10 tips for a smooth post-surgical recovery.


While each of our Washington patients comes to us with their own unique goals for improving their appearance, they all share a common goal: the desire for a smooth recovery after their surgical procedure.

Choosing a highly experienced, plastic surgeon is the most important step you can take to ensure a swift recovery and great results. But once your procedure is done, the recovery process is largely up to you. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to facilitate the healing process.

While each patient and procedure is different, the good news is that you can significantly impact your recovery process by carefully following all of your surgeon’s post-operative instructions.

Here at the Polyclinic Plastic Surgery Center in Seattle, our award-winning plastic surgeons take every precaution to minimize your surgical risks. However, when it’s time to recover, you’re the one in control. By taking the following tips into account, you can help mitigate the risk of complications that could impact your results.

So, what exactly can you do to help ensure a smooth recovery after your procedure?

Start with realistic expectations.

The patients who are most happy with their results go into surgery with realistic expectations. The more informed you are before your surgery, the more likely you’ll be satisfied with the results of a well-done operation. 

Keep in mind that your recovery process is just that, a process. After surgery of any kind, you’re going to look (and feel) worse before you get better. Nearly all surgical procedures will involve some degree of bruising and swelling and you won’t be able to see the full effect of your results for a few weeks or months. Plan accordingly for how your post-surgical downtime will affect your work, family responsibilities, and social activities. 

If you smoke, quit.

As a general rule, patients who smoke should quit at least eight weeks before undergoing a cosmetic surgery procedure. Once the surgery is over, that doesn’t mean you can pick up the habit again. Smoking affects your circulation and can significantly delay the healing process, which can lead to serious complications during recovery.

Nicotine slows healing and increases the risk for complications that can leave a lasting negative impact on your health and your results. Even one slip-up can raise the risk of complications.

Have your caretakers lined up.

Be sure to arrange for a family member or friend to take care of you for the first 48 to 72 hours after surgery. If they are able to help out for longer, even better!

Even though you may feel like you can resume your normal routines right away, having someone there to help you will give you peace of mind which allows you to focus on your healing. If you are responsible for others, such as children or parents, be sure to arrange for someone else to care for them so you can focus on your recovery.

Ask for help from others.

Asking for help with tasks you are normally perfectly capable of doing yourself can be tough. But after surgery, you’ll need to let others do the heavy lifting for a few weeks. Your incision sites need time to heal internally and externally, and straining them too soon can cause scars to stretch or can even lead to bleeding.

Make it easier on yourself by preparing before your procedure. Set your home up to allow you easy access to items you use frequently, and outsource tasks such as meal preparation, shopping, childcare, and cleaning to friends and family.

Follow your surgeon’s specific instructions.

Trust your surgeon’s medical expertise and experience. Have a question after surgery? Don’t be tempted to surf the internet looking for post-surgical advice. Even “trustworthy” sources of online information can not replace instructions from your plastic surgeon who knows your medical history and all the details of your specific procedure. Resist the urge to try to answer your questions online and instead call your plastic surgeon with any concerns. We can’t stress enough how important it is to always follow the specific advice your surgeon will provide to help ensure a safe and smooth recovery.

Stay on top of the pain.

Pain, bruising, and swelling are all part of your body’s natural recovery process and are normal components of the post-surgical experience. That said, some patients feel compelled to “tough it out” and attempt to push through or ignore any pain. It’s important not to let the pain catch up with you which can actually lengthen your recovery time.

Additionally, be sure to avoid over-the-counter herbal remedies, which can not only thin the blood, but may also interfere with prescription medications. 

Be sure to move around.

A common misconception among patients is that they’ll be completely bedridden for days after their surgery. This is almost never the case. In fact, we encourage our patients to get up and move gently (i.e., walking, gentle leg stretches, etc.) and frequently as soon as possible after their procedures to promote good circulation, prevent blood clots, and ease stiffness and discomfort after surgery.

For the first few days after surgery, you’ll need plenty of rest; however, that doesn’t mean you should just stay in bed all day. Moving helps your body heal, may also reduce pain levels, and can help prevent blood clots. Follow your surgeon’s advice as to how much movement and what types will be appropriate for your specific situation.

Avoid strenuous exercise.

While some movement will definitely help with healing, strenuous exercise can setback your recovery. Many patients are anxious to return to their normal workout routines but in order to speed recovery time, it is important to avoid strenuous exercise for several weeks after surgery.

Why is this so important? 

Working out elevates blood pressure, which can increase bruising, bleeding, and inflammation. Patients who engage in vigorous workout regimens too soon after surgery can experience serious complications, such as re-opening of incisions. Even if you think you’re ready to return to the gym, consult with your surgeon before resuming your pre-surgery activity levels.

Doing too much too soon is a common mistake patients make after surgery. It’s normal to feel restless at some point during your recovery and it may be tempting to jump back into more strenuous tasks. However, it’s important to understand that your body is still healing for several weeks after you feel “normal” again. The good news is that feeling great early in the process is a sign your recovery is going well and that you are giving your body the rest it needs. You’ll be able to resume daily activities a few weeks after most procedures.

Don’t take herbs, supplements, or medications without your doctor’s permission.

Many normally safe supplements, herbs, and medications can be dangerous or can inhibit healing after surgery. Ibuprofen (Advil), green tea, turmeric, and other everyday anti-inflammatory substances are just a few examples of products that can increase the risk of bleeding after surgery. Other herbs and medications may interact with anesthesia or pain medications. Your surgeon will give you a list of items to avoid. The general rule is to refrain from using “banned substances” for at least 2-3 weeks before surgery and 2-3 weeks after, but always remember to simply follow your surgeon’s direction on this.

Go to your follow-up visits after surgery.

Your post-surgery follow-up appointments are important to ensure you are healing as expected. These visits are an excellent time to ask questions and express any concerns you may have about your recovery. Also, it’s at these appointments that your surgeon can give you the green light to resume exercise, take a dip in the pool, or shop for new bras after breast augmentation or reconstruction.

Following the above tips can go a long way toward helping you bounce back quickly after your surgery.  If you are looking for a board-certified plastic surgeon that you can trust to deliver outstanding care and excellent results, contact us today at 206.860.5582 to schedule a personal consultation with one of our 7 highly experienced Seattle Plastic Surgeons.  It is always our goal to deliver a beautiful, natural result while providing our patients with personalized and compassionate care every step of the way.