Summary: Recovering from a breast reduction, as with any plastic surgery procedures, requires time. Your body is quite the expert at healing itself, but that healing does not happen during a short duration. The timescale for healing is a long one, and it is your body’s own.
Recovery Periods Protect Your Results
That’s why everyone heals differently from a plastic surgery procedure. After all, your body is unique. Some people will heal incredibly quickly. Other patients will require a little bit of additional time and a slower process. However, when you get a breast reduction your surgeon will provide you with individualized recovery instructions in order to ensure you get the best results possible.
Recovery, after all, is a vital part of the plastic surgery process. It’s like the gatekeeper of your success. When the recovery goes according to plan, it’s far more likely you will end up with results you love. When it comes to a breast reduction, that means a successful recovery period can help ensure that you end up with smaller, more proportional, graceful looking breasts—breasts that are more suited to your body.
What is a Breast Reduction?
In order to fully understand the recovery process for a breast reduction procedure, it might be helpful to first briefly discuss what a breast reduction is and what it does to the body. As might be obvious by the name of the procedure, a breast reduction is a surgical procedure in which volume and mass are removed from the breasts.
Patients don’t only want breasts that are smaller—they want smaller breasts that still look good. So there’s a certain amount of reshaping that happens during a breast reduction as well. There are several different breast reduction incision techniques, each designed to remove a certain amount of tissue from the breast.
The most common breast reduction incision technique is called the “anchor incision.” This incision is designed to go around the areola, down towards the crease of the breast, and then out left and right along the crease. The incision ends up looking a lot like an anchor, hence the name. When it comes to a breast reduction, the bigger the incision the more latitude and control surgeons have in reshaping the tissue.
Why Do People Get a Breast Reduction?
If you have overly large breasts, the benefits of a reduction can be quite significant. Some of those benefits include the following:
- Mitigation of neck and back pain caused by strain
- Increased mobility and freedom of movement
- Increased ability to participate and excel in athletics
- A more proportional frame (and, therefore, expanded wardrobe options)
- A higher degree of comfort when wearing bras (or when wearing no support)
- A more youthful looking profile
- A high degree of confidence and comfort
Generally, patients seek out a breast reduction procedure because there’s something about their current breast size that is proving to be problematic. A breast reduction will solve many of these problems—from significant pain to feelings of self-consciousness. That’s why breast reduction is exceptionally popular.
Your Breast Reduction Recovery Timeline
Once you’ve gone through the procedure, your recovery will likely depend on how much work you’ve had done. In general, the larger your incisions are, the longer your recovery will take. And, as mentioned above, every patient’s recovery will be somewhat different. Your surgeon will give you individualized recovery instructions.
In general, however, patients can expect their recovery to take anywhere between two to six weeks. There may be additional recovery steps beyond that six weeks as well, although those are usually relatively minor.
What Does the Timeline Look Like?
Most patients can expect their breast reduction recovery timelines to look something like this:
- Days 1-2: In the first couple of days after surgery, it’s not uncommon for patients to experience both bruising and swelling. A significant part of your recovery instructions will be dedicated to keeping swelling as minimal as possible, however, as excess swelling can diminish your overall results. In order to achieve this, many surgeons will place drains in during surgery; these drains will help remove fluid from the breasts in order to keep swelling down. Additionally, patients will usually be required to wear a surgical bra after their procedure. It’s important that you do not remain completely sedentary during these first two days and move about where you can (be careful not to strain yourself).
- First Week: In the first week after your breast reduction procedure, most patients are able to resume some normal activities. In some cases, any drains placed after surgery will be removed after the first week. Patients can also start to shower in the first week of recovery, although hard scrubbing should be avoided. As always, you’ll want to consult with your surgeon before taking any additional steps in your recovery process. Surgeons will usually prescribe appropriate medication for managing discomfort during the first week of recovery.
- Second Week: Most patients are able to return to work in the second week of their breast reduction recovery. Swelling and bruising should both diminish during this period as well. If they haven’t been removed already, post-surgical drains will also be removed during the second week of recovery. However, it’s likely that patients will have to continue wearing a surgical bra at this point. Most patients can resume normal activities, even light exercise, after the second week. However, vigorous exercise should be avoided as your body likely will not be recovered fully at this point.
- Weeks 4 – 6: By the end of the sixth week, your body should be mostly recovered from your breast reduction procedure. Any bruising or swelling should be minimal and your body should start feeling like “yours” again. Most patients are able to stop wearing a surgical bra by the end of the sixth week (again, check with your surgeon), but support of some kind will still be suggested. Patients should notice significantly less pain caused by their excess breast tissue (fewer neck and back aches, for example).
- Month 6: Your recovery will largely be complete after six months. The color around your incision sites will likely start to fade, though to what degree will often depend on variable factors.
Patients will be required to check in with their surgeon periodically after their surgery. Obviously, these visits will be more frequent right after surgery and taper off as the recovery process goes.
Variations in Breast Reduction Recovery
As we’ve mentioned, there will be significant variables when it comes to your breast reduction recovery period. One of the most important things you can do to help yourself recover more quickly is give up the use of tobacco products. In other words, do not smoke before your breast reduction surgery or during your recovery. Smoking cigarettes will significantly hamper your recovery.
It’s also important to follow all of your surgeon’s instructions carefully. All surgeons have preferred techniques and strategies when it comes to getting great results, so there’s a lot of variation depending on who you see (for example, whether you might get sutures or dissolvable stitches will impact your recovery).
But then end goal is always the same: getting the best possible result for patients. That result will vary depending on what you actually want—why you want to eliminate some of that excess breast tissue. Once your recovery is complete (or near enough) you’ll be able to enjoy all the full benefits of your procedure.