So you’ve been fixed up, stitched up and woken up – surgery is over and the scary part is done with. Unfortunately you are not out of the woods yet, my friend. Taking proper care of yourself post-surgery as you heal is absolutely vital. Hopefully you won’t have to make use of it, but here is a compilation of things to do while you’re on the mend after an operation. With any luck this list of suggestions will help improve you recover physically and mentally on your way back to good health.
1. Prevent Infection
Following a major surgical procedure, your body will be very susceptible to infection. In fact, the CDC notes that 1 to 3 out of every 100 individuals who have undergone surgery will get an infection. If possible, you should maintain regular bathing habits as one form of preventing infection. Common signs of infection are redness and swelling around the surgical incision, fever and a liquid buildup surrounding the wound. The CDC also warns that patients who smoke are more vulnerable to infection.
2. Care for your Incision the right way
Inspecting your incision goes hand-in-hand with preventing infection. The first way to properly inspect your incision is by always washing your hands before touching the incision. If your incision is hard to reach or look at, make use of some mirrors if possible. When examining the incision, make sure that the stitches/staples are still intact. If the incision is pink/red or has wound drainage surrounding it, you might have an infection. That being said…
3. Be familiar with your healing
Before and after surgery, make sure you consult with your doctor on your projected healing process. While it is important to be observant of your recovery – which this guide is all about – you don’t want to get paranoid and worry that you’re not healing the way you should be. Be informed with where you should be at active-wise and if there will be certain symptoms to look out for. You should be able to recognize what is normal and what might require a trip to the ER.
4. Follow doctor’s orders
This one should go without saying, right? However their bedside manner is – good or bad – your doctor is the expert and their word should be believed and respected. After a few days of being bed-ridden you’re going to get a little stir-crazy. Don’t try to push yourself harder than your doctor has suggested; as much as you might like to believe, you are probably not the exception to the rule. And in line with that…
5. Pain control
After surgery, your doctor will most likely have prescribed you some pain medication. As mentioned above, make sure you heed your doctor’s orders – especially when it comes to prescription medicine. Do not take more than the recommended dose of painkillers or use them more frequently than prescribed. It will take a while before your body breaks down the chemicals and you start to feel the drugs’ effects. An important mnemonic device to remember is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If possible, you should be elevating the area of your body that received surgery to allow proper blood flow as well as applying ice and pressure to reduce swelling.
6. Stay active
This entry is so essential that it should probably be written in bold, highlighted and underlined. Your body is a muscle, and the only way that muscle is going to recover from the trauma of surgery is by exercising it. Follow your doctor’s instructions as to how much activity you can handle, especially in regards to exercise. You don’t want to be lying in bed all day so try to get up at least two to three times per day. Depending on your injuries, never underestimate the power of a brief walk!
There are all sorts of different therapies that you can make use of while you are recovering. If you find yourself getting depressed, a clinical psychiatrist could be very useful to you. As you get stronger you can explore different forms of physical therapy from the traditional to water therapy to massage therapy or acupuncture/acupressure. Consult your doctor to see what kinds of physical therapy you are ready to handle.
In order to repair the machine that is your body you need to regularly fuel it. Following surgery you may find that you have lost your appetite. Hydrating and keeping your energy up is a must however – and can help you overcome any nausea induced by the anesthesia of surgery. Since you are not going to be as active it is important to eat probiotics for your digestive system and foods high in protein to help maintain your strength. If you are unable to chew or swallow very easily you should eat soft, mushy foods or even baby food.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, keeping yourself as healthy as possible is a huge priority when you’re recovering from surgery. In addition to eating healthy foods you can supplement your diet with additional vitamins. Focusing on antioxidants as well as Vitamins A, C, E and Zinc. It never hurts to go outside and get some Vitamin D from the sun either!
While you’re on the mend it is very easy to feel down in the dumps. In a lot of cases you are unable to do simple tasks that you may have taken for granted. With all of this in mind it is important to keep a positive attitude. Watch movies or TV shows that make you feel happy – save the sad sack flicks for later! That goes for any form of entertainment really – expose yourself to songs and stories with an uplifting message and battle the blues away.
11. Reduce Stress
Listening to music will not only affect your mood but will help loosen any tension you might have. Music helps you relax, lower stress and can help your body produce endorphins. Another aid to reduce stress and improve your mood is being around people; just because you’re “bedridden” doesn’t mean you have to be isolated. Surround yourself with the positive influences in your life – maybe even try to reconnect with old friends or family members you haven’t talked to in a long time.
We’re at the end of the list ladies and gentlemen; if nothing else we hope that you have learned that recovering from surgery will be a process. You’re going to have a lot of time on your hands so why not make the best of a less-than-ideal situation? Pick up a hobby or craft that you can work on while you’re healing. Maybe research some recipes and try your hand at cooking when you’re able to? Who knows, with all of this time in your hand you may just end up writing the next great American novel!