Having an incredibly taut and toned body is the dream of many women. Living on a healthy, low-fat diet and following a robust exercise routine are the two biggest secrets to making it a reality. But not all concerns can be addressed quickly with non-surgical options, and flabby upper arms are the most common among them. Though you can always accept yourself the way you are and make new friends with long-sleeved tops, this will completely ruin your dream of flaunting a firm and well-defined figure. Here comes the advantage of an arm lift. If cosmetic procedures do not make you uncomfortable, this is what you can try for toning up your arms. Keep reading to get all the details.
What Is Arm Lift?
An arm lift is medically termed as ‘Brachioplasty.’ It is a cosmetic surgery procedure in which the underside of the upper arm is reshaped to create a more toned, defined, and balanced appearance. The treatment targets exactly the region between the armpit and the elbow for lifting the upper arm. It eliminates localized pockets of fat from that area and reduces extra sagging skin that is causing droopiness. Moreover, it tightens and smooths the underlying supportive tissue before placing the remaining skin back over the recreated contour. As a result, the upper arm gets a beautiful, toned look. An arm lift can also help reconstruct the arms successfully in patients of certain health conditions like lymphedema (1).
Why Is Arm Lift Done?
Precisely, arm lift surgery is done to restore the shape of the upper arm, which tends to droop or appear loose. There are many reasons behind this sagginess or droopiness, including genetics, the natural process of aging, significant weight loss, specific health conditions (lymphedema), etc. But whatever may be the underlying cause, no natural remedy can reverse the condition by restoring the elasticity of the sagging skin. Even the most effective arm-toning exercises can only strengthen and enhance underarm muscles while leaving the excess skin and fat intact. Hence, an arm lift is considered the only solution for this purpose.
Not everybody is a good candidate for an arm lift. If you are a healthy, non-smoking adult having severe skin laxity on the inside and back of your upper arms, you can opt for it. It would help if you were not unusually overweight, and your body weight should be relatively stable for at least 6 months before undergoing the procedure. Pre-existing medical conditions like connective tissue disorders or long-term intake of oral steroids can also make arm lift surgery a risky choice for you.
Preparing For The Surgery
A preoperative evaluation helps your physician determine the safest approach to the surgery, and you must follow the preparation guidelines provided by him religiously. If you are a smoker, quit it at least 1-2 months before the surgery to considerably reduce your risk of complications. Also, avoid taking certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, herbal supplements, etc., to keep bleeding under control (2).
Arm Lift Surgery Procedure
The steps involved in the arm lift surgery are as follows (3):
1. The surgeon starts the procedure by marking the exact locations on your upper arm where the incisions will be made. Typically, these marks are placed on the inside or the back of the arm. However, those can also be positioned at the armpit and extended up to the top of the elbow, depending on the surgeon’s preference.
2. Usually, general anesthesia is administered during this surgery to ensure the comfort of the patient. However, it can also be performed under intravenous sedation and local anesthesia, depending on the surgical method chosen for you.
3. Then, the surgeon makes incisions according to the marks. Based on the amount of extra skin to be eliminated, the length and pattern of the incisions can vary widely.
4. Now, he starts removing the additional fat present at those places directly or through liposuction. The latter is mostly required to treat localized fat pockets that are hard to remove. For this, a cannula is inserted into the fat deposits, and a suction pump or large syringe is used to vacuum them out.
5. Next, your surgeon tightens the underlying supportive tissue in your upper arm and secures it with internal sutures to create a new, toned contour.
6. After that, he drapes and smoothens the skin over the reshaped arm and removes the excess part.
7. Finally, the incisions are closed with absorbable sutures or removable stitches, or surgical tapes.
The surgical procedure of arm lift takes almost 2 to 3 hours to complete.
You will have to stay overnight at the hospital after going through an arm lift surgery. Your surgeon will cover your wound with bandages, and an elastic bandage or a compression garment will be wrapped around your arm loosely. A small, thin tube will also be used temporarily for the drainage of excess fluid or blood. There will be a follow-up visit after 2-3 days when all these bandages and tubes will be removed. Swelling, bruising, and discomfort are common for the first week. But those will settle down gradually. You may have to take pain medications and antibiotics for some days as per the instructions of your physician. You may also need to wear the compression garment for multiple weeks to shield your incision site from excessive force, abrasion, and motion.
Get in touch with your doctor immediately if you experience irregular heartbeat, chest pain, fever, or shortness of breath (4).
Recovery And Downtime
You can start a few of your less strenuous activities within 2 weeks after undergoing an arm lift surgery. However, to resume your normal routine, you may have to wait up to 6 weeks. Take as much rest as possible during the healing period. Stay away from heavy lifting and demanding exercises for at least a month. Also, do not lift your arms above the level of your shoulders for 3-4 weeks.
Typically, arm lift comes with extensive scarring that takes time to heal and is pretty difficult to conceal. Though the scars fade over time to a large extent, they never go away completely. Therefore, you should protect them from sun exposure by using good sun protection and wearing outfits with long sleeves to keep them minimally visible. For a healthy, non-smoker patient, the arm lift scars can improve in a year or so.
Risks And Complications
Like any other surgery, an arm lift surgery also puts the patients at risk of various complications. These include prolonged swelling, excessive bleeding, infection, allergies, persisting pain, temporary numbness, poor healing of the wound, fluid build-up (seroma), fat necrosis, skin loss, unsightly scarring, asymmetry of the skin, adverse reaction to anesthesia, tissue damage, non-absorbed sutures, and need for revision surgery.
The results of an arm lift are long-lasting but not permanent. If you manage to stay fit and maintain stable body weight, you can enjoy its outcomes for a long period of time. However, your skin will naturally lose a certain degree of firmness with age, causing a little sagginess to your treated upper arms. So, always keep realistic expectations.
Cost Of Arm Lift
The average total estimate of the arm lift procedure can range from $3,500 to $5,500. It includes anesthesia fees, hospital fees, surgeon’s fees, and several other medical costs.
An arm lift surgery aims at creating a toned, defined, and balanced appearance of the underarm by eliminating localized pockets of the fat. The procedure reduces the sagging skin underside of the upper arm. Non-smoking adults with good health, with serious skin laxity on the inside and back of upper arms, can opt for it. Like any other cosmetic surgery, arm lift also comes with side-effects which include prolonged swelling, excessive bleeding, infection, allergies, persisting pain, temporary numbness, poor healing of the wound, fluid build-up. An arm lift procedure can cost anywhere between $3,500 to $5,500.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What can I expect after an arm lift?
An arm lift procedure can give you a toned, defined, and balanced underarm. However, it comes with few minor side effects like swelling, excessive bleeding, infection, allergies, persisting pain, temporary numbness. These side effects subside after few weeks.
What is a mini arm lift?
A mini arm lift is performed to remove a small amount of fat from the upper side of the underarms caused due to aging and weight loss.
How do you sleep after an arm lift?
After an arm lift surgery, avoid sleeping on the stomachs or sides. Rather sleeping on the backs is recommended.
How long do you wear compression garments after an arm lift?
It is recommended to wear compression garments for about 3-6 weeks post an arm lift procedure.
How long after an arm lift can I exercise?
You can start doing light exercises after 3-4 weeks post an arm lift. Consult your surgeon before starting any strenuous activities.
- “Arm Lift,” Plasticsurgery.org
- “Is Arm Lift Right For You?” Healthline
- “What Are The Steps Of An Arm Lift Procedure?”, Plasticsurgery.org
- “Arm Lift,” Mayo Clinic