When it comes to gynecomastia surgery, a surgeon has control over the operation and can be confident in delivering the result that their patient expects. However, what they can’t control to the same extent is what the patient does during their recovery period.
Recovery following gynecomastia surgery is an important period when it comes to obtaining the best possible results. The following are general recommendations and activities that will assist the patient in making the most of their recovery period.
Please note, the following information and timelines are general recommendations and may not apply to every patient. Always consult with your surgeon.
Returning to normal activities
As with any surgery, the body will need to recover from the trauma exerted on it from the procedure and gynecomastia surgery is no different. Limiting activity helps the body recover during a period in which it is more susceptible to injury and aids in not prolonging the recovery period. It is not uncommon for surgeons to have variations on the exact numbers, but in general, the patient can expect the following timetable of returning to normal activities:
- Most patients take a day or two off before returning to work and other normal daily activities
- Strenuous activity (anything that increases blood pressure) should be avoided for the first two weeks after surgery
- Increased cardio and lower body activity can resume after the first two weeks
- Most importantly, upper body or chest workouts may resume incrementally after four weeks unless otherwise instructed
Mild tightness and discomfort typically persists for up to four weeks and can have an effect on the activity level.
Compression vest use and fluid intake
The compression vest is closely associated with gynecomastia surgery and for good reason. After surgery, skin and tissue will begin to contract and settle during recovery and it will not always do so in a favorable way. A compression vest is a tool to help the body adjust in the way the patient and surgeon want it to by controlling swelling, providing support and facilitating skin retraction. The vest should be worn as much as possible for the first 4 weeks after surgery to achieve the most benefit.
It is a common misconception that increasing fluid intake will help the healing process, but this is not the case for gynecomastia surgery recovery. Elevated fluid intake has been observed to possibly increase the chance of seroma formation. A seroma is a collection of watery fluid that can develop in the chest after gynecomastia surgery that may resolve on its own, but larger seromas can interfere with the healing process and cause other complications.
During recovery when skin and tissue is soft and malleable, massaging the treated area with the hands or a roller device can be highly effective to achieve the optimal surgery results. Starting 3 weeks after surgery, massage can be done several times a day for 20 minutes or more and continued for 8 weeks or more if needed. This will help soften the scar tissue and allow the skin to lay out nice and evenly.
Arguably, the most important factor of gynecomastia surgery recovery is the mental aspect. A helpful mental recovery activity is to assume the correct posture – letting go of the “gyno hunch” that many men adopt to hide their gynecomastia before seeking treatment. This “gyno hunch” is the physical manifestation of humiliation, embarrassment, low self-esteem and mental anguish in general. By rolling the shoulders back and maintaining a tall and strong posture, the confidence that comes from being free of gynecomastia will come more easily and be perceived by others.
Gynecomastia surgery is a major investment for the patient, financially, mentally and physically, so it only logical that they would like the most return from that investment. By practicing a good postop routine this can be achieved while also decreasing the chances of needing secondary surgery, avoidable complications and suboptimal surgery results.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.