There’s a growing industry in post-surgery pillows, or specially made cushions that are all about facilitating recovery while you lounge, sit, or sleep. They’re not necessary — many patients have perfectly fine results propping themselves up with their own pillows, sleeping in recliners (for the surgeries that require torso elevation), or just being mindful of their sleeping position. But some swear by them, finding them the answer to easing the worries about putting pressure on the wrong spot and setting the healing process back. It’s all about comfort, preference, how active a sleeper you are, and your own nerves about staying in the best position — especially if the recommended posture isn’t your preferred position.
If you have a procedure coming up and are interested in purchasing a pillow, our first piece of advice is to talk to your doctor: He or she will have unique insight into your surgery, how you’re healing along the way, and what’s best for you. If you get the go ahead to look for a special pillow, finding the right one can feel a bit daunting. A quick Google search will tell you that there’s a lot of out there to choose from, spanning everything from butt-saving BBL pillows and wedge pillows to elaborate systems meant to keep you in place from head to toe.
Oh, and a couple notes from Andrew P. Ordon, MD, clinical professor of plastic surgery at the USC School of Medicine and co-host of The Doctors:
- Always look for the word ‘hypoallergenic’ on the pillow or cushion.
- When it comes to sheets to wrap them in, opt for smooth, non-abrasive cotton linens. “Even better if broken in and soft,” he says.
With all of this in mind, onward to narrowing down your options.
For Face & Upper Torso Work
After facial and upper body (think: breast enlargement) procedures, it’s all about elevating the head to reduce swelling and promote drainage while keeping you on your back. “It's always important to make sure there is no undue pressure on areas that just had an operation,” says David Shafer, MD, a double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City. Here, if you’re not using a stack of regular ol’ pillows or a husband-style pillow you might have around for reading, you have three basic options:
- Wedge Pillows: Lift your torso up into a semi-fowler position (meaning your back is at a 45 degree angle) a la the Sleep Number Adjustable Wedge Pillow.
- Head-Cradling Cushions: This style keeps your face from moving side to side like the Deluxe CosMed Pillow With Satin Pillowcase or even U-shaped pillows like the Modern Sleep U-Shape Memory Foam Travel Pillow.
- Contoured Side-Sleeping Pillow: For folks who really can’t handle more than a night or two on their backs, Dr. Shafer recommends Sleep & Glow’s Omnia Pillow, which has cut-outs on either side for your face to reduce pressure.
Beyond that, many doctors recommend tucking a pillow under your knees or lower legs to take the pressure off your lower back and facilitate blood flow. In fact, this is a good practice for all post-op patients. “I tell them to keep your ankles at knee level when in bed with a soft pillow under the knees to prevent venous blood from pooling in the lower legs, which can set you up for a blood clot,” says Suzanne Trott, MD, a Beverly Hills-based board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon. For those on the lookout for a dedicated pillow for the task, try Ebung Leg Elevation Pillow.
This all goes for work on the breasts, as well. Dr. Shafer notes that some like to use a specific between-boob strap-on cushion called the Pillow Bra by Sleep and Glow to keep the breasts in place during sleep. Not only can it keep you more comfortable but “it’s good for preventing wrinkles in the decolletage,” he says.
For Booty & Vaginal Work
It’s during the day when pillows really matter for work on the rear end or “down there.” Some find a regular memory foam pillow helps take the pressure off when you sit, but Dr. Trott says there are special “donut” or “w” shaped pillows made of memory foam meant to keep weight off the buttocks when you sit. If there’s one area where doctors often recommend a special buy, this is, as BBL-type procedures come with upwards of a month of downtime. Try: Royal Comfort BBL Booty Pillow.
At night, you’ll want to sleep on your stomach. That means you’ll likely need to create bumpers to keep you face down. Lots of regular pillows can work, but a regular ol’ body pillow can be a godsend here.
For a Tummy Tuck
The concern after a tummy tuck is making sure not to stretch the incision site overnight. That’s why Dr. Ordon insists that abdominoplasty patients maintain “a flexed, jackknife position.” Sure, you can do this with your own pillows and bolsters under your upper body and legs. But, if you need help, an all-over body system, like the Contour BackMax Foam Bed Wedge Pillow Support System, can be just what the doctor ordered. By elevating both the back and feet, they mimic the shape of a hospital bed on top of your mattress.
Sleeping on your back allows for even weight distribution, which is why it’s often recommended after lipo. Creating bumpers around yourself with regular pillows or trying any of the flip-preventing pillow options mentioned above can be a help. If you had your arms or legs done, reserve a few. In such cases, it’s important to keep limbs elevated to keep blood flowing and keep swelling at a minimum, Dr. Ordon says.
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