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Image of bandages representing Liposuction recovery

Liposuction recovery – what happens and how long it takes

Over the years, since its launch on the cosmetic market in the 1980s, liposuction’s veil of secrecy has slowly been cast off. And now, in the 2020s, people are happily admitting to signing up to the procedure for their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Liposuction is now the second most popular surgical cosmetic procedure in the world, preceded only by breast augmentation, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

But while its common, liposuction is still surgery that requires some major recovery. But what does that mean? How long does it really take to be fighting fit again after liposuction?

The three stages of liposuction recovery

There are three stages to liposuction recovery, which everyone might reach at slightly different points. As with most surgical procedures, recuperation depends on how your own body reacts, your general wellbeing and how carefully you follow the recovery advice you’ve been given.

The type of liposuction you have will also impact recovery. Vaser and laser liposuctions (or SmartLipo) break up the fat cells before they are removed, making both the procedure and recovery easier, than traditional liposuction.

Stage one – immediate post-surgery

As the general anaesthetic wears off and you wake up, you may have some initial discomfort, which can be managed with painkillers.

Padding and compression bandages are going to be a part of your new look for a little while and drains may be used to clear excess fluid from incision sites.

Stage two – tenderness

Initially, there will be a short period when your body is a bit bruised and tender. Be gentle with yourself. Avoid assessing the results of your liposuction – they won’t be visible yet due to natural swelling.

Stage three – visible results

The swelling begins to go down, revealing the results. Expect to start feeling completely better very soon.

How long does it take to recover from liposuction?

The most painful part of your recovery will be within that first 24 hours. Then, after a week or so, you will likely feel much stronger, and within six weeks you should see improvement.

Some clinicians offer non-invasive liposuction, which normally takes little to no time to recover from, but it tends to be ineffective on large areas, and results may take longer to be seen.

Recovery from partially invasive techniques, such as some kinds of laser liposuction or water-assisted procedures, may take as little as 10 days or a fortnight to recover from.

What about movement?

With that first 24 hours, over the counter or prescribed painkillers can help. Then, for the first week or so, exertion should be avoided. Any manual labour or major exercise should be avoided, although some movement, such as gentle walking, is important to keep your blood flowing and stave off clots. Driving and desk-based work is usually fine in the first few days. Over the next few weeks, the swelling and bruising decrease, and most people can return to their usual activities, including contact sports, within four to six weeks.

How can I speed up my liposuction recovery?

Being gentle with yourself and following your clinician’s advice are key to improving liposuction recovery. Rest and sleep are important for your health, and even more so when recovering from surgery.

Moral and practical support can really help, too. Surrounding yourself with caring people – those who can help with children or offer to make you a meal in the early days – will help during recovery.

If your surgeon prescribes antibiotics, remember to take the full course to avoid infection. And don’t forget to wear the compression garments as instructed. They will help reduce the likelihood of blood clots, which are a rare side-effect, and help your body to adapt to the new you.

Specialist massage – namely manual lymphatic massage (MLD) – can also be helpful about two weeks after the procedure. Fluids can build up in response to the insertion of cannulas during liposuction, and these massages help to prevent it pooling. They also stimulate healing and improve circulation. As always, consult your surgeon before seeking out any further treatment, even a massage.

Top tips

  • Ensure liposuction is the right treatment for the issue you want to tackle. It’s a body sculpting technique rather than a treatment for significant weight loss. It also won’t help reduce the look of stretch marks or cellulite.
  • Gentle, regular movement after liposuction is important.

Did you know?

  • Liposuction is just as popular among 19- to 34-year-olds as it is among 35- to 50-year-olds: these two age groups make up 84 per cent of the people who undergo the procedure.
  • Liposuction is the third most common surgical cosmetic treatment for men, preceded only by breast reduction and eyelid surgery.

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