluid buildups. Avoid more vigorous physical activity until later.
  • Avoid salt and alcohol: A healthy diet is also important for keeping swelling at bay. Alcohol and salty foods cause more water retention, increasing swelling and puffiness. Stay well hydrated and eat foods full of vitamins and fiber to speed up the recovery time.

How Long Does Swelling From Liposuction Last?

During the first few days of liposuction recovery, the swelling may increase gradually and then level off after about two weeks. After this time, the swelling will slowly subside again over a few more weeks. The rate of how fast the swelling reduces will vary for each individual and depends on how closely you follow the recommendations for a healthy recovery. After about six weeks, the swelling should have reduced enough that you can see your new, sculpted shape.

When to See a Medical Professional

While most patients see a normal recovery after receiving a liposuction procedure, it’s important to know the warning signs of possible complications, so you can get help quickly and get back on track with your recovery. Although very rare, liposuction risks include pulmonary embolus, allergies to or overdoses of medications used, hematoma and a punctured lung or abdominal cavity. Far less serious complications can involve allergic reactions to the bandages and dressings used during recovery, infections, dimpling, lumpiness or worsening cellulite in the surgery area.

To avoid any complications, follow the recovery advice of your medical professionals and watch for these warning signs:

  • Fever.
  • Faintness.
  • Extreme bleeding.
  • Pain that has worsened since surgery.
  • Increased swelling, or more swelling than expected.
  • Redness at the surgery site.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Leg pain.
  • Chest pain.

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away to avoid more serious complications. Your doctor will also let you know if there is anything else specific to watch for or any other issues you should contact them for. Many doctors will call to check in during your initial days of recovery.

Learn All About the Smartlipo™ Recovery Process Here

Smartlipo™ is a minimally invasive version of liposuction that uses a laser to help dissolve fatty deposits in the body’s problem areas before a cannula is used to suction it out. The cannula used is much smaller than in other liposuction procedures, allowing for less discomfort and much smaller incisions. No sutures are needed, and there is minimal to no scarring afterward. Patients undergoing Smartlipo™ report a faster recovery time and noticeable results sooner than with other forms of liposuction.

Smartlipo™ at Synergy Wellness Center

Synergy Wellness Center in Bakersfield, California, is proud to offer Smartlipo™ among our health, wellness and aesthetic services. The Smartlipo™ procedure can help you gain the body you want and increase your confidence in your appearance. Our expertly trained team of professionals is ready to help you achieve health and wellness and get the body of your dreams.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of Smartlipo™ or have questions about the Smartlipo™ recovery process, contact Synergy Wellness. Speak with one of our professional staff members, or schedule an appointment today!

Learn More About Liposuction:

Picture of Dr. Jan Trobisch

About the Author:

President, Medical Director: Jan Trobisch, MD

Dr. Jan Trobisch was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. He began his journey into medicine at the esteemed Freie Universität Berlin, graduating in 1999. Driven by an eagerness to broaden his experience and knowledge, he moved to the United States in 2000. There, he undertook and completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, by 2004.

After his residency, Dr. Trobisch worked as a hospitalist and served as an attending physician for the residency program. His passion for helping people overcome their struggles led him to work in outpatient addiction recovery treatment. In his quest to provide a comprehensive and integrative approach to wellness, Dr. Trobisch founded the Synergy Wellness Center in 2009.

In the decade-plus since its inception, Synergy Wellness Center has experienced significant growth and expansion. The center is committed to offering a wide array of services, including medical weight loss, hormone optimization, medical aesthetics, and addiction recovery treatments. Emphasizing comfort and tranquility for its patients, Synergy is known for its luxurious, spa-like environment, blending the aesthetics of a wellness spa with the rigor and expertise of a medical facility.

With his multifaceted medical expertise and commitment to holistic well-being, Dr. Trobisch continues to lead the Synergy Wellness Center, shaping it into a beacon of integrative health and wellness.

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