This is usually the first question patients ask when they come in to see me. I try not to sugar coat my answer because it is important for patients to know what to expect before their procedure. So, the unsweetened answer to the amount of pain after a tummy tuck question is “a lot” but in truth, I can’t be certain about how much pain anyone will have after their surgery. Every tummy tuck is different as is every individual’s response to pain. Muscle repair will often cause more pain. That being said, some patients who have had a tummy tuck (with or without muscle repair) will tell you it is the worst pain they have ever had while others would tell you it was uncomfortable but not as bad as they were led to believe it would be. My worst nightmare and best advertising are the patients that say they had little to no pain after surgery. This is not the norm. They’ll tell all their friends how easy their tummy tuck recovery was, some will suggest that I do a “pain free tummy tuck”. Their friends come see me for their “pain free tummy tuck” but none of them are likely to get the “pain free tummy tuck”. Their friend just got lucky.

Going into surgery thinking that you can take a pill that will magically take away all of your pain is unrealistic. No pill or combination of pills will do that. You should anticipate having pain after a tummy tuck, but that pain should be well controlled. What does well controlled mean? It means that is controlled well enough so that you can rest comfortably…I call this distractable pain. Mild to moderate in severity, noticeable if you think about it but not severe. You can easily forget about it if distracted by watching TV or reading a book and not bad enough to prevent you from sleeping. There will be an increase in pain when you get up and move around. This is normal.

There are many different medication protocols for pain management. I use one of two, based on patient preference. The first option is to use narcotics for pain control. This is the most common protocol used. It consists of taking either Tramadol, Hydrocodone or Oxycodone of varying strengths. The downsides of taking a narcotic are constipation (this is very common), nausea, itching, insomnia and just not liking the way they make you feel. Then there is also the possibility of addiction. The alternative is a non-narcotic recovery protocol. It is part of the enhanced recovery after surgery or ERAS protocol and involves taking a combination of medicines before and after surgery, whether you are hurting or not. The protocol I prefer uses Gabapentin, Celebrex and Valium. Each works on different pain pathways that cause pain. When used in combination with Exparel, a 2-3 day numbing medicine injected while in surgery, the pain control can be quite remarkable.

In summary, you will have pain after a tummy tuck. How much differs from patient to patient? Some will have very little others will tell you they were miserable. The truth, for you, will most likely be somewhere in between. Pain after a tummy tuck should be expected but it should also be well managed. Your doctor should go over with you the various options for pain control they offer as well as develop a plan for what to do if the initial option is not working well enough for you. Discussing pain management and understanding what to expect after surgery usually makes for a much smoother recovery and a much better experience.

If you are considering a tummy tuck near Allen, TX and have questions about the process and what to expect, call or go online to schedule a consultation with Dr. Charles Slack at North Texas Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Dr. Slack will answer your questions and help you determine if a tummy tuck procedure is right for you.