General Timeline for Rhinoplasty Recovery & 10 Tips for a Smooth Recovery after Rhinoplasty
Marissa Lafer, MD
July 17th, 2023
As a facial plastic surgeon, I understand that undergoing rhinoplasty, or what many refer to as a “nose job,” is a significant decision. For some, the decision is purely functional to help improve their nasal breathing, for others it’s to improve the aesthetics of their nose and still for others it’s a combination of the two.
The recovery process that follows surgery is critical in maximizing the best possible results. The way you care for yourself during this time can greatly influence both the speed of your recovery and the final results of your rhinoplasty.
In this guide, we’ll review some of the essential aspects of rhinoplasty recovery. We’ll discuss the recovery timeline, what to expect during this period, and provide practical tips to aid your recovery. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate this critical phase, but please keep in mind that your surgeon will have more detailed instructions that are specific to your recovery.
General Timeline for Rhinoplasty Recovery
The recovery timeline for rhinoplasty can vary from person to person, largely depending on individual health, the complexity of the surgery, and how well post-operative care instructions are followed.
It’s important to note that the complete healing process can take up to a year or even two. This is the time your body needs to fully heal from surgery. The recovery process following rhinoplasty is a journey. Each week brings you closer to the end result.
The recovery timeline for rhinoplasty is typically broken down into several stages. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what you might expect during your recovery:
- Immediate post-op (Day 1): Right after the surgery, it’s normal to experience some level of discomfort, nasal congestion, swelling, bruising, and bleeding. You will have a cast on the outside of the nose, often you’ll have sutures and sometimes your surgeon may place splints inside the nose.
- First week:
- Swelling/Bruising: During this period, you will be swollen and may have some bruising, particularly around the eyes. Swelling is usually the most prominent in the first 2-3 days after surgery. I recommend icing the eyes (not your nose) 20 minutes every hour for the first 48 hours after surgery. Sleeping on a few pillows for the first week will also help the swelling resolve faster as will keeping well hydrated.
- Pain/Discomfort: Most patients feel more discomfort than pain and describe feeling very congested. This discomfort or pain is normal during the first week, and can be effectively managed with over the counter or prescribed pain medication depending on your level of pain and surgeon recommendations. If you experience severe or prolonged pain, it’s crucial to consult your surgeon immediately so that your surgeon can evaluate if you need any intervention.
- Nasal Congestion: You may feel like you have a severe cold due to the swelling inside your nose. This should improve as the swelling decreases. For most patients, Afrin can be used for the first 3 days to help with nasal congestion. Ask your surgeon if this is appropriate for you. I also recommend that my patients use nasal saline spray throughout their recovery to help clear the mucus. Contact your surgeon if your congestion is so significant that you feel that no air is passing through your nose.
- Bleeding: Some bleeding from the nose is normal throughout the first 7-10 days after surgery. Your doctor may suggest wearing a mustache dressing (a gauze under the nose taped to the cheeks) to catch any blood from the nose. If you feel the bleeding is excessive, contact your surgeon immediately for evaluation and possible treatment.
- Physical Activity: For the first week after surgery, I ask my patients to be “couch potatoes” to minimize the risk of complications. This means spending most of your time sitting in a chair or recliner. Avoid any heavy lifting or even brisk walking, which can cause increased bleeding and may lead to complications.
- Diet: For your first week, eat soft foods that do not require significant chewing. Maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet can also help you heal faster.
- Numbness: if you had an “open rhinoplasty” you can expect to have some numbness in the tip of your nose, this typically resolves in the weeks to months that follow.
- Cast, sutures, and internal splints: if you have them, they are typically removed 1 week after surgery.
- Second week:
- Swelling/Bruising: By the end of the second week, most of your bruising should have resolved. The swelling will continue to subside, and you’ll start to see the new shape of your nose.
- Pain/Discomfort: Most patients do not have much discomfort at this stage. If you experience severe, prolonged or new pain, it’s crucial to consult your surgeon immediately so that your surgeon can evaluate if you need any intervention.
- Nasal Congestion: You should expect to remain congested, but this should improve as the swelling decreases. Contact your surgeon if no air is passing through your nose.
- Bleeding: Most of the bleeding will have resolved at this point. If you experience new or significant bleeding, contact your surgeon.
- Physical Activity: This week I recommend my patients spend time walking, but not fast enough to elevate their heart rate. I still ask that they avoid any heavy lifting or even brisk walking until week 3, to minimize the risk of bleeding which may lead to complications.
- Diet: Continue an anti-inflammatory diet to aid in your recovery.
- Taping: After the cast is removed, some patients will start taping their nose at night. Your surgeon will determine if this is appropriate for you.
- First month: Swelling continues to decrease. You’ll notice more refinement in your nose’s appearance, but some swelling will persist. Your nasal breathing should also improve. Typically ok to return to normal exercise at this time, but your surgeon will let you know when it is safe for you to exercise. Once you return to exercise, listen to your body and start slowly.
- Second month: The nasal bones have healed and it’s ok to start wearing glasses directly on the nose unless your surgeon says otherwise.
- Third month: By this time, about 60-70% of the swelling will have resolved, and your nose will be closer to its final shape.
- One-two years: This marks the end of the recovery period.
Several factors can affect the rhinoplasty recovery timeline:
- Complexity of the surgery: More complex or extensive procedures may require a longer recovery period.
- Individual health: Your overall health and lifestyle can significantly impact your body’s healing process. Healthy individuals who follow an anti-inflammatory diet often recover faster.
- Age: Younger patients typically heal faster.
- Adherence to post-operative care: Following your surgeon’s post-operative care instructions can significantly speed up your recovery and help minimize complications.
Remember, these timelines are averages and can vary from person to person. It’s important to listen to your body and your surgeon’s individualized instructions. Patience is key in achieving the best possible outcome from your rhinoplasty procedure.
10 Tips for a Smooth Rhinoplasty Recovery Process
Here are 10 practical tips to help aid in your recovery after rhinoplasty surgery:
- As always, follow your surgeon’s instructions & keep all of your follow up appointments: Your surgeon’s pre-operative and post-operative care instructions are designed to guide you through the recovery process safely. Please make sure to keep all of your follow up visits. These appointments allow your surgeon to monitor your progress and address any concerns promptly.
- Rest and hydrate: Rest and hydration are essential for your body to heal. Staying well-hydrated helps maintain your body’s fluid balance, which aids in the healing process and helps your body clear the swelling.
- Avoid strenuous activities: Elevating your heart rate with activity will increase your blood pressure, and potentially increase swelling or cause bleeding. Follow your surgeon’s guidelines for when it’s safe to return to strenuous activities. For most of my patients, I recommend waiting 4 weeks until they can return to their normal strenuous activities. I recommend they wait 6-8 weeks to return to contact sports. For my athletes that can not be away from their sports that long, I recommend they wear a well fitted protective face shield.
- Eat healthy: An anti-inflammatory diet, high in protein and dark leafy greens can boost your immune system and speed up recovery.
- Avoid blowing your nose: Blowing your nose will cause elevated intranasal pressure and can cause the nose to bleed and/or disrupt the healing process. Your surgeon will provide specific guidelines on when it’s safe to blow your nose after surgery.
- Ice and keep your head elevated: Ice your eyes (not your nose) for 20 minutes every hour for the first 48 hours to help bring the swelling down. Keeping your head elevated, even during sleep, can help reduce swelling for the first week. I also recommend sitting in a chair while you’re awake more than laying down in bed. This is a common recommendation after facial surgery to improve blood circulation and minimize swelling.
- Avoid sun exposure: Sunlight can cause discoloration and prolong swelling. It’s best to protect your skin by wearing a hat and applying sunscreen once cleared by your surgeon.
- Do not wear glasses on your nose: Glasses put pressure on your nose, potentially affecting its new shape. Most surgeons recommend avoiding glasses for at least four to six weeks post-operatively. If my patients must wear glasses during this time period, I recommend putting their custom fit cast back on the nose with a piece of tape over the cheeks and cast to keep it in place with the glasses resting on the cast or using a product like the NoseComfort with their glasses to keep all of the pressure off of their nose.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco: Both can interfere with your body’s ability to heal. All forms of nicotine are particularly important to stay away from as nicotine decreases blood flow, making it harder for your body to heal and increasing your risk of complications.
- Stay positive: A positive mindset can do wonders for your recovery. Research in the realm of Positive Psychology has shown that remaining positive can help you recover faster.
What not to do after rhinoplasty
- Avoid activities that can put pressure on your nose or risk injury, such as contact sports. If you must return to contact sports, I recommend wearing a well fitted protective face shield.
- Refrain from picking or scratching your nose. There may be sutures inside the nose that are dissolving and disrupting these may prolong the healing process and/or lead to infections.
- Lastly, avoid any medications not approved by your surgeon, especially those that can thin the blood and increase the risk of bleeding.
Interested in learning more?
If you’re considering rhinoplasty or have any questions about the recovery process, don’t hesitate to reach out. As a fellowship trained Facial Plastic Surgeon, I’m here to guide my patients through every step of their journey, from initial consultation to post-operative care to ensure a smooth recovery.
For more information or to discuss your interest in a functional or cosmetic rhinoplasty, don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation to discuss your specific medical and/or aesthetic goals.To schedule a consultation or to discuss any inquiries you may have, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Lafer Facial Plastic Surgery.