Recovering From Abdominoplasty And Gynaecomastia Surgery – 1 Week Recovery
Time for a quick overview of the 1-week recovery from abdominoplasty and my male chest reduction surgery.
At the time of the procedure, I did write down some thoughts but didn’t feel in any mood to get in front of a camera and record them. That is why I look fresh and recovered in the video – it was recorded a few months after my surgery.
At the time of writing it has been around 5 months since my surgery and while the acute phase of recovery has been over for a while, I am still going through recovery. My abdomen is still a bit swollen and my scars are still a bit fresh and tender. But I have been told these can take a year or so.
And with that in mind, recovery has been very smooth and I have been very happy so far.
Another benefit of me sharing my thoughts months later, rather than in the moment is that I can look back with hindsight and say “I had this issue during week 1 but it was resolved by week X, Y, or Z” so I don’t leave you in suspense and I can add extra context and make use of the benefit of hindsight.
Let’s look at week 1 recovery, shall we?
Pain and pain management is the first thing I want to talk about and probably the thing I got (and still get) asked about the most.
And it makes sense. With a major procedure, as I had, the pain level is something you want to be aware of mindful of.
The first 48 hours after my surgery were difficult. I had some external stitches under my chest to help with positioning my main scars or wounds.
They were superficial but the scars from those actually only faded after around 4 months.
These stitches were painful – they had a sharp sting and felt like spikes digging into me and even painkillers didn’t help much.
The main wounds themselves though didn’t really hurt. I was on painkillers for the first 72-96 hours which of course will have numbed any pain to some extent, but even after that, they didn’t hurt anywhere near as much as those external ones I had.
My abdomen and belly button area especially were numb so there wasn’t much pain there.
The wound along my waistline really started to itch though, just above the thighs.
I started using Arnica cream to start bringing out the bruising in the wounds, and an anti-itch cream called Eurax to help reduce the itchiness.
I didn’t get any photos but the bruising above my thighs became very apparent at the end of week one. It didn’t hurt but it was very very obvious.
In terms of my chest, the middle of my chest was absolutely fine. It never really hurt or itched.
My nipples were numb and I was squeamish about them, but there was no physical pain.
Under the arms was becoming problematic though. The wounds went quite high into my armpit, and that is a high friction area even if you’re not moving your arms much (which I wasn’t). Plus you have the support garment starting to press into that.
And it got very prickly and very tender.
Another thing that didn’t hurt as such but was a bit unsettling was the nerve endings coming back to life. This was especially true in the stomach area. I would get random feelings of pins and needles in random parts of me at random times.
There was no pattern and it didn’t hurt. It just felt a bit weird.
Painkillers stopped at either 72 or 96 hours post-operation. I can’t 100% remember which.
I was taking laxatives though because my digestive system was not quite ready to cooperate yet and some painkillers can cause constipation.
And of course the itching cream.
And the Arnica cream for the bruising.
Swelling around the abdomen was bad and was actually a major part of why I couldn’t get myself to stand upright.
It was also asymmetrical – the right side was a lot worse and felt like it was bursting out over my scar placement. It never hurt as such but there was some discomfort.
The chest wasn’t as dramatic as my abdomen, but there was a lot of puckering around the scar, especially on the outside.
After 5 months, the swelling is still there somewhat but it has gone down a lot and doesn’t affect me at all.
I also started to find the swelling would fluctuate and used to get particularly bad at the end of the day after dinner. Then I would go to bed, and when I woke up it would be back to the “baseline” level again.
Sleeping For The First Week After Tummy Tuck And Chest Reduction
Sleeping was not easy during the first week.
I wasn’t (and honestly I’m still not) used to sleeping on my back.
My chest and legs needed to be elevated so I was lying in a V-shape.
I also couldn’t adjust my sleeping position or my pillows without needing to get myself all the way up. So for even the smallest changes, I had to roll myself out of bed without putting too much force through my arms, land on my feet, adjust my pillows as best I could, roll back into bed and hope I found myself in a more comfortable position.
So it was pretty disruptive.
Between the sleeping position, general discomfort, the support garment, and needing to get up to change my position, there was a lot to tackle and I didn’t really get good sleep quality or quantity.
I was at no point bedbound.
But because of how swollen I was and how hunched my posture was, my lower back was getting a lot of strain. For the first couple of days, I could only stand or walk for 30-40 seconds and by the end of the week one that was 3-4 minutes.
I couldn’t reach my arms out or overhead so I was walking around like a T-Rex.
My lower body movement was completely fine – there was no restriction on my legs as such.
Going up and down stairs was also fine as long as my lower back wasn’t starting to hurt.
Sitting and then standing from a seated position was absolutely fine but it was a bit easier to get up from a higher seat. Lying down and getting up again was trickier because I couldn’t use my arms to help.
There were also a few specific things to be aware of in terms of my general care or self-care.
I couldn’t shower for the first 48 hours so my wounds stayed completely dry.
I had my first follow-up appointment after 48 hours, and at that appointment, I got given the go-ahead to shower. But it needed to be a low-power shower with my back to the shower head and keeping the tapes as dry as possible.
I had to fill in the gaps in my cleanliness with full-body antibacterial wipes. It was the closest I could get to feeling clean.
It was the best I could do considering the situation, but it couldn’t beat the fresh feeling of a shower – no surprises there.
And if the bandages got wet, I had to use a hair dryer to dry them before putting on clothes.
I also started gently massaging the swollen areas to help reduce fluid buildup and swelling. Honestly, it didn’t feel like it was doing much, but I thought it was worth making it a habit that would actually help me in the long run.
I did book a lymphatic drainage massage that would happen in week 2 and I can cover that more when I look at my second week of recovery.
My appetite was starting to come back but it wasn’t there fully. I was regularly resorting to protein shakes and some meal replacement shakes to make sure I was getting the nutrients I need in with minimal fuss.
I was also extra mindful of hydration and sticking to 2.5-3 litres of water per day. It helped my digestion, it kept me moving, and I did just feel generally better when hydrating properly too.
And I lived in a support garment day and night.
I had more than one so rotated them. But the only time I wasn’t wearing one was when I was having a shower pretty much.
Exercise And Activity
I was very very low on activity.
The day of my surgery ended what had been an 18-month-long consecutive daily streak of hitting my Fitbit step target of 12,000 steps. From September 2020 until the day of my surgery in March 2022 I didn’t miss my target a single day.
But as far as reasons for losing that kind of streak go, it’s pretty high up there.
I couldn’t reach my arms out far and because of my posture, I couldn’t walk for long either.
And, unsurprisingly, absolutely no strenuous exercise of any kind.
One-Week Follow-Up Appointment
At my one-week follow-up, the nurses checked my wounds to see how they were healing. They also changed the tapes and made sure I was ok with how everything was going.
They also gave me some extra tape in case I needed to do any patch jobs at home.
The only external or visible stitches I had were around my nipples. Because of the significant amount of skin removed from my chest, they had to graft them back on. They freaked me out for a while, so I tried to ignore them.
There were no red flags or complications and the nurses were happy so I was also happy.
Wrapping Up Week One Recovery
The first week of recovery from my surgery was tough and there were some challenges, but it wasn’t overly painful.
I also had a lot of support from my family and things were going in the right direction, which helped.
After the frustration and difficulty of the first couple of days at home, I got more settled into a routine. Things got easier from then on. That set me up well for my second week of recovery.
If you have any specific questions about my experience recovering from abdominoplasty 1 week onwards or on my chest reduction, separate from these blog posts, please do feel free to get in touch.