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.
- Follow Your Discharge Instructions
Every patient receives discharge instructions from their surgeon. These papers include information about caring for your incision, how to control pain and how to take your medicines. They will also explain when to call your doctor and the signs of a medical emergency.
Review the papers with your surgical team. Once you’re settled in at home, re-read the 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.
- Get Plenty of Rest
If you’re expecting a long-term recovery, you may be tempted to catch up on work or run a few errands. Before you get busy, remember your doctor’s instructions. Don’t drive or exercise until your physician clears you for normal activities.
You should also stay in bed as much as possible for at least 24-48 hours after your procedure. Some surgeries may require even more bed rest. Sleep if you feel tired and 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.
- Attend Your Follow-Up Appointments
Many patients will have their first follow-up appointment a day or two after their surgery. While you may feel tired or sick, don’t skip the visit. If you can’t drive, ask a friend or family member to accompany you. Be honest about your symptoms and pain level. It’s also a great time to ask any questions that have come up since the day of your surgery.
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 doctor.
- Consider Home Health Care
Home health care aides work with patients who are recovering from an illness or injury, like surgery. The ultimate 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.
The definition of home health care is more liberal than you might think in terms of location. In this case, home refers to the patient’s primary place of residence. Of course, this could be a traditional standalone home, but an apartment, relative’s house, senior community and other institutions or group living situations can also count. That being said, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities aren’t considered homes, and care that takes place in these settings doesn’t fall under home health aide work.
- Avoid an 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 your incision to stay healthy. Your doctor’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.
One of the best ways to keep proper hygiene during recovery is to 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.
- Eat and Drink Healthfully
Once you’re allowed to drink and eat normally, increase your hydration. Most adults require a daily water intake amount of between nine and 13 cups per day. Protein, vitamin C and B12 are some of the vitamins and nutrients that can aid in 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 the vitamin. For more information about the right foods, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
- Take a Walk
While you may feel discomfort throughout your body, it’s still important to get moving. Don’t worry—you don’t need to run a marathon. Walking is all it takes to help avoid blood clots and decrease symptoms of gas and constipation. 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.
Blood clots could 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 the temporary support you need while walking.
- Ask for Support
No one wants to burden their loved ones—but know that your family is here to help you at all times. This is especially true during recovery from surgery. If your spouse or child offers to drive you to an appointment, cook a meal or run an errand, say yes. It may feel awkward for you, but the time you take for yourself will help you recover faster.
Should you need more help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Some people recovering from surgery want to talk about what they’re going through, while others desperately need help managing their responsibilities as they get better. Remember–you’re never alone. Clergy members, community centers and even your surgical team can help you get the resources you need.
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.