Costhetics has discovered that one of the most frequently asked questions about cosmetic surgery in Australia and beyond is, “What is the recovery like?”

Whether it’s liposuction, rhinoplasty, breast enhancement or other procedures, patients are concerned with:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising/Redness
  • Downtime

Unfortunately, surgeons may not always provide the best answers. Few doctors have undergone the procedures they perform. Their sense of the recovery experience is second-hand. They may also be hesitant to cause potential patients undue anxiety describing a long or painful recovery that may, in fact, go smoothly for a specific individual. Patients, on the other, can speak candidly and specifically about their experiences.

Rule #1: Be Straight with Your Surgeon

Before we continue, Costhetics wants to be clear: doctors do the best they can when it comes to preparing a patient for the days, weeks, and months following surgery. Every patient is unique. Physiology, level of health and fitness, ability to tolerate pain, and other factors can drastically impact recovery. At best, they can describe an average recovery based on statistical data.

One unexpected obstacle to surgeons getting the real story regarding recovery is often patients themselves! They may not want to seem whingy and may downplay their problems when they are speaking to their surgeons. This gives doctors an incorrect view of their patients’ experience. The misinformation can also lead a surgeon to okay a patient’s return to certain activities before it’s appropriate.

Please! Don’t try to be a good patient when speaking with any medical professional. Your doctor needs the facts to make good decisions about your care and after-care.

What Patients Say about Liposuction Recovery Pain

“Depending on the extent of your procedure, you may need to take a few days off work to rest,” says the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. They also say to expect “mild discomfort” and “some bruising, redness, and swelling”. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

It depends on who you ask.

  • “It has only been two days, but does the pain get better? I can hardly move,” Brittney Nicole posted on It gets better, but no time soon according to these responses:
  • “I am still tender to the touch (not painfully tender, the skin and tissue directly underneath is just very sensitive) at 7 weeks.” – Th2231708
  • “Day 11, inner/ outer thighs and knees. Tumescent liquid did not drain out 100%; I have capillaries bleeding under the skin. Black and blue from hip to toes. More painful than childbirth.” – Morrie71

On the flip side, there are those who seemed to sail through liposuction recovery:

  • “I am post op 3 weeks. Actually, I thought it was gonna be more painful. There was bruising but I think it has gone pretty fast… I just do what my surgeon told me.” – Cassie15
  • “It was quite okay for me. Not much swelling at all. All healed nicely and didn’t hurt that much.” – janereay

Patients Talk about Swelling during Rhinoplasty Recovery

Nose jobs are popular in Australia. Of the 102,000 surgeries performed in 2020, nearly 7,000 of those procedures were rhinoplasties. (Source: Cosmetic Surgery Statistics Australia & Around the World.) The Better Health Channel tells patients to expect “mild to moderate pain… the sensation of a stuffy nose,” and “swelling that resolves in a few days”. Participants at the Cosmetic Journey forum disagree:

  • “I’m 8 days post open Rhinoplasty. It’s almost doubled in size. I’m a little scared and also need to return to daily life again next week.” – Scarletrose
  • “Day 8 through to 11 were definitely my worst days of swelling. About Day 15, I started to look normal enough to be comfortable going out in public.” – gcgirl
  • “It probably took about 6 months until I felt most of the swelling had gone, but closer to twelve months until it was stable.” – Lourdes4
  • “My throat is so swollen that it hurts to swallow and eat. Painkillers don’t help this.” – Castille (Melbourne)

And yet…

  • “My pain and swelling went away like 6 days post op.” — danyramonse

Patients’ Perspectives on Breast Augmentation Downtime

The ASPS in the US hedges its bets in an article on breast augmentation and recovery time. “It’s important to note that since every woman’s body is unique, there is no exact timeline for recovery,” writes the author. “However, most surgeons agree that a full recovery can take on average six weeks or so, and women may notice that they feel perfectly fine after about a week.” So say the experts. Costhetics consulted the vox populi via online forums for anecdotal evidence.

  • “I’m at Day 7 post-op and am finally weaning myself off the pain killers. Still can’t put shirts over my head, but I can use the bathroom and feed myself and get in and out of bed. Recovery has been absolutely horrible!” – belladonnado
  • “I normally recover exceptionally well from surgeries… but this surgery threw me for a loop. I even had to get a refill of pain medication after my 5th day. I read somewhere that the doctor’s technique coincides with your recovery.” – AquariusB
  • “I had surgery a year ago, and I still feel pulling and weird sensations in my chest. My doctor says this will get better over time. I just wonder how long.” RMB1190

Still, there are success stories

  • “I am doing great! I was able to start running again at about 2 weeks.” – SalsaFresca
  • “I just had a revision 3 weeks ago and switched from saline to silicone and the recovery was so much better and fast! I was back to work serving coffee at a coffee shop 3 days later.” – J1137

Cosmetic Surgery Recovery Blues

Doctors and patients agree that there is frequently an emotional component to recovering from cosmetic surgery. It’s not uncommon for people to feel depressed, anxious, and blue in the days following surgery. Anaesthesia and pain medication have depressive effects. Discomfort, lethargy, and sleeping problems are all common post-surgical complains and all are linked to depression.

“I was really emotional for the first couple of weeks,” reports one woman who had pregnancy makeover (breast augmentation, tummy tuck, and liposuction). “I got post-op blues.”

After a build-up of excitement, there is a certain letdown to the reality of recovery. Most cosmetic surgeries require healing, and results are not immediately visible. This is especially common with rhinoplasty patients. When swelling sets in during the healing process, it looks worse than when they started.

What is the takeaway from all this? Costhetics suggests that when you are thinking about cosmetic surgery, you hope for the best, but plan for something less. First and foremost, find a qualified surgeon to work with you from initial consult to beautiful outcome.

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