8 Tips for a Smooth Recovery After Surgery
When your doctor recommends surgery, you’ll have a lot of questions. You’ll want to learn everything you can about the procedure—and you’ll also be curious about how fast you can get back to work and activities. Your recovery time depends on several different factors, including the type of operation you’re having and the severity of your condition or injury.
Take time to understand the entire process, including what you can do to heal at home. Pay attention to your physician’s pre-operative and post-operative instructions. You can also try some of these speedy recovery tips at home. With patience and a positive attitude, you’ll get stronger every day. Before you know it, you’ll be back to your normal schedule!
Before having any kind of surgery, you should be prepared to ask your doctor and medical team lots of questions: Are there any risks? What pain medication will you need? Will you need home healthcare while you recover? How fast can you get back to work and other activities?
Your recovery time will depend on the type of operation you’re having and the severity of your condition or injury. Take time to understand the entire process, including what you can do to heal at home. Pay close attention to your physician’s pre-operative and post-operative instructions.
With patience and a positive attitude, you’ll get stronger every day. Before you know it, you’ll be back to your normal schedule.
How to Feel Your Best After Surgery
While you can’t always control your health, you can take steps to make recovery from surgery easier. Prepare for your procedure as much as you can ahead of time, which may include understanding your operation better and finding someone to drive you home.
When the surgery is over, relax and let your body heal naturally. With proper rest, good nutrition and a little bit of regular exercise, you’ll be feeling better and pain free quickly.
Here’s what to expect after a surgical procedure.
1. Go to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit
Immediately after your procedure, you will be brought to a post anesthesia care unit (PACU). This is a specific patient recovery room in the hospital, where you’ll be brought back to consciousness from anesthesia before being discharged.
Your anesthesia care team will monitor your vital signs, make sure you’re feeling comfortable, and give you the appropriate fluids and pain medication. They are knowledgeable about your condition and trained to spot any problems related to the anesthesia so they can take action quickly if issues arise.
You’ll be continually evaluated during your PACU stay until your physician decides you are ready to be discharged.
2. Follow Your Patient Discharge Instructions
After undergoing major surgery or a minor elective procedure, you’ll get discharge instructions to review with your surgical team. Usually, they include information about wound care, recommended activity level, suggested physical therapy, diet, and mental wellbeing (as well as information about when to call your doctor and the signs of a medical emergency).
They should also contain guidance specific to your condition. For example, a patient recovering from heart surgery may need to keep a closer eye on their respiratory health to prevent pneumonia and bronchitis.
Once you’re home, it’s a good idea to re-read these guidelines and follow them carefully. Call your surgeon’s office if you’re unsure about anything, especially if it involves unusual symptoms or reactions to medication. By taking care of complications as soon as they arise, you’ll prevent setbacks in your recovery.
3. Get Plenty of Rest
With any major surgery, it’s important to stay in bed as much as possible for at least 24–48 hours after the procedure. Some surgeries may require even more patient bed rest. Sleep if you feel tired and be sure to move slower than your usual pace. A gradual approach will allow your body to tell you when it’s ready to go back to normal.
A patient with a long recovery ahead of them may be tempted to catch up on work or run a few errands. But before you get back to your busy schedule, remember your surgeon’s instructions. Don’t drive, exercise, or engage in strenuous activities until your physician gives you the all clear.
4. Take Pain Medication as Advised
Before surgery, tell your doctor about any prescribed pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medications, or other supplements you use. This will help them prescribe pain relief that won’t negatively interact with medication you’re currently taking.
And while there’s no such thing as an entirely pain free surgery experience, the right medication in the right dose can go a long way towards easing soreness and discomfort. As a patient, it’s really important to follow all medication instructions from your healthcare professionals carefully. Not only will this speed up your healing time, it can help you avoid long-term health problems.
5. Attend Follow-Up Appointments
Usually, you’ll have your first patient follow-up appointment a day or two after surgery. While you may feel tired or sick, do not skip this visit. If you can’t drive to the appointment, ask a friend or family member to accompany you.
Always be honest about your symptoms and level of pain. This way, your medical team can treat the areas where it hurts the most and keep you as comfortable as possible. It’s also a great time to ask any questions that have come up since the day of your procedure.
In most cases, your first appointment won’t be your last. Some patients will visit a week or two later, while others will have a final checkup in four to six weeks. Keep going to all appointments until you get the final clearance from your healthcare professionals.
6. Consider Home Care Services
Home health care aides work with patients who are recovering from surgery. Ultimately, their goal is either to help the patient recover and gain their independence, or if the condition is chronic, to maintain the highest quality of life possible and assist with personal tasks.
An expert caregiver can support your transition from the hospital to home. They can take care of work around the house such as light housekeeping, meal prep, provide companionship, and help you get around the house easier. Home care support can give your family peace of mind that everything is being taken care of.
7. Avoid Infection
Every wound, no matter how small, has the potential to become infected. Today’s minimally invasive surgical procedures help minimize the risk of infection, but you still have to maintain proper wound care to stay healthy. Your surgeon’s discharge instructions should provide you with everything you need to care for the affected area. Follow all guidelines step-by-step and ask a loved one if you need help with cleaning or dressing the wound.
Get as many supplies as you can before you have surgery. Ask your surgical team about what you’ll need to maintain your incision at home. Stock up at your local drugstore on supplies like gauze, a mild soap and medical gloves. Never rub your wound, submerge it in water or put lotion on top of it. If you notice any of the common signs of infection after surgery, such as increasing pain, fever or a large amount of discharge, call your physician as soon as possible.
8. Eat a Healthy Diet
A patient recovering from surgery may experience nausea and loss of appetite. But once those feelings pass and you’re ready to get back to your normal diet, it’s important to focus on incorporating nutritious meals into your patient plan.
Firstly, increase your hydration. Most adults require a daily water intake amount of between nine and 13 cups per day. According to Dr. Joel Topf, Assistant Professor at Oakland University Michigan, the best advice for staying hydrated is simple: drink when you’re thirsty. Eating fruits and vegetables can also help water intake.
Eat Nutritious Meals
Protein, vitamin C and B12 are some of the vitamins and nutrients that can support the recovery process. If you’re on a plant-based diet, proteins like beans or tofu can make you feel more energized. Chicken and eggs are excellent sources of animal protein. Citrus fruit, cantaloupe and kale are all foods that are rich in vitamin C. You can also choose broccoli, papaya or cauliflower.
For more B12, consume fish, low-fat yogurt or cheese. Beef and fortified breakfast cereal are also good sources of B12. For more information about adding these foods to your normal diet, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
Add Movement Into Your Routine
While you may feel discomfort throughout your body, it’s still important to get moving. Depending on the type of surgery you receive, you may require post-surgery physical therapy sessions or simply be advised to add low-impact movement into your routine.
Don’t worry—you don’t need to run a marathon. Walking is all it takes to improve blood flow and speed up the healing process.
Moderate activity also helps to prevent lung problems such as pneumonia. Start by walking around your home and then try taking a few more steps outdoors. Increase the intensity of your activity every few days. If you feel tired or faint, stop walking and find a place to sit. If you think you could fall ill, ask a loved one to walk with you.
For patients with blood clots
Blood clots can be a problem for some people. If this sounds like you, consider wearing a type of anti-embolism stockings for recovery after an operation. For many patients getting better from surgery, firm compression hosiery helps swelling and circulation, while a front wheel walker, crutches or a cane may be the best way to provide you with temporary support while walking.
Feeling Better After Your Procedure
While you can’t always control your health, you can take steps to make recovery from surgery easier. Prepare for your procedure as much as you can ahead of time, which may include understanding your operation better and finding someone to drive you home. You’ll also want to know what type of recovery process to expect so you know how much time you’ll have to take off from home responsibilities or work. When the surgery is over, relax and let your body heal naturally. With proper rest, good nutrition and a little bit of regular exercise, you’ll be feeling better quickly.
Hope these tips can give you some pointers to have the smoothest recovery process possible.
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