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Is Plastic Surgery Painful?

What’s limiting you from achieving your desired look? Is it perhaps the fear of pain? 

It’s normal to have doubts about undergoing plastic surgery. After all, the idea of needles, anaesthesia, and long recovery times can be a bit daunting. And any procedure involving your body might come with some degree of discomfort.

Thankfully, new cosmetic surgery techniques have advanced to the point where the pain is minimized and recovery times are shorter. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the most common types of plastic surgery and the associated pain levels.

Is Anaesthesia Used in Plastic Surgeries?

Anaesthesia is very important for plastic surgery, not only because it dulls pain and makes the patient feel more comfortable, but it also helps doctors do their job with precision, without worrying about the patient’s movements. 

There are three primary types of anaesthetics used in plastic surgeries that your plastic surgeon will discuss with you in your initial consultations.

1. Local Anaesthesia

If you’re about to have a minor surgery that doesn’t require extensive incisions, you can look forward to being administered local anaesthesia.

Commonly used in dentists’ offices, local anaesthesia often contains lidocaine, which blocks nerve impulses from the affected site and eliminates pain. This anaesthesia type can be applied topically or injected directly into the treated area. In cosmetic surgery, local anaesthesia is used for less invasive skin procedures, such as blepharoplasty and liposuction. With local anaesthesia, some patients worry about being awake during the procedure – but oral sedatives are available to help patients relax during surgery.

2. Regional Anaesthesia

People are often confused with regional and local anaesthesia. But there is an important difference: Regional anaesthesia is a “nerve blocker” injected directly into the nerve near the surgical site. This blocks the pain at the site and some areas around it, making it great for procedures in sensitive areas.
This longer-lasting anaesthesia type numbs the pain sensations and can leave you feeling relaxed after your surgery. Regional anaesthesia makes painful procedures much more tolerable and is an excellent option when local anaesthesia isn’t enough.

3. General Anaesthesia

General anaesthesia is an anaesthetic type that puts you to sleep, so you don’t feel anything during surgery. The process involves an anaesthesiologist administering the dosage and a breathing tube to ensure safety and monitor your vitals.

General anaesthesia tends to make people more anxious, but your doctor will explain all the steps involved, and an expert anaesthesiologist will tailor the dose according to your needs and medical history. Common surgeries that require general anaesthesia include abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), breast augmentation, and any other procedure with longer duration.

What Contributes To Patients’ Pain Feelings?

1. Age

Younger patients tend to feel more pain than older ones, as their perception of pain is much less developed. They also have less experience dealing with pain in general, making it harder for them to handle their sensations after surgery.

2. Type of Procedure

As we’ve already discussed, certain surgeries are more painful than others. The size of incisions, the procedure’s duration, and how deep it goes in the body, can all contribute to a patient’s pain levels.

3. Pain Tolerance

Patients’ pain tolerance levels vary and can affect how they experience pain during surgery. Those with lower thresholds may feel more discomfort. Ensure your doctor knows about it before surgery.

4. Anaesthesia

The impact anaesthesia has on pain will depend largely on the type used. Local and regional anaesthetics are effective in numbing localized areas, while general anaesthetics work on a much larger scale.

How Much Do Common Plastic Surgery Procedures Really Hurt?

Pain levels are subjective – and that’s especially true when it comes to plastic surgery. However, we can generalize which operations can be more painful than others. Here’s the rated pain of five popular cosmetic procedures:

1. Facelift

Generally, the pain associated with facelift is between a 3 and 5 on a 10-point scale. Many patients only need pain medication for 3-4 days in their recovery period as they feel just an uncomfortable, constricted feeling instead of actual pain from the procedure itself.

2. Liposuction

For the average patient, liposuction pain rates around a 3 to 6 on a 10-point scale, similar to the feeling of working out muscles you haven’t used in a while. In other words, post-surgery discomfort is minimal and should only last for about a week before you can go back to your everyday activities.

3. Tummy Tuck

A tummy tuck has a pain level of 4-6 on a scale of 10. Of course, everyone is different and some may experience discomfort for longer periods. Most tummy tuck patients report being off their medication after about a week and fully recovering within 4-6 weeks.

4. Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation is a common plastic surgery that can result in pain ranging from 3 to 5 out of 10. Many patients are able to relieve this slight post-surgery discomfort within 24-48 hours after their procedure and cease taking prescribed pain medications. As your body adjusts to the new implants, you may experience some mild soreness that persists for a few weeks after surgery.

5. Rhinoplasty

Most patients report that rhinoplasty is only a 2 to 3 on a 10-point pain scale. Comparatively speaking, it’s among the least painful cosmetic surgeries. Much of what should be expected will be due to congestion, which the patient can manage with prescription medications. After about 7 to 10 days post-surgery, your doctor will remove the splint and suction out any clotted blood or mucus from the area. You’ll still have some swelling, but for most patients, this won’t impede movement or activities too much.

The Bottomline

If you’re considering getting breast augmentation, facelift, liposuction, rhinoplasty, or tummy tuck surgery, Dr. Demetris Stavrou can give you the insight and guidance to make it a comfortable experience with outstanding results. Contact his plastic surgery clinics in Cyprus, Greece, and Malta today to discuss a particular plastic surgery in detail. We are happy to help you achieve your cosmetic goals, regain your confidence, and live a healthier lifestyle! Considering a trip to Cyprus for medical reasons? Read more.

Can plastic surgery improve physical and mental health? Read our article to learn more.



Dr Stavrou is a board-certified and highly experienced plastic surgeon in Cyprus, Greece and Malta, with a keen interest in informing patients about the latest updates on reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery.

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