8 Ways to Speed Recovery from Surgery

Have you recently had surgery, or do you have one coming up? Whether your procedure is major or minor, itís important to take care of yourself afterwards and allow enough time for proper healing and recovery. Doing too much, too fast can set you back and cause unnecessary complications.

The following are practical steps you can take to speed up your recovery time, promote healing and get back on your feet.

1. Follow Your Post-Surgical Instructions

Donít try to second-guess your doctor. There are sound reasons behind all the instructions they give you, even if it seems like they might not apply to you. If youíve been ordered not to have a bath or drive a car, realize itís in your best interest to refrain from these activities to speed up your healing process.

This includes going to all of your follow-up appointments. Never skip them simply because youíre feeling better. Your doctor can catch signs of complications you may have missed, as well as make other important follow-up checks, such as ordering additional blood work or making adjustments to your medications.

2. Care for Your Incision

Incisions may not be beautiful, but donít let the ďickĒ factor put you off. The more tender, loving care you can give an incision, the better it will heal.

Check your incision a few times a day to make sure there is no separation, bleeding or signs of infection, such as redness, swelling or fluid drainage. Use a mirror to look at incisions in difficult-to-reach locations. If you see anything suspicious, speak to your doctor as soon as possible or go to your closest hospital emergency room.

Also, most incisions and wounds benefit from being kept moist. The formation of a dry scab over a wound can actually inhibit the growth of fresh, new skin and tissues. Whereas, research has shown that wounds can heal 50 percent faster when kept moist.

This isnít true for all incisions, but your doctor can confirm whether or not yours should be kept moist. Also ask your doctor what they would recommend for moisturizing your wound. Many options are available, such as petroleum jelly, honey or specialized wound dressing products.

3. Prevent Infection

Always wash your hands before and after touching your incision site. Also wash them regularly throughout the day for extra protection.

Washing your hands can be more important for preventing infection than washing your incision area. In fact, soaking or over-washing your incision can weaken it and promote separation. Donít use cleansers like alcohol or peroxide on your wound unless specifically instructed by your doctor.

4. Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthy

This may sound logical, but drinking and eating are often the last things you feel like doing when youíre recovering from surgery. Your body needs the right fuel and building blocks for proper healing and recovery.

Foods that assist healing include those high in protein, vitamins C and B12, fiber, probiotics and iron. Look for whole-food options, such as beans, grains, meats, fruits, vegetables and fermented foods. Avoid high-sugar and processed foods as these often have poor nutritive value.

In addition, avoid foods that can cause constipation, which is a common problem after surgery due to reduced mobility and certain medications. Foods like dairy products, low-fiber foods and dry or dehydrated foods can all contribute to constipation.

Limiting your alcohol consumption is also beneficial. Research has found that patients who have more than a couple alcoholic drinks every day tend to experience more post-operative problems compared to light drinkers or those who donít drink.

Related: 7 Hydrating Foods More Exciting Than Drinking Water

5. Cough and Sneeze with Caution

A forceful cough or sneeze can break open an incision. Abdominal incisions are at the most risk. To protect your incision, always press against it with your hand or a pillow when you sneeze, cough or go to the bathroom.

You donít need to stop coughing and sneezing altogether, you just need to take precautions when you do. Coughing is actually an important way to prevent post-operative pneumonia.

6. Find Post-Op Support

Ask a friend or family member if they can lend a hand during your recovery. Especially in the first few days following an operation, you wonít be feeling your best. It can be very helpful to have someone who can speak to the doctor on your behalf, as well as help with medications, follow-up appointments and daily tasks.

It can also be a good opportunity to spend some extra time with a loved one that you wouldnít normally have. You can play games together, watch movies or participate in some low-impact activities. This will also keep your spirits up instead of worrying about your recovery.

7. Get Active, But Not Too Active

Your post-operative instructions will likely recommend some gentle activity as soon as possible after surgery. You can walk if possible, sit in a chair or at least turn frequently in bed. Activity will help improve your circulation and prevent blood clots, decrease uncomfortable intestinal gas, promote deeper breathing and prevent muscle weakness and constipation.

On the other hand, youíll also likely have a restriction on lifting heavy objects and strenuous activity. These can weaken your incision and cause complications. Ask your doctor how much weight you can safely lift following surgery, and how long youíll need to avoid lifting and vigorous exercise.

Plan your daily activities so you can rest often. Go easy on yourself for a while, your energy level wonít be what it was before your surgery. Be patient as you slowly work your way back into shape.

Related: How Gentle Exercise Transforms Your Brain

8. Control Your Pain

Donít ever feel that you have to put up with pain, or that youíre a wimp if you need pain control. Itís actually a very important step to a faster recovery. If youíre in too much pain to cough, it puts you at risk of pneumonia. And not walking because of too much pain will put you at risk for blood clots.

Medication is the most common form of pain control. If you hesitate to take pain medications for fear of addiction, know that this is a very low risk. A 2008 study found that about 3 percent of people with chronic pain who used opioid drugs like morphine became addicted to the drugs. The risk was less than 1 percent in people who had no history of previous drug addiction.

You can also speak to your doctor about drug-free methods of pain control, such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, meditation, visualization techniques, massage, or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) as shown in the video below.

Related at Care2

227 comments

Ellie M
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Paulo R2 days ago

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Paulo R2 days ago

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Fran SiteIssues F

Thanks for this information.

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Marge F
Marge F3 days ago

Thank you for posting this informative article.

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W. C
W. C3 days ago

Interesting, thank you.

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William C
William C3 days ago

Thanks.

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Elaine W
Elaine W5 days ago

Helpful things to remember.

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Danii P
Danii P5 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Richard A
Richard A5 days ago

Thank you for this article.

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