Recovering From Abdominoplasty And Gynaecomastia Surgery – 2 Week Recovery Update
Carrying on in the series looking at my recovery from abdominoplasty and male chest reduction surgery, it is time to check in with a 2-week update.
In case you haven’t seen the other posts in this series:
In case this is the first post of mine that you are ever reading, a recap for context may be helpful here.
- I lost 140 pounds from my heaviest to my lightest.
- I had a lot of loose skin.
- I had the loose skin removed with a tummy tuck and a chest reduction procedure.
- I’m now backtracking and talking through what y immediate recovery was like.
As it’s always the most common question, let’s talk about how the pain was during the second week of my recovery.
I stopped painkillers after the first 3 or 4 days so whatever pain I had was generally bearable.
The wounds on my abdomen and along my waistline weren’t painful, but they were getting very itchy. And the bruising was starting to come out a lot more.
But again, it wasn’t really painful.
The middle or centre of the chest was also fine overall. There was some obvious swelling but no pain.
Under the arms, however, was a completely different story. I had agreed with my surgeon that the chest scars would slot in under the groove of my chest muscle. This also meant they would reach pretty much under my upper arms, into my armpits.
It’s a high-friction area, my support garment was pressing in, and it became very tender. It started to feel prickly. It’s the only area where I felt genuine discomfort from my wounds.
And it did affect me day and night.
My nipples and belly button were still pretty much numb. They grafted my nipples in place, and they essentially reconstructed my belly button. So I guess it was taking the nerve endings a bit more time to wake up. That isn’t a medical explanation by the way.
So the 2 main “problem” areas were the itching along the waistline and the prickly and tender wounds under my arms.
Sleep during the second week of recovery was better than the first week.
I was more used to sleeping on my back by this stage. I was able to find a comfortable sleeping position more easily.
Whenever I wanted to adjust my sleeping position, I continued to require getting up since my arms still lacked the range to do so while lying down.
The itching on my waist and the wounds under my arms also made things a bit tricky.
Sleep was definitely improving but it still wasn’t exactly high quality.
I probably didn’t really hit restful sleep until around 4 weeks.
The swelling started to reduce a little bit during the second week. It wasn’t a particularly dramatic reduction but it was noticeable to me.
It fluctuated throughout the day – with evenings being much worse. And it was still asymmetrical, with the right side of my stomach swelling a lot more than the left side.
At the time of writing, 5 months after my surgery, the swelling has come down a hell of a lot but there is still some there.
The swelling during the day was better though, and it meant I was a tiny bit more upright, which in turn meant I could walk for slightly longer before my lower back would start to hurt.
My chest remained swollen, and the puckering of the tissue around the wounds was still noticeable, although it didn’t have the same impact or extent as my abdomen.
Exercise And Activity
Because the swelling had gone down a little bit I would walk with a bit more freedom and I started walking on the treadmill at home towards the end of the second week. I needed to support myself on the handrails, but at least I was up and walking again.
Having the treadmill at home made a big difference because it allowed me to do this in short 25-30 minute sessions. From there I gradually built up to an hour.
I was able to get up to 5-6k steps a day and gradually got up to 12k steps a day again by the end of the week, which is my daily Fitbit step target.
Arm movement was still heavily restricted so I couldn’t do much (or anything) upper body wise. I had been told to avoid any and all strenuous exercise for at least 4 weeks and probably longer, so this was expected.
Getting Back To Work
My day job is 100% remote and 100% desk-based. I didn’t really need to plan ahead all that much for how I would cope with getting back to work.
I started to work again around 10 days after my surgery, so it was in the middle of week 2.
And it was fine. I was very much ready to go back. My brain doesn’t do well when it is left free to wander.
A few colleagues were aware of my procedure, so they kept checking in on me. However, I didn’t disclose it to most of my colleagues.
At least not directly – until I started broadcasting about it on a blog and on YouTube.
The only real issue I had was that because of how hunched my posture was, I couldn’t sit for quite as long and needed to get up to walk around a bit more. Not that that’s a bad thing anyway.
In terms of personal care, I still couldn’t shower properly. So I was still in my routine with a low-powered shower and anti-bacterial wipes to fill in the gaps.
Plus of course, using a hair dryer to dry off the tapes before getting dressed.
I had gotten used to it by this point. But it did take a while and it was frustrating.
I was still wearing the support garment day and night as well. I was more used to it by now and didn’t find it so bizarre being constantly wrapped in this tight-fitting elastic material.
And because of the lack of range in my arms I was still in zip-up or button-up tops only.
In terms of appetite, I was still on my 2.5-3 litres of water per day and my appetite was increasing again. It was still less than “normal” for me I think, but I could see it starting to return.
Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Around 2 weeks after my surgery I also had my first lymphatic drainage massage. This is also known as manual lymphatic drainage.
If you’re not familiar with that term, it is a form of gentle massage that is designed to help lymph fluid move around the body.
I found a fantastic local therapist who could come to me at home. And I found each time I had a massage (I had a weekly one for 8 weeks) it made an almost immediate difference to my swelling.
If you’re considering it, I recommend finding a specialist who specializes in post-operative massages and care. They’re likely to have a little bit more awareness of navigating fresh surgical wounds like mine.
My massage also made me realise the change in mindset my surgery had given me.
Up until this point, I don’t think anyone outside of a doctor or nurse connected to my procedure had ever seen me topless. And then this therapist turns up who I had never met before and I had no hesitation in taking my t-shirt off.
So that immediately felt like a huge shift for me.
My 2-week follow-up appointment at the hospital went along the same lines as my 1-week one.
The nurse checked on my general well-being and asked how I was finding recovery. She checked the wounds, changed my tapes, and gave me some extra again in case I needed to patch up a bit more at home.
The extra covering and external stitching on my nipples came off, so it was the first time I could see them and I was very squeamish about that so I tried to ignore them.
I had taken some extra cotton pads that I decided to use to cover them because the sensation of them rubbing against my support garment was freaking me out a bit.
The covering also came off my belly button so I could see that for the first time too.
The nipples were the only area that I felt squeamish about in the slightest so I tried to ignore them as best I could and kept them covered as long as possible.
And no I don’t really know why they freaked me out as much as they did.
I suppose it could be because they literally cut them out of one part of my skin and grafted them into holes cut out of another part of my skin.
The hospital conducted the final follow-up at the two-week mark. The surgeon personally handles all subsequent follow-ups at his clinic.
The hospital made sure to remind me that despite it being my final scheduled follow-up, they remain available if I need any assistance. I would just need to call them up, make an appointment and get myself there.
And they’re only a 20-30 minute drive. It reminded me why I wanted to book with someone local rather than going abroad.
And to be honest, I cannot fault any part of the service I received from the hospital. Right from my first contact with them via the clinic, to my very last contact with them, they were excellent throughout.
Recovering From Abdominoplasty 2 Week Wrap Up
At the 2-week mark, things were going in the right direction and overall recovery felt like it was pretty smooth.
Yes, there was some pain and discomfort but there were no major complications. It seemed like everything was going according to plan, which is the most important thing.
At the 5-month mark, the scars are still a little bit raw. My stomach is a little bit swollen still. I have been told this can take around a year to fully heal.
But I keep seeing some gradual improvement and I feel like I am on a steady upward path.
And that is why I wanted to wait to talk about the procedure and recovery. It allows me to talk about everything with some extra context, how long some things went on, and how things improved since then.