Recovery is a crucial component of any plastic surgery procedure; healing will help decide the final outcome of results. The most common question that Dr. Patricia McGuire of St. Louis hears from her surgical patients is, “What can I do fill in the blank after surgery?” Taking proper precautions to not push yourself too far too soon is one of the ways that you can help help ensure your best possible outcome. However, we all lead busy lives so the key with recovery is knowing your limits.
Every patient’s body heals at his or her own rate. In addition, not every procedure requires the same amount of recovery time. As a general rule of thumb, though, here are some answers to the most frequently asked recovery after plastic surgery questions that Dr. McGuire gets from her patients.
When Can I Return to Driving?
Driving is definitely one of the hallmarks of daily life so knowing when you can get back behind the wheel is probably the number one question that patients have regarding recovery. Most plastic surgeons, including Dr. McGuire, will tell you to that you are OK to return to driving as soon as:
- you are no longer taking narcotics for pain
- you feel as if you can move around fairly well
This can range anywhere from 2 days after a breast augmentation to 4-5 days following an abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck. The reason for this is quite simple: safety. Narcotics can make you sleepy and impair your judgment, while lack of mobility may prevent you from slamming on the brakes in time or turning your neck to check your blind spot.
To help out, before your surgery make sure that:
- the fridge is stocked with healthy foods
- you’ve arranged carpools for your kids if necessary
- you’ve gotten all your medications including prescriptions
Plastic Surgery Recovery & Exercise
Dr. McGuire believes in “an active recovery.” She wants her patients up and moving around as soon as possible. “You are not sick; you are recovering from surgery,” she says. However, it’s important to be smart. If you can get up and walk down the driveway, do so. But you don’t want to move the furniture, lift heavy weights or play golf for about 4-6 weeks following most procedures.
Breast augmentation patients in particular want to know when they can reach their arms over their heads. Dr. McGuire likes her patients to move their arms as soon as they wake up. It will make them feel better, especially if the implant is under the muscle.
It Comes Down to Common Sense
The main piece of advice that Dr. McGuire gives all of her patients is to, “listen to your body and use common sense.” If you do feel great the day after surgery, don’t go run a marathon or lift heavy things, but do get up and move around. It’s good for your recovery process.
Mothers always want to know, “When can I pick up my child?” While it’s really going to depend on the size of your child as well as what procedure you had done, in most instances, you won’ t hurt yourself lifting up a 20 pound baby to get him or her into a high chair or car seat – as long as you are careful. Do it slowly and listen to your body. If something hurts or feels off then stop. But you may want to think about using your surgery as, “a good time to teach your child some independence,” explains Dr. McGuire.
Showers & Pools
Unless you’ve had implant surgery and it required drains, Dr. McGuire is fine with her patients taking a shower the day after surgery. However, if you do have drains, she recommends waiting until the drains come out. In terms of swimming, it’s really going to depend on the procedure. With something like a breast lift, you’re not going to want a ton of arm movement too soon after surgery. The other concern with public pools is bacteria. Her suggestion vis a vis public pools is to wait a long time. If you have your own pool and you know that it is cleaned regularly, waiting 2-4 weeks following surgery before returning to the water is fairly standard.
Most surgeons will given you a written packet at your pre-op appointment with a detailed breakdown of all post-op instructions. Read through it carefully. It is typically posted on a surgeon’s website as well. If you have any questions or concerns, call the office and speak with either the patient coordinator or the nurse. “We’re always available to answer your questions,” says Dr. McGuire.
No question is too stupid or off limits so do not be embarrassed to ask! You’ve spent a lot of time and money to have your procedure. Apply the same consideration to understanding the limits of your particular recovery. You’ll be much happier in the long run and the results will benefit.