Surgeons always provide patients with instructions for what to do after their surgical procedure, but so many patients tend to ignore those instructions because they are feeling well, don’t think the instructions apply to them, or they just forget.
1. Don’t Do Too Much
It is really easy to over exert yourself on the days when you are feeling great. You might think that lifting that laundry basket just one time couldn’t possibly be harmful, or that a quick jog won’t hurt a thing. If you are lucky, you are correct and one time won’t lead to injury, but many people find out the hard way that once is enough to lead to some serious complications. If your surgeon says you can’t lift more than 10 pounds for 4 weeks, they mean ten pounds and they mean four weeks, and that doesn’t change because you are feeling energetic enough to go to the grocery store and have lots of groceries to carry into the house.
2. Sleep Enough
Sleeping enough is one of the best ways to make sure you heal quickly. An exhausted body is not a body that is inclined to heal quickly.
Recovering from surgery is hard work for your body, and it earns every minute of sleep it gets. A solid night of rest is going to help speed your recovery along, and an occasional nap won’t hurt either.
3. Eat Well
Eating well will help fuel your body, and promote healing. Lean protein is essential when your body is trying to repair an incision. Your skin and other tissues will heal faster and be stronger if they have adequate nutrients to work with.
4. Cough The Right Way
There is a right way to cough after surgery. It may sound odd, but for those who have an abdominal surgery, coughing in a way that protects an abdominal incision may prevent a very serious illness called dehiscence and evisceration.
5. Don’t Skip Appointments
You might be shocked at how many people skip their surgery follow up appointments because they feel well and don’t see the need. Some of those same people then wonder why no one ever removed their surgical staples or sutures!
Follow up appointments are an opportunity for your surgeon to check for any complications you may be having, draw lab tests to make sure your surgery was a success, and hopefully, release you to go back to your normal activities. These appointments are important and should be considered a priority.
6. Take Your Medicine
Imagine that your surgeon recommends that you take an aspirin every day after surgery. You do that for a week or so, but then your pain is improved so you stop. A week later you develop a serious blood clot and end up back in the hospital. When you ask your surgeon why he didn’t do anything to prevent blood clots, he tells you that he prescribed aspirin, but you chose not to take it.
Medications are important after surgery. Pain medication is often used to decrease inflammation, not just pain, just like aspirin can be used for pain and the prevention of blood clots. If your surgeon recommends a medication, there is likely an excellent reason for doing so, and you should continue to take it until your follow up appointment. If the medication seems unnecessary, check your discharge instructions to see if the medication is necessary, or call the surgeon’s office and inquire about stopping the prescription.
7. Physical Therapy
If your surgeon orders physical therapy after surgery, go to your physical therapy appointments.
Many patients have considered physical therapy to be a waste of time, too painful or too much trouble to bother with. Those patients typically have far worse long term outcomes than the patients who were compliant with their physical therapy. In addition, if the physical therapist gives you “homework” to complete on your days off from physical therapy, do it.
8. Wash Your Hands
It is nearly impossible to wash your hands too much after surgery. Washing your hands will help prevent infection, especially if you wash your hands before you touch your incision, clean your incision or change your bandage. Essentially, if you are going to have your hands anywhere near your incision, wash them first.
9. Care For Your Incision the Right Way
Incision care should be done gently and without harsh soaps or scrubs. Clean an incision the way you would a newborn’s bottom: frequently and as gently as you can. Incisions do not need to be scrubbed clean, in fact, some scabbing on an incision is completely normal. Scrubbing the incision clean often damages the brand new tissue that is filling in, and can be very irritating to what is already a very tender area of skin.
Some surgery advice is so basic, so simple that people just dismiss it. It is these very simple, but essential tasks that will speed your recovery and make it possible to get back to your normal life as quickly as possible.