How to Ace Your Arm Lift Recovery

Published: February 28, 2024
Category: Dr. Nathan Leigh, Arm Lift, General

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 21,000 arm lifts were performed in 2022. That’s a 23% increase over 2020. Although not as glamorous as breast augmentation or well-known as tummy tuck surgery, arm lifts continue to grow in popularity and can be equally transformative to a patient’s body and confidence! This upper arm enhancing procedure can create a slimmer, more toned appearance to an area of the body notorious for losing definition as we age or experience significant weight loss. Yet, like any plastic surgery, how well you recover from your procedure plays an essential role in your final result.

What are the Benefits of Arm Lift Surgery?

“An arm lift, also known as brachioplasty, is a procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the upper arm between the underarm and elbow,” explains Dr. Nathan Leigh, a board-certified plastic surgeon and partner with Edina Plastic Surgery. “In doing so, your surgeon can reshape and slim the arm while also adding contour and definition. An arm lift is very effective for patients who have lost a significant amount of weight and are left with loose, sagging skin in their upper arm area. The surgery helps restore smoothness and a more proportionate and youthful look to the arms.”

How is Arm Lift Surgery Performed?

During arm lift surgery, incisions are generally placed on the inside of the upper arm or the back of the arm, depending on the individual patient and their surgeon’s preference. Incisions extend from the underarm to just above the elbow. If fat needs to be removed during arm lift, your surgeon will do so with liposuction. Once incisions are made, underlying supportive tissue is tightened and reshaped with internal sutures. Lastly, excess skin is removed, and the remaining skin is smoothed over the new tighter contour of the upper arm.

How Long is the Recovery After Arm Lift Surgery?

“Recovery time after arm lift surgery is generally 2-4 weeks, but will depend on the patient and the extent of their surgery,” advises Dr. Leigh. “I recommend that my patients take two weeks off work, more if their job requires any heavy lifting. The healthier and stronger you go into surgery, the easier and faster your recovery will be, as long as you follow your post-procedure instructions.”

Some Common Post-Operative Care Instructions for Arm Lift Surgery

  • Make sure there is someone available to care for you and stay with you for AT LEAST 24 hours after your surgery (preferably 24-72 hours)
  • Have all prescriptions filled and follow medication instructions
  • Wear loose shirts that button or zip in the front to avoid lifting arms
  • Avoid wearing any jewelry on your wrists or hands until swelling has subsided
  • Prepare your recovery area with pillows to prop up and elevate your arms
  • Avoid all lifting
  • Take short walks around your home to stimulate blood flow
  • Adhere to all instructions that are given for drainage tubes (if applicable)
  • Keep bandages and any compression garments in place until advised otherwise by your surgeon
  • Up your protein intake in your diet to facilitate the healing of tissues
  • Show up to all post-operative appointments

The First Week of Recovery After Arm Lift Surgery

“Pain after arm lift surgery is mild to moderate,” says Dr. Leigh. “It is easily managed with pain medications and by avoiding too much movement with your arms. After surgery, you will wear compression sleeves on your upper arms, which can hinder movement but are vital for healing and reducing swelling. The name of the game the first week after surgery is resting with your arms elevated. Pregnancy boppy pillows are great for this due to their curved shape, which hugs the body. Take it easy on the couch and avoid lifting your arms and, most certainly, lifting anything heavy or stretching your arms too much. This means you’ll probably need assistance in the shower, especially when attempting to wash your hair for the first time.”

2 Weeks After Arm Lift Surgery

Most patients can resume normal day-to-day activities around the house two weeks after arm lift surgery, like working at a computer, driving, and showering, although heavy lifting is still prohibited. Compression garments must still be worn under clothing, and any surgical taping must be kept in place. All exercise that involves weight lifting or stretching the arms should be avoided.

4 to 6 Weeks After Arm Lift Surgery

“Four to six weeks after surgery is usually the timeframe that patients have completed their initial recovery from an arm lift,” says Dr. Leigh. “Most people can resume all of their normal activities by six to eight weeks, including weight lifting and activities that stretch the arms, like yoga. This time interval is when I usually like to transition our focus to making arm lift recovery scars as least noticeable as possible. I advocate taping incisions for up to 90 days after surgery to ease any tension on the skin. We also offer a comprehensive scar revision package with our medical spa, Skin Artisans, that includes laser treatments and topicals to help fade and smooth scars. Although arm lift scars are easy to hide due to their location, it’s always nice to have scars faded as much as possible.”

Maintaining Your Results After Recovering from Arm Lift Surgery

“I strongly encourage my patients to use the confidence they feel after arm lift surgery as a catalyst to embrace a healthier lifestyle overall,” shares Dr. Leigh. “Any major fluctuations in weight after arm lift surgery can compromise your results. On the other hand, patients who start lifting weights and add further definition to muscles in their upper arms find that they are even happier with their arm lift results after the first six months! Plastic surgery can easily transcend from a procedure performed on one area of the body to ultimately transforming a patient’s life. That’s because when we feel more confident about our appearance, our outlook on life also becomes more positive. Be diligent about caring for your body and mind after surgery, and you’ll enjoy your results for years, if not decades, to come!”

Have you been considering arm lift surgery? Schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Nathan Leigh or another board-certified plastic surgeon at Edina Plastic Surgery to discuss your goals by calling (612) 688-3221, texting (952) 925-1765, or CLICKING HERE.

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