Preparing for Your Arm Lift

What to know before your arm lift

Two weeks before surgery

  • Review your medications and herbal and dietary supplements with your physician.
    • The following may increase the risk of post-operative bleeding: aspirin, ibuprofen, glucosamine chondroitin, flax seed, vitamin E, fish oil, Echinacea, Gingko biloba, CoQ10, green tea, chia seeds, primrose oil, and garlic.
  • Arrange to have someone stay with you for at least the first 24 hours after surgery.

One week before surgery

  • Fill any prescriptions
  • Purchase necessary ointments and compression garments 
  • Arrange transportation to and from the surgical facility
  • Prepare foods that are easily reheated for the first few days after your procedure
  • You will need 20 percent more protein after surgery, to speed your recovery
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Get a good night’s sleep before your procedure

Day of surgery

  • Arrive ten minutes prior to your appointment time to avoid traffic and parking issues. 
  • Bring compression garments and any medications.

After your arm lift

You must follow the instructions provided by your doctor in order to heal properly and have a good outcome. Use these instructions as a checklist of progress as you heal. Included are normal post-surgical experiences and key health considerations that may be a cause for concern.

Day of surgery

You will be released only to the care of a responsible adult.  You will need someone to help you for the first 24 hours. All of these instructions must be clear to the adult who will monitor your health and support you, around the clock during the first 24 hours following surgery.

  • Rest, but not bed rest. While rest is important in the early stages of healing, equally important is that you are walking under your own strength. Spend ten minutes every two hours engaged in light walking indoors as you recover.
  • Recline, do not lie down. A reclining position will be more comfortable for you, and can reduce swelling. Always keep your head elevated. Do not bend forward or over. 
  • Plenty of fluids. Fluids are critical. You must consume at least eight ounces of fluid every two hours. Stick to non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free and green tea-free beverages including fruit juices and water, milk and yogurt drinks.
  • Good nutrition. Stick with soft, bland, nutritious food for the first 24 hours.
  • Take all medication, exactly as prescribed. If you have drains, you may experience additional localized discomfort. Pain medication and muscle relaxants will help. An antihistamine like Benadryl® can help alleviate severe, constant itchiness.  
  • Change your incision dressings. Your incisions will seep fluid and some blood for a short time after surgery. A clean cotton swab with peroxide should be used for cleansing incisions. Do not remove any foam tape over your stitches.  Apply Aquaphor® ointment over the incisions, and then wrap the arm lightly with gauze or sanitary pad.
  • Replace any compressions wraps over the gauze/pad. If you have a drain placed in your incisions, carefully follow the instructions for drain care and record drained fluid on the Drain Care Instructions and Log.
  • Wear your compression or elastic wraps around the clock. Follow the instructions specifically removing any compression wraps only to cleanse your incision or to empty any drains.
  • Apply cool, not cold compresses to the treated region to alleviate any discomfort and to reduce swelling, for no longer than 20-minute intervals. Crushed ice or ice packs must be wrapped in a towel, and never applied directly to the skin. 
  • Do not smoke.
  • Relax. Do not engage in any stressful activities. 
  • Do not lift your hands over your head. Do not lift anything heavier than a paperback book. 
  • Take care of no one but yourself, and let others tend to you. 

Symptoms you may experience following surgery

You may experience normal symptoms that resolve over time, including:

  • tightness and stiffness in the arm, back, and underarm region
  • bruising, swelling and redness
  • tingling, burning or intermittent shooting pain
  • skin firmness, hypersensitivity, or lack of sensitivity
  • shiny skin due to swelling
  • itchy sensation as skin heals
  • asymmetry, as arms look different or heal differently

Call the office immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • a high fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit), severe nausea and vomiting, continued dizziness or incoherent behavior, such as hallucinations
  • consistent, sharp pain, or pain that cannot be controlled by your pain medication
  • bright red skin that is hot to the touch
  • excessive bleeding or fluid seeping through the incisions
  • a severely misshapen upper arm or bruising that is localized to one specific point of the arm

Two to seven days following surgery

You will see progress as each day passes. Ease into your daily activities. 

  • At your post-operative visit you will receive clearance to begin driving or return to work. Usually within four to five days.
  • Continue to cleanse wounds as directed. Do not take a bath. Take a warm (not hot) shower limited to ten minutes. Wash incisions with soap and water. Do not rub your incisions.  Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to the arm and surrounding skin, but not directly on your incisions.
  • Take antibiotic medications and supplements as directed. Take pain medication and muscle relaxants only as needed. You may switch from prescriptive pain medication to acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Continue to wear your elastic or compression wraps around the clock.
  • Begin scheduled lymphatic drainage and massage therapy.  This can help soften any firmness or contour irregularities.
  • Do not resume any exercise other than regular walking. Walking is essential every day to prevent the formation of blood clots.
  • No sun exposure.  If you go outdoors, wear long sleeves and avoid any direct sun exposure.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not consume alcohol.

One to four weeks following surgery

As you resume your normal daily activities, you must continue proper care and healing.

  • Continue your wound care as directed. 
  • Refrain from weight-bearing exercise, or lifting anything over your head. You may begin range of motion exercises but not with any weight, pressure, or resistance of any kind.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Continue to wear your elastic or compression wrap as directed.
  • Continue to attend massage therapy as scheduled.
  • Practice good sun protection. Do not expose your arms to direct sunlight. If outdoors, apply at least 30 SPF 30 to the arms at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and wear long sleeves.  The skin of your arms is highly susceptible to sunburn or the formation or irregular, darkened pigmentation.

Six weeks following surgery

Healing will progress and your arms will settle into a more final shape and position.

  • You may ease into your regular fitness routine. However, realize that your upper body may require some time to return to previous strength.
  • Discomfort or tightness and tingling of the skin and upper arm will resolve.
  • No need to resume smoking. You have now gone ten weeks (including four weeks prior to surgery) without a cigarette. For your long-term health, there is no need to resume smoking.

Your first year

  • Continue healthy nutrition, fitness and sun protection.
  • Your scars will continue to refine. If they become raised, red or thickened, or appear to widen, contact our office. Early intervention is important to achieve well-healed scars. Scars are generally refined to fine incision lines one year after surgery.
  • A one-year post surgery follow-up is recommended. However, you may call our office at any time with your concerns or for needed follow-up.

Will my results be permanent?

Your body will change as you continue to age. Although the outcomes of an arm lift are generally permanent, any significant weight gain or loss, as well as the normal influences of aging can cause changes to your appearance. You may wish to undergo revision surgery at a later date to help maintain your appearance throughout your lifetime.  Contact our office with any questions or concerns, at any time.

Take the next step

Request a consult today. 


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