Breast Augmentation Recovery Guide

  • It takes about 6 weeks for most patients to fully recover from breast augmentation surgery
  • It’s important to rest as much as possible for the first few days after your procedure
  • You can return to work about 1 week after surgery if you have a desk job
  • You can return to work after 4 weeks if your job involves physical labor
  • Lower body exercise can be resumed after 2–3 weeks and upper body exercise after 4 weeks

As with any form of surgery, breast augmentation requires a period of downtime. Most patients recover fully after about 6 weeks and see their final results after 6 months. However, everyone heals at their own pace and so you can expect your recovery period will be unique to you.

Located in Greenville, SC, our plastic surgery clinic, Advanced Cosmetic Surgery, is committed to ensuring you are fully supported before, during and after your breast augmentation procedure. Below, we have compiled some tips and care instructions to make your recovery as comfortable as possible, and a timeline to help you know what to expect at various stages.

How You Can Prepare For Your Recovery Period

During your recovery period, it is important to avoid strenuous physical activity. For the first 3–4 weeks after your procedure, you should not push, pull or lift anything that weighs over 5 pounds, nor raise your arms above your head.

One effective way to help minimize movement and strain is to complete any purchases ahead of  your recovery period, such as groceries and any pain medication you may need. 

Another useful strategy for minimizing strain is to do any necessary housekeeping tasks before your appointment date. Lastly, if you have young children, be sure to ask someone to assist you with their care.

Must-haves for your recovery

To ensure your comfort and help support your healing process, you will need to wear a surgical bra. These bras provide the compression and support necessary to ensure the stability of your implants as your breast tissue heals.

Surgical bras feature breathable fabric, comfortable padding, adjustable straps and compression bands. They also have front closure, making them easy and comfortable to put on and off. We carry these bras at our clinic, and will provide you with one on the day of your appointment.

You must wear this bra day and night for the first 3–4 weeks after your procedure, except when you are in the shower. Do not wear sports bras or underwire bras until your breasts have fully healed.

During your preoperative consultation, you will be prescribed a prescription-strength nonsteroidal pain medication (NSAID) for the first 24 hours after your procedure – typically gabapentin or celecoxib. Be sure to take this medication as directed, as it will help you manage the worst of your discomfort.

Once you have completed your prescribed medication, you can then continue to manage discomfort with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Aftercare tips

The following tips will further help support your healing and comfort during the first week of your recovery period, when your mobility is significantly reduced:

  • Build a nest of pillows to help you rest comfortably in an upright position, day and night
  • Do not lie on your side or stomach at any point
  • Sleep whenever you feel tired
  • Be sure to stay hydrated
  • Keep light, easily digestible snacks on hand
  • If your medication makes you feel nauseous, take it with food
  • If you become constipated due to the pain relievers, avoid straining and take a fiber supplement or a mild laxative

Recovery Timeline

The amount of time needed to make a full recovery will vary greatly from patient to patient. Some women achieve full recovery after 1 week; others take several months. The following is an approximate guideline as to what to expect at various stages of your recovery.

First 24 hours

After your procedure, you will need to wait for your general anesthesia to fully wear off before leaving the clinic; our postoperative room will allow you to rest comfortably during this time. You will need a friend or family member to pick you up.

Once your anesthetic has fully worn off, you will likely be very sore, fatigued and nauseous. Your breast tissue will feel firm and tight, and appear bruised and swollen. Your implants will rest quite high in your breast tissue and your nipples will appear lower than normal. These effects will resolve with time. You can manage the pain with your prescribed medication.

To ensure your breasts heal correctly and your implants remain in place, you must avoid lying down flat on your back, side or stomach for several weeks. Sleep on your back with your head and shoulders elevated at a 30–40 degree angle.

Place pillows alongside your body to ensure you remain in position; relax and get plenty of rest.

You can take a shower 24 hours after your surgery. Do not take a bath or fully submerge yourself in water.

3–5 days post operation

Your soreness will be significantly reduced at this stage. As soon as you feel able, you are encouraged to start going for walks. Walking will support blood flow and help speed up your healing process. However, you must continue to abstain from strenuous activities. Continue to refrain from upper or lower body workouts, and do not raise your arms above your head.

1 week post operation

Your breast implants will have begun to settle by this point. Your breasts will have more projection and begin to appear rounder. Most of your bruising and swelling will have faded. If you have a desk job, you will be clear to return to work at this stage. If you do physically demanding labor, continue to stay home.

From this point forward, perform regular breast massages until your breasts have fully healed. Doing so will help your implants settle properly in place and minimize further swelling or bruising. The following motions are some common examples of these massages:

  • Place one palm over your nipple and your other palm above it, and apply gentle pressure. Hold for 3–5 minutes, then repeat with your other breast
  • Gently push your breast upward with one palm while pressing downward on your implant with the other. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat 10 times, then follow with your other breast.
  • Cup one hand beneath your breast and gently squeeze your implant. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat 10 times, then follow with your other breast
  • Hold one of your breasts in each hand and gently push them together for 10 seconds; repeat 10 times

2–3 weeks post operation

At this point, you will no longer need to sleep in an elevated position, and can lie flat on your back. However, you must continue to avoid sleeping on your side or stomach.

You can safely take up lower body exercise and light jogging. However, you should continue to refrain from heavy lifting, full-on running or sprinting, raising your arms above your shoulders or any form of exercise that engages your chest muscles.

After 3 weeks, all swelling and bruising should have resolved. Your breasts will appear increasingly rounded, your nipples will begin to rise toward their natural position, and your implants will slowly begin to drop. You can safely stop wearing your surgical bra at this time.

4 weeks post operation

You can once again safely engage in all forms of physical exercise, including upper body exercise, raising your arms, running and full-body stretching. You should be clear to return to all types of  work at this point, however, if any exercise or labor causes your breasts to swell or ache, be sure to stop and get some rest.

Your incisions should be fully healed at this stage. Once they are, you can safely take a bath, go swimming or soak in a hot tub.

6 weeks post operation

At this stage, you will likely be fully recovered, and should be able to resume all of your normal activities. You can also resume sleeping on your side or stomach.

Your breasts will have begun to soften and take on a much more natural appearance at this point. They may still be a little stiff and firm on the sides, but they will have a defined and natural curvature on the top and bottom. They may be slightly asymmetrical due to healing at different rates, and your nipple placement may still be slightly low.

6 months post operation

Your breast enlargement procedure’s final results will be apparent. Your nipple placement will be centered and your implants will have dropped to their final position. Your breasts will be soft to the touch with strong curvature definition on all sides.

Common Side Effects

As your breast tissue heals, it is normal to experience sensations of tightness, tingling, itchiness, stinging or sporadic shooting pains in your chest area. Over-the-counter pain medication will help manage these feelings of discomfort.

Your breasts may feel particularly heavy shortly after surgery as you adjust to the added weight of your implants. This sensation will decrease after a few weeks, once you become accustomed to them.

Lastly, your nipples may become either hypersensitive or numb during your recovery period, and may express a small amount of milk or fluid. These symptoms are not a cause for concern and will diminish as your breast tissue heals.

When to Contact Your Doctor

More severe side effects require urgent medical attention. Be sure to contact us or your healthcare professional immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Loose stitches
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pus or blood drainage from incision sites
  • Sudden chest pains and shortness of breath
  • Persistent shooting pains that do not subside with medication
  • Pain, swelling and redness in your leg or groin area (signs of a potential blood clot)
  • Persistent swelling, redness and burning sensation around the breasts or incision sites


Most patients recover fully from a breast augmentation procedure after 6 weeks. Over the course of this period, painkillers will help ensure your comfort. Wearing a surgical bra, sleeping on your back in an elevated position, and refraining from work and exercise will support your healing. After the first 4 weeks, you can cautiously resume most of your daily activities.

For more detailed and personalized recovery tips, be sure to contact us for a consultation session. We are here to address all your concerns, and to help ensure your recovery time is as brief and comfortable as possible.

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