Arm Lift Recovery Guide: Timeline, Tips and More

An arm lift, also known as brachioplasty, is a cosmetic surgery for individuals looking to address excess skin and fat in the upper arms. It’s usually performed to correct a less defined arm contour or, in some cases, excess arm skin that leads to discomfort. This is often caused by significant weight loss, pregnancy or the natural aging process. The primary aim of an arm lift is to restore a more toned and aesthetically pleasing arm shape, enhancing your overall body confidence. 

Here, we’re unraveling the recovery process from having an arm lift procedure, providing you with the most important info you’ll need to navigate this journey with ease and assurance.

Understanding Arm Lift Surgery

An arm lift is a body contouring procedure performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon to remove excess fat and skin from the upper arms, resulting in smoother, more defined arms. Incisions are typically made either on the inside or on the back of the arms or in the armpit and may extend from the underarm to just above the elbow, depending on the amount of excess skin to be removed. 

In some cases, liposuction is integrated into the procedure to further refine the arm’s shape by eliminating stubborn fat deposits, thereby complementing the skin tightening effect.

An arm lift is usually an outpatient procedure, meaning you’ll go home the same day as your surgery, and is usually performed under general anesthesia for your comfort.

The Brachioplasty Recovery Process

Your recovery journey after an arm lift surgery begins right from the moment you leave the operating room. Initially, you’ll likely be fitted with compression garments around your upper arms. These garments are crucial as they help reduce swelling, support the healing tissues and maintain the new contour of your arms. 

If your plastic surgery procedure involved more extensive correction, you might also have drainage tubes in place to prevent fluid accumulation at the incision sites. These tubes are typically removed within the first few days post-surgery, during one of your follow-up visits.

The recovery timeline can vary, but it generally follows a predictable path. The first week is often the most intensive in terms of care and discomfort management. While most people experience 1–3 weeks of initial recovery time, the final settling of your arm contours can take several months, with incremental improvements along the way.

If your arm lift was paired with another cosmetic procedure such as a breast lift, breast reduction or tummy tuck, your recovery time may be longer. However, if you are planning multiple surgeries, undergoing more than one at the same time is in many cases a good idea as it will reduce your total downtime overall.

Navigating the First Week After Your Arm Lift

During the first week after your arm lift, managing pain and taking proper care of your incision sites will be your top priorities. You’ll likely be prescribed pain medication to help alleviate discomfort during this initial post-op phase. It’s important to follow your plastic surgeon’s instructions regarding these medications to ensure effective pain management while avoiding any potential side effects.

Wound management

Caring for your incision sites is also key to a smooth recovery. You’ll receive specific instructions from your surgeon on how to clean the incisions and what signs of infection to watch for. It’s essential to keep these areas clean and dry, and to report any unusual symptoms to your surgeon promptly. Properly caring for your incisions is the best way to minimize the future appearance of arm lift scars.

Compression garments

Your initial use of compression garments plays a pivotal role during this first week. By applying steady, gentle pressure to your arms, these garments minimize the risk of blood clots and significantly aid in reducing post-operative swelling, a natural response of your body to the surgical procedure. This reduction in swelling not only enhances comfort during the recovery period but also helps in maintaining the contour of your arms as they heal, ensuring the skin adheres smoothly to the underlying tissues.

When it comes to wearing compression garments, consistency is key. Your plastic surgeon will provide specific guidance on how long you should wear them—typically, this ranges from a few weeks to several months, depending on the extent of your surgery and your individual healing process. Wear them as directed, only removing them when absolutely necessary, such as for showering if permitted. 

The type of compression garment recommended will also vary, with options designed to provide the right balance of support and comfort for your specific needs. It’s crucial to choose high-quality garments that fit well, as they will be a constant part of your life during the recovery phase.

Pain management

Experiencing discomfort is normal, but there are ways to manage it effectively. Keep your arms elevated as much as possible to reduce swelling and apply ice packs if recommended by your surgeon. Avoid any strenuous activities or heavy lifting, and focus on gentle movements to maintain circulation without straining your healing tissues.

Remember, the first week is often the most challenging part of the recovery process, but with diligent care and following your surgeon’s advice, you can navigate this period successfully and set the stage for a smooth and efficient healing journey.

Resuming Activities and Managing Expectations

Returning to your regular activities after an arm lift is a gradual process. In the initial weeks, your primary focus should be on recovery, with most patients taking a break from work and avoiding any form of heavy lifting or vigorous physical activity. Light walks and minimal, non-strenuous movements are encouraged to promote blood circulation and aid in the healing process.

Typically, you can expect to resume normal activities within a few weeks, but it’s important to do so under the guidance of your plastic surgeon. The timeline for reintroducing more strenuous activities, like exercise or lifting heavy objects, will be longer. Your surgeon will advise you based on the progress of your recovery and the specifics of your arm lift surgery.

Adjusting your expectations is crucial for a satisfying recovery experience. Remember, the healing process is gradual. While you may notice improvements in the contour and appearance of your arms relatively early, achieving the final results can take several months. 

Scar maturation and the full return of sensation and range of motion in your arms also take time. Patience and adherence to your surgeon’s recommendations will ensure you navigate this period smoothly and reach the best possible outcome from your arm lift procedure.

Follow-Up Care and Long-Term Recovery

Follow-up care is a pivotal component of your recovery journey after an arm lift. These appointments with your plastic surgeon are not just formalities; they are essential checkpoints to ensure your healing is progressing as expected. During these visits, your surgeon will assess the healing of your incisions, the reduction of swelling and the overall contour of your arms. It’s also an opportunity for you to voice any concerns or ask questions about your recovery. Adhering to your scheduled follow-up appointments ensures any potential issues are caught and addressed early, contributing to a smoother recovery process.

The long-term recovery from an arm lift involves the gradual maturation of scars. Initially, scars may appear red and raised, but over time, they will fade and flatten, becoming less noticeable. This process can take up to a year or more, so patience is key. The final results of your arm lift, including the shape, contour and appearance of your arms, will also stabilize during this period. Following your surgeon’s advice closely throughout this phase will help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Useful Tips for a Smooth Recovery

A few practical tips can greatly enhance your recovery experience after an arm lift:

  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Nutritious foods rich in vitamins and minerals support your body’s healing process. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains into your diet.
  • Stay Hydrated: Adequate hydration is crucial for recovery. Water helps in the efficient transport of nutrients to healing tissues and in the elimination of waste products from your body.
  • Gradual Physical Activity: While rest is important, gentle physical activity, as recommended by your surgeon, can promote blood circulation and aid in healing. Start with short walks and gradually increase your activity level as advised.


The recovery process from an arm lift is a journey that requires patience, adherence to post-operative care instructions and open communication with your plastic surgeon. From the immediate use of compression garments to the long-term maturation of scars, each step plays a crucial role in achieving a smooth, contoured appearance of your arms.

Remember, the success of your arm lift recovery hinges on following your surgeon’s guidance closely and taking proactive steps to support your body’s healing process. By doing so, you can look forward to enjoying the full benefits of your arm lift, with confidence in the final results and a renewed sense of comfort in your own skin.

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