Back to active: Returning to exercise after breast augmentation recovery
You've finally decided to take the leap. After months of research, carefully analyzing before and after photos and considering every option, you've found the perfect surgeon and are getting ready to schedule a breast augmentation procedure.
But along with the excitement that comes with taking the plunge comes the nervousness about what comes immediately after surgery, especially if you maintain an active lifestyle. Questions will undoubtedly arise, such as: What will the recovery be like? How soon can I get back to my normal routine? What can I do to make the process as smooth and comfortable for me as possible?
Your recovery period is critical to optimal health and your aesthetic outcome. Even the world's most elite athletes recognize the need for balance and importance of rest and recovery for well-being. Give your body enough time to repair itself.
To help ease your worries and answer some of your most burning questions about recovering from a breast augmentation procedure, we've tapped into the expertise of two celebrated plastic surgeons, Josef Hadeed, MD, FACS, and Michelle Copeland, MD, DMD, FACS, PC.
The recovery process
While the recovery process for breast augmentation surgery may seem long at first glance, it usually passes quickly. According to Copeland, when you first wake up, you may find that you feel "as if your breasts are swollen and high on your chest, but the majority of the swelling goes down within about two weeks."
Immediately after procedure, you'll have your breasts secured in place by medical tape or a strap across the chest along with a supportive bra with a soft cotton dressing. This bra will remain on for at least the first week to keep everything comfortably secure.
"Typically, the first week is the most uncomfortable," said Hadeed. "In addition to incisional pain, most women feel pressure on their chest, especially if the implant was placed under the muscle."
Copeland agrees, adding that each patient feels different after surgery depending on the placements of implants. "If you have a subpectoral (under the muscle) implant, you'll likely feel some pain, because the muscle has been stretched to accommodate the implant. Most of my patients who have had submammary implants, on the other hand, report little to no discomfort."
You'll be up and walking around one day after surgery and able to do nonstrenuous activities that won't cause you to sweat or hinder your recovery. Following the first 7-10 days of recovery, many women can safely and comfortably drive and head back to the office for work. However, strenuous activities and upper body movements should still be avoided for at least six weeks.
Recovery for active vs nonactive women
While studies show that women who exercise may not necessarily show a more significant rate of healing than non-active women, being active prior to surgery can be beneficial. Hadeed advises that "being active prior to surgery can improve a patient's functional capacity to better tolerate a surgical procedure and may reduce the risk of complications since your body is able to cope better with the physiological stress from surgery."
Further to this point, studies have shown that patients who exercise pre- and post-procedure show significantly higher satisfaction with their results than their nonactive counterparts. Whether it's the added endorphins or boost in body image that patients receive from being active, exercise is definitely a great addition to any recovery process.
How to ease back into exercise
If you lead an active lifestyle, chances are that you're already thinking about how to get back into the studio or gym as soon as possible following your surgery. However, jumping right back into exercise can hinder your recovery.
Many surgeons agree that it is better to take a scaled approach, beginning with walking and avoiding anything strenuous for at least the first two weeks. Hadeed advises that you can start moving quickly after surgery: "I recommend that patients should start walking immediately after surgery."
Weeks two and three
At the two-week mark, patients can begin walking at a faster pace and incorporate light exercise into their routines.
Week four and beyond
Once the four-to-six-week mark is passed, patients can begin to add in more strenuous exercise, always making sure to follow their surgeon's instructions and listen to their body. "Listen to your body and restrict vigorous exercise if you are swollen or bruised or have pain," said Copeland. Make sure to follow your body's lead as you ease back into exercise, stopping if anything becomes painful to allow for more time to recover properly.
Remember, while the recovery process may seem long and strenuous, especially in the absence of your daily exercise routine, it's an important part of getting back to 'normal' after your procedure. By jumping into exercise too quickly, you run the risk of hampering your recovery and drawing it out even longer.
Life hacks for maximizing recovery
While there is no 'one-size fits all' miracle solution to maximizing the recovery process from a breast augmentation procedure, there are a few key steps that you can take to ensure an efficient and comfortable recovery.
Listen to your surgeon
In the words of Hadeed, the best way to maximize your recovery is to "always follow your surgeon's postoperative instructions!" You picked your surgeon for a reason – now listen to them. As an expert in their field, they'll be able to keep you on track in your recovery process.
Another tip to make your breast augmentation recovery as smooth as possible is to wear all supportive garments. Whether it's a postoperative bra or a supportive sports bra, these garments help keep everything secure, comfortable and in place.
Go for a massage
Another method to maximize recovery is the use of lymphatic massage during post-operative care. An integral part of Copeland's practice, this method "improves circulation by finding and eliminating stagnations in the circulation of bodily fluids and relaxes the nervous system to relieve stress, alleviate pain, facilitate healing and reduce postoperative swelling and scarring." In fact, this method is so effective that many of her patients opt to schedule additional lymphatic massages following their postoperative care.
Remember – there's no avoiding the recovery process that comes after a breast augmentation and the subsequent itch to get back to exercising that will come with it. However, give yourself time to fully recovery. Balance is key, and rest is just as important to maintaining physical health as exercise is.
By allowing your body time to heal and easing your way back into things, you'll be able to get back into your normal day-to-day routine in no time at all with a brand-new look and the confidence to go with it.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.