Most plastic surgery procedures are followed by a period of time where there is some limitation of movement of the body part that was operated on; for an arm lift (brachioplasty) that means the arms.
During the initial few days after surgery, the arms are wrapped with sterile gauze and an outer support wrap like an Ace bandage, which limits what can be done with the arms while they are on. Sometimes drains may be used which would further limit the arm motion for fear of dislodging or pulling out the drains. As the skin removal often extends past the elbow onto the forearms and past the armpit onto the lateral chest, the resulting scars cross these joints. Too much arm motion after surgery can therefore affect healing of the scars in those areas resulting in separation of the skin edges and open wounds.
Once the initial bulky dressings are removed and the drains, if present, are taken out, you may be a little freer with your arm motion but you particularly need to be careful with elevation of your arms above your shoulders. This is particularly the case when there is an incision in the apex of the axilla where there may be more tension on the skin and full elevation of the arms soon after surgery can cause the incision in that area to break open. A compression arm garment is then generally applied, which allows for more freedom of movement, however, the elbows should still not be bent to ninety degrees and the arms should not be elevated above the shoulders.
Obviously, heaving lifting would need to be avoided for several weeks after surgery; primarily because strenuous exercise can increase the risk of bleeding after surgery but also because flexing of the biceps muscles could also put tension on the incision in the mid-portion of the upper arms where the most skin was removed and, therefore, the greatest natural wound tension exists. After about three weeks, as long as all scars are intact and healing satisfactorily, patients can gradually increase their range of motion and weight restrictions are progressively lifted.
The vast majority of those undergoing brachioplasty surgery have lost a considerable amount of weight; something that is becoming rather common in Columbus, Ohio. The skin on the upper arms in these situations tends to be very thin, especially with respect to the dermis, which is normally the tougher layer of skin used to hold buried sutures. As a result, sutures in the upper arms have a higher risk of tearing out with even minimal stress following surgery compared to other cosmetic procedures.
As is true with most cosmetic procedures, the bigger the surgery, the greater the limitation and the longer it lasts. Recovery from a small arm lift where skin is only removed from the arm pits is generally much quicker than with an extended lift where skin is removed from the entire upper arm, into the axilla and down the side of the chest.