Having any surgery comes with some soreness and discomfort after the procedure. Modern Liposuction surgery is performed using a local anaesthetic, administered into the treated areas as part of the tumescent solution, which helps soften and numb the area whilst closing surrounding blood vessels. This fluid is then suctioned out via small cannulas inserted into the treatment area – usually the same incision as the input of the fluid. This is called the tumescent technique invented by Dr Jeffery Klein and the way modern-day Liposuction is now performed.
During back liposuction, you may feel a tiny bit of discomfort near in the areas which have less fat. Afterwards, you are expected to have some soreness managed with over-the-counter painkillers.
Being realistic about pain and discomfort
At ENRICH Clinic, we won’t kid you about what you’re going to experience post-surgery (you will have some discomfort), but just how bad this will get or how long it lasts is individual. Most of you will feel some discomfort, and the post-operative pain is usually akin to a very hard gym workout which is generally the expectation after the first few days.
The soreness and swelling tend to resolve quite quickly after the procedure, so we would not expect you to be in significant discomfort for any length of time.
Hip, flank and back liposuction may come with an increased level of discomfort for some people due to the nature of the treatment area and the healing process. Some lower back pain may linger after the first few days, but again, all discomfort should be within manageable limits and pass. Some soreness is normal, and regular pain control medication should help you manage it.
At ENRICH Clinic, your comfort is very important to us. We’ll make sure you have sufficient painkillers to deal with any pain. Remember that we are always contactable if you are concerned.
Pain tolerance with tumescent liposuction
In one study, researchers looked at pain outcomes of the two types of liposuction – tumescent and regular liposuction. With the tumescent technique, pain relief was often only used for up to 24 hours, with minimal oral painkillers required, whereas in the past, liposuction required strong, parenteral painkillers.
Just 30-50 ml of blood was lost on average during the full tumescent procedure, which is about three tablespoons. Most people returned to work within 1-3 days, with no stitches required.
Why such variance in our experience of pain after hip, flank or back liposuction?
Many factors influence our perception of pain, for example, how swollen or inflamed an area is, which layers of tissue (bone, muscle, skin) are affected, and our pain threshold. Each body area has specific types of nerve cells in it.
Internal organs, for example, have nerves that produce a dull ache, whereas the nerves in your skin, produce a very different, sharp pain. Bones again feel different, as do tendons and ligaments.
Some areas of the body are naturally very low in nerves – did you know that your brain can’t feel any pain at all? Headaches are not ‘brain aches’ (even though it can feel that way) but a pain response of surrounding tissue such as blood vessels.
Some areas of the body are naturally more prone to feeling sore after liposuction. The back area can feel uncomfortable since our spine is intrinsically involved in so many of our movements, and any swelling in this area can impede normal movement.
Management strategies for soreness after liposuction
It’s important to remember that the soreness will fade as each day passes when the inflammation and swelling subside from your procedure. Liposuction is a big deal for your body, and it needs time to adjust to the new you.
Your body is healing up damage, repairing blood vessels, and connecting the disconnected, a process that takes time and resources. Once your body is well into its healing process, you won’t feel sore anymore, but there may be tender spots until healing is complete.
Remember, you can call us anytime to discuss or come back into the clinic during your recovery to be checked. Peace of mind is important and we take pride in our patient care.
Strategies for use at home
- Watch your salt intake – salt increases fluid levels, including swelling – more swelling equals more discomfort
- If it’s safe for you, take aspirin, ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatory medications
- Gentle massage may help to disperse fluid and relax muscles
- Warm compress (but not too hot, especially if your skin has temporarily lost some sensation)
- Cold pack to reduce inflammation and heat
- Wear your compression garments – Very important!
- Follow Dr Rich’s instructions for at-home care, including modifying your exercise routines and expectations of your abilities (i.e. childcare, carrying heavy things)
Strategically using your pain sensitivity to your advantage
Known factors affect an individual’s pain threshold at any given time. These include certain genetic factors – being a redhead is probably our most famous and perhaps left-field example. According to a 2005 study, redheads require more anaesthetic and are more sensitive to pain than non-redheads.
There is also evidence that pain sensitivity changes during the menstrual cycle, with the highest pain tolerance found during high-oestrogen parts of the cycle. Just before and during menstrual bleeding pain is felt most acutely, thought to be due to low oestrogen levels.
Natural opioid production and oestrogen levels appear to be linked, so higher oestrogen levels result in more natural opioids produced, which in turn means we can tolerate more pain.
For women, planning can make a big difference in mitigating future pain, so plot liposuction at higher oestrogen times (between periods). Women on the pill appear to have higher pain tolerance across the menstrual cycle than women who were not taking the pill, and menopausal women may have increased pain sensitivity due to the loss of oestrogen.
According to research, men tend to have overall and consistently higher pain tolerance compared with women. Amongst many species studied, female mammals are more sensitive overall to pain than their male counterparts (so not social conditioning after all!).
To sum it up, you can expect to feel a bit sore after liposuction no matter which area you have it performed, and the back may stay a bit sorer for a little longer. Painkillers are usually sufficient in the management of discomfort, and we are here to help with extra support if you need it.
Contact us for an appointment