Breast tissue is a woman’s thing, right? No. All humans have breast tissue, men just have it to a much lesser degree. This is why a man can develop female-like breasts, a condition often referred to simply as “man boobs.” In our arena, the condition is called gynecomastia. More than having a proper (and non-demeaning) term for enlarged male breasts, doctors have ways to deal with this problem successfully.
What many men do when they notice puffiness, swelling, or dramatic enlargement of their breasts is work out. This seems logical. There is a condition referred to as pseudo gynecomastia in which the true cause of enlarged breasts is obesity. In cases of breast enlargement where there is no correlation to weight, men learn that there is no amount of chest exercise that can resolve the problem. It is in these cases that gynecomastia surgery makes sense.
Gynecomastia surgery, or male breast reduction, is more than liposuction. Typically, there is some degree of breast tissue involvement in this condition. Where fatty tissue in the breasts is soft and expandable (and shrinkable), breast tissue is glandular. It is dense and does not expand or shrink with weight. This is why some men’s gynecomastia is limited to puffy nipples and other men see more widespread enlargement. To completely resolve this issue, a plastic surgeon removes both fat and breast tissue.
Understandably, many of the men who schedule gynecomastia surgery ask when they will be able to work out again. When exercise has been viewed as the only way to reduce breast size, it is difficult to take a break from the routine even if it had been ineffective to begin with. Here’s what we want patients to know.
Recovering from Gynecomastia Surgery
Gynecomastia surgery can vary from one person to another. Some techniques incur small incisions around the areola. Others require larger incisions in the crease beneath a large and saggy breast. Recovery time relates to the extensiveness of the procedure. However, men can generally expect the following:
- Early recovery is all about rest. The body uses a lot of physical energy to heal tissues that are manipulated during surgery. During the first several days of recovery, patients should allow as much time for rest as the body dictates.
- Patients may begin walking as early as the day of surgery. This doesn’t mean brisk walking, hiking, or long walks. It means short walks to and from the bathroom at first. Stairs should not be climbed if this can be avoided. Casual walking can be done a few times a day for up to 30 minutes at a time.
- The first increase in activity may occur about one month after surgery, after our initial post-op visit to evaluate healing. After this time, cardio activity can intensify, but not by much. Patients must still avoid upper body exercise at this time and should listen carefully for when their body has had enough.
- Six weeks after gynecomastia surgery, most patients can begin to add strength training back into their regimen. This should be taken slowly and with light weights.