If you are having surgery, you may be curious as to how you can heal faster, return to work faster, or maybe even return to the gym faster. There’s a lot you can prepare to ensure that once you come out of the hospital, you’re doing all you can to aid a quick post-surgery recovery.
Preparing for your post-surgery recovery will allow you enough time to consider all your needs – physical, emotional, and day-to-day. Your medical team is the best source for recovery planning, therefore, the suggestions below are general and appropriate for most kinds of surgery.
Be sure to ask about post-surgery recovery before you have surgery and ask for updated instructions before you leave the hospital. Often, you will receive written discharge instructions. Ask questions such as:
Depending on the type of surgery you have, there are many potential complications that can arise. It’s important to learn how to prevent, recognize, and respond to all complications. For example, surgeries often put patients at risk for infection and blood clots, as well as respiratory complications due to prolonged inactivity. Be sure to ask your specialist for further information.
Conduct a quick survey to see if you need to make any changes at home. Will you need to make room for any medical equipment? Also, if your bedroom is upstairs, consider rearranging your furniture so that you sleep downstairs for a while, at least until you’re steady on your feet.
Even if you’re completely mobile, consider wearing flat shoes, eliminating clutter, and ensure good lighting to minimize the chance of an accidental fall. If your bedroom is far from a bathroom, you may consider moving to a room closer to a bathroom for the time being.
Too often, patients follow the instructions that they think are meaningful and disregard the ones that they don’t like or don’t feel apply to them. If your doctor says “showers only”, “no swimming”, or “don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds”, there’s likely a good reason for that.
Don’t be tempted to do more than you have been advised to, either. If you push yourself too hard, rather than recovering quicker, you could be setting your recovery back.
Remember that medication is prescribed to you for a reason, too. To aid your recovery. Even if you are someone who avoids medication for fear of addiction or adverse side effects, post-surgery is the time to follow your doctor’s orders and take the medication as prescribed. Naturally, you will be free of medication at some point, but let your body heal first.
Too often, patients do not attend all of their rehabilitation appointments. If you are feeling good and/or your wound is healing well, a physical therapy/rehabilitation appointment may feel unnecessary or a waste of time. This could not be farther from the truth.
Not only does your rehabilitation specialist want to know how you feel and/or how your wound is healing, but they are also looking for things you cannot see or find. The weeks after surgery are crucial, and if you leave things until too late, you may never fully recover.
He or she may do follow-up bloodwork, look for signs of infection, or make sure your surgery has been adequately treated by the surgery. You may also require adjustments in medications in the weeks following surgery.
Caring for your incision doesn’t have to be complicated. You know you should wash your hands before touching your incision, but did you know that it’s most common that patients clean their incision too much? They try and scrub their incision to remove the scabs that form, or clean it with peroxide to avoid the contamination of germs. Unless your surgeon directs you to do so, cleaning your incision with soap and water is more than adequate.
Also, a new incision is not very strong and a violent sneeze can cause a surgical wound to open. Bracing (or applying pressure to) your incision is essential when coughing, sneezing, or going to the bathroom. You can do this with your hands or with a pillow. It’s important to know that coughing is important as coughing prevents pneumonia.
Believe it or not, walking after surgery is one of the most important things you can do after having surgery. It may seem like a simple thing, but a quick walk every hour or two can prevent serious complications like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pneumonia.
Walking can also prevent a very common and very annoying side effect of anesthesia: constipation. Walking is a gentle and natural way to return to physical activity. Even if you are feeling back to normal, talk to your doctor before returning to your regular activities.
You may also be directed to a physical therapist for post-surgery recovery. Too often, patients fall into a lack of movement after surgery, which leads to loss of function, muscle weakness, and increases postoperative complications. When patients stay in bed following surgery, they lose muscle strength and heart and lung capacity because of a lack of physical activity.
Physical therapy also helps patients manage pain safely without turning to opioids. Not only does physical therapy improve physical movement but it positively improves a patient’s emotional and psychological state. After all, exercise releases endorphins that help create a sense of well being while enhancing your overall mood.
Keeping ahead of your pain is very important during your post-surgery recovery. Keeping your pain at a tolerable level (no pain is an unreasonable goal), will help you to keep moving and ultimately speed up the healing process. Just be sure to drink enough fluids with pain medications as they are notorious for dehydration and constipation in patients.
It’s much easier to control pain if one takes them regularly and as prescribed. Waiting until the pain is severe to take the pain medication results in a long wait for the drug to take effect. Therefore, it’s much better to keep the pain under control and at a tolerable level rather than waiting until it’s severe and then waiting for relief. Good pain control promotes good sleep, helping, and speeding up the healing process as well.
It’s not uncommon for patients to not feel like eating after surgery. They feel nauseated, constipated, or simply not hungry. Staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet after surgery promotes healing, minimizes complications, and help you get past the unwanted side effects of anesthesia. Remember, it’s hard to heal if your body doesn’t have the fuel to do so.
Physical therapists are experts in improving range of motion, daily functioning, and overall quality of life, no matter the surgery. The goal of physical therapy is to achieve optimal physical functioning, while this may mean your physical therapist attempts to find and push your limits which can cause pain, he or she will work with you to support your recovery. Like any successful relationship, open communication is key.
Those who are too stubborn to step into a physical therapist’s office immediately after surgery will find they lose their flexibility, range of motion, and strength in their surgically repaired part of their body. Physical therapy is vital to the healing process. Not only stretches and strengthening exercises help a person regain balance, control, and range of motion in the area surgery was performed, it allows a trained medical professional to view the area in question.
For example, if you have a total knee replacement, physical therapy will help you learn to walk on a titanium joint, regain your balance and flexibility, and maintain your ability to stand, walk, jog, jump, or bike for years to come. Physical therapy is not just about recovery – it’s about setting you up for physical activity long after you have been released from care.
Most doctors are recommending physical therapy starts immediately after surgery. You will begin with simple exercises involving flexing and stretching, then eventually move on into more intense exercises as you recover. Remember, part of your therapist’s job is to push you when you don’t think you can. Be sure to communicate when you feel either pain or improvement during your sessions. Common types of physical therapy for post-surgery recovery include:
Postoperative physical therapy is the ideal way to encourage your body to heal. In fact, most orthopedic surgeons believe the success of their procedures is highly dependent on a personalized physical therapy plan.
Major benefits of physical therapy for post-surgery recovery include
Next to the surgery itself, recovery is one of the most important parts of your treatment journey. Without movement in the right places, this can lead to decreased blood flow and can negatively affect healing at the surgical site. Also, muscles can weaken and atrophy if they go too long without use, and not learning or relearning proper movement can put stress on the surgical site.
To keep it simple, for those who have joint replacements or reparative operations planned, pre-surgical rehabilitation helps reduce the time and challenges of post-surgery rehabilitation. Think about this: after surgery, patients need to relearn how to move again. Much of that comes from the lack of muscle mass and flexibility their existing condition caused, as well as the surgery itself causing pain and stiffness in the following weeks.
Pre-surgical rehabilitation (physical therapy) is designed to help you regain some of your lost strength and flexibility before you even have the surgery, as well as build up your ability to heal more quickly after your operation. When done correctly, this can significantly decrease the time and pain associated with post-surgery recovery.
If you ask our experts, they will tell you that the success of given treatment is heavily influenced by compliance with physical therapy recommendations. Physical therapists are highly trained musculoskeletal experts who are focused on helping you reduce pain, restore functionality, and get back to your optimal condition. Physical therapy for post-surgery recovery can put you on a fast track to recovery.
Not only can physical therapy help you heal faster, but it can also manage pain levels without excessive use of prescription narcotics. If you need help with your recovery, contact us to find out how physical therapy can help you return to an active lifestyle.