How Painful is a Breast Reduction Procedure

If you’re one of the millions of women in the United States who is burdened with excessively large breasts, you may find yourself wishing there was a way to make them smaller. If so, you’re not alone–breast reduction surgery is rising in popularity in the United States as more and more women recognize the benefits of literally and figuratively taking the weight off their chest.

It’s common for women with large or out of proportion breasts to struggle with physical discomfort like back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain, as well as emotional stress like poor self-esteem and a lack of self confidence. Even daily physical activities like exercising and sleeping can be a challenge. Despite all of the benefits associated with breast reduction surgery, making the choice to have plastic surgery is never an easy one. Many patients find themselves wondering: “how painful is a breast reduction?”

What is breast reduction surgery?

Reduction mammoplasty, more commonly known as breast reduction surgery, is surgery that is performed with the goal of removing excess glandular tissue, fatty tissue, and the resulting excess breast tissue. As a result, overall breast size is reduced. There are three surgical techniques that are commonly used to perform breast reduction surgery: liposuction, the vertical/lollipop technique, and the anchor/inverted-T procedure. As your board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Applebaum will select the technique most appropriate for you based on your goals and individual anatomy.


Patients seeking only a slight to moderate reduction in breast size may be able to accomplish their goals through the use of liposuction alone. Liposuction leaves scars that are virtually invisible, and the procedure itself is less invasive. Good candidates for liposuction include patients needing only a slight to moderate reduction in breast size ,who have minimal to no sagging and good skin elasticity. Additionally, the excess breast size should be caused predominantly by excess fat.

Vertical or Lollipop Breast Reduction

Patients who require a more substantial size reduction than can be provided by liposuction may benefit from the lollipop breast reduction technique. The lollipop breast reduction technique is Dr. Applebaum’s preferred technique because it allows for significant results with minimal scarring. When the lollipop breast reduction technique is performed, a vertical incision is made from the bottom of the areola to the bottom of the breast crease, and another incision is made around the areola, creating the shape of a lollipop.

Unlike more traditional breast reduction procedures, no incision is required along the bottom of the breasts. The incision pattern employed by the lollipop technique allows Dr. Applebaum to remove excess breast tissue and excess fat, and reshape the breast internally while also allowing breast lift into a more youthful position. Good candidates for the lollipop breast reduction technique include women who are seeking a moderate reduction in size and have more noticeable sagging.

Anchor or Inverted-T Breast Reduction

The anchor or inverted-T plastic surgery procedure requires one incision around the areola, one from the areola to the bottom of the breast, and one along the crease of the breast. Because more incisions are created, Dr. Applebaum has maximum access to the internal portion of the breast for excess breast tissue removal and reshaping. Therefore, the anchor or inverted-T breast reduction technique is best suited to patients who need a significant breast size reduction, have significant sagging or drooping, or have significant asymmetry in the breasts. There is more scarring associated with the anchor or inverted-T breast reduction, but the scars are easily concealed by bras or bathing suits.

Who is considered a good candidate for breast reduction surgery?

Breast reduction procedures have one of the highest satisfaction rates of any cosmetic surgery procedure–more than 95 percent of patients who have a breast reduction procedure are satisfied with the results. That’s because having large breasts can cause significant obstacles to physical activity and emotional well-being, both of which can be remedied by a relatively simple plastic surgery procedure that result in smaller breasts. Patients who have large breasts and experience any of the following symptoms as a result of their breast size may be able to experience relief from breast reduction surgery:

  • Chronic rash or skin irritation underneath the breasts, especially around the underwire region
  • Poor self-image due to large breasts
  • Grooves or marks on the shoulders from bra straps
  • Chronic shoulder pain, back pain, and neck pain requiring pain medications
  • Difficulty sleeping due to discomfort from large breasts
  • Restricted physical activity due to large breasts, such as exercise
  • Breasts that are noticeably unequal in size
  • Difficulty fitting into bras and clothing
  • Poor posture due to the weight of large breasts
  • Nerve pain
  • Breasts that droop as a result of excess weight

Many women with extremely large breasts experience multiple symptoms included on the list above. If you are worried about affording the cost of breast reduction surgery but you are currently experiencing multiple symptoms, you should know that some health insurance companies cover the cost of reduction mammoplasty. Dr. Applebaum and his staff can help you navigate insurance approval.

How painful is a breast reduction?

If you are concerned about the pain associated with breast reduction surgery, the first thing to know is that the recovery process will depend largely on the type of surgical technique used to perform your breast reduction. The more significant the reduction is in size, the longer you can expect the recovery process to take. However, regardless of the surgical technique used to perform your breast reduction procedure, you should expect to have most of the pain subside in the first week after surgery since most of the surgeries are outpatient procedures even with the use of general anesthesia. Pain is typically most intense in the days immediately following surgery and then begins to subside. Soreness can continue for up to two to three weeks following surgery, but this is more like the feeling experienced after a hard workout. Most patients take pain medication for about a week following surgery, but some need it for only a few days while others may take it for up to two weeks. Of course, while breast surgery has a relatively quick recovery process compared to other surgical procedures, physical activity such as heavy lifting is not advised anytime soon, and any concern of side effects from the surgery or subsequent pain medication can be discussed directly with Dr. Applebaum and our office staff.


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