Surgery can fix lots of health issues – from removing a bad gallbladder to repairing a torn muscle. An operation, however, is only the first step in making you feel and function better.
The body is amazing and capable of a remarkable recovery following an invasive procedure. While your surgeon removes or repairs bone or tissue, it’s your body’s ability to heal that completes the mission.
That’s why taking care of yourself after an operation will have a significant impact on a successful outcome.
Immediately following your surgical procedure, your healthcare team will prescribe a plan aimed at helping you recover as quickly as possible. They will recommend what to eat, how to care for your incision and what types of therapeutic exercises can get you back to your normal activities. Following these orders will make a big difference in your recovery.
Besides your customized post-operative plan, here are a few general tips that also can help:
Walk as much as possible. Talk to your doctor about how much you can or should walk. Moving around gets your blood flowing to all parts of your body – including the surgical area. Tissue needs the nutrients and oxygen (carried by the blood) to regenerate cells and strengthen muscles, including your heart. If you are unable to walk, change positions often in your bed. Any movement helps.
Eat a healthy diet as soon as you can handle it. While all healthy foods aid in your recovery, certain ones (especially those with protein) have been proven to promote healing. These include egg whites, walnuts, almonds, brown rice, fish and chicken.
Flush your system. Those side effects of anesthesia start going away when you wash the drug out of your system with water. Also, you might become dehydrated if you don’t feel like eating much the first few days after surgery. Ask your nurse or doctor how much water you should drink each day.
Control your pain. Though you may need medication to help with pain, you can also ease it by alternating warm and cool compresses and use deep breathing techniques. The sooner your pain diminishes, the quicker you can begin moving around and walking.
Reduce your stress. Your body amps itself with stress hormones during and after surgery. This can impede your recovery process. Take your mind off the pain and challenges of physical therapy by watching one of your favorite movies, reading a book or listening to music. Let others handle some of your chores such as grocery shopping or cooking until you are ready to resume normal activities.
Prevent infection. This is always a risk following surgery. That is why you need to diligently follow your nurse’s instructions about caring for your incision. That means staying out of baths and thoroughly washing your hands often. If you notice any redness around the incision or feel like you have a fever, you should call your doctor immediately.
Cough and sneeze carefully. A hearty one can rupture your incision. So, have a pillow handy and brace your surgical area when you feel it coming on.
Remember, getting better after surgery takes time. Be patient and follow your doctor’s orders. Your commitment to them and other good health practices after your procedure can speed along your recovery.
Dana L Lindsay, M.D., is a board certified surgeon with Johnson Memorial Surgical Specialists. She can be reached at 317.736.7603.