Many people are afraid to undergo any type of surgery. To some, the thought of being cut open makes them. Others expect things to go awry during the procedure. Despite these fears, surgeries remain a vital means to diagnose and treat potentially fatal conditions. They are also crucial in restoring normal body functions following an accident or an illness. Not only that, but surgery can help you improve your quality of life. You just need to get past the long and sometimes grueling recovery process.
It’s sometimes frustrating that you won’t be able to get back to your normal life right away, but there are no shortcuts. It takes time for patients to get back on their feet. Sometimes it takes days, but there are cases when you are still in recovery even if you were discharged.
How do you shorten the time it takes to recover after surgery? Find out in this guide.
The Post-Surgery Recovery Process Explained
Regardless of the type of surgery you have gone through, you will experience what is known as postoperative discomfort. According to an article on the John Hopkins Medicine website, these consist of a wide range of conditions including acute pain and swelling at the site of the surgery, vomiting, and restlessness. These are normal since they are signs that your body is adjusting to the outcome of the procedure as well as the anesthetics that were introduced.
However, these discomforts can potentially slow down the recovery process, extend your hospitalization, and prolong your medication. Proper pain management is crucial in dealing with keeping your body relaxed so it heals faster. Another factor that delays your recovery is the type of surgery you have undergone.
Minor surgery such as the extraction of an impacted tooth may require up to four weeks for the gums to fully heal. Major procedures like a knee arthroplasty (or knee replacement) will take up to a year of recovery time. You may not even recover fully as a result of a botched procedure. Surgeons are accountable for anything that may cause harm to you or leave you in worse shape than before surgery.
An error during surgery will have a long-term if not permanent impact on your life. If this happens to you, you can demand to be compensated with the help of medical malpractice professionals from firms like The Tinker Law Firm PLLC based in Seattle.
Even if things went well during your surgery, it’s still important to know how you can speed up your recovery. Here are some of the things you need to do to recover from any procedure.
What to Do for a Faster Postoperative Recovery
- Follow your doctor’s advice
This sounds basic, but your recovery and your overall well-being hinge on how faithfully you follow your doctor’s instructions. They know better in helping you cope in the first few days following the procedure, so it matters a lot to constantly communicate with your healthcare provider.
Your recovery comes in steps and things can get more complicated if you don’t seek expert advice when it comes to activities like walking, eating, and bathing. Doing any of these directly after a major procedure can disrupt your recovery.
It also won’t help to let your doctor know your feelings. As you recover, they may ask about your condition. If you feel any discomfort or pain at the site of the incision or other areas of the body, talk about this with your doctor. That way, they can keep track of your recovery and identify and treat any complications before they get any worse.
- Eat the right food
Getting adequate nutrition can support the healing process and improve your well-being while you recuperate in bed. Depending on your physical condition and the scope of the surgery, your meals should contain a balanced amount of essential vitamins and minerals.
First, your body may need lots of protein to speed up healing at the site of the incision. Unless you have special dietary requirements, your daily meals may contain lean meat, poultry, and milk. Vitamin C also plays an important role in healing your wound.
Not only does it help increase your immune responses, but Vitamin C can also support soft tissue growth and reduce inflammation. The best sources for this nutrient are citrus fruits but kale juice, cauliflower, and cabbage are also top options.
Your diet should also consist of food rich in Vitamin K. This nutrient is responsible for blood clotting, so doctors often recommend taking Vitamin K to help control excessive bleeding. Supplements containing fish oil should supply your body with enough Vitamin K to help in treating wounds. You will need to consume an adequate amount of iron when it comes to maintaining your energy levels and strengthening your immune system as you recover.
You should also take note of the food that could hamper your recovery. Generally, you won’t be allowed to consume any high-sodium and high-sugar products. Sugar, in particular, can restrict blood flow and increase the risk of infection. You should also avoid caffeine which can disrupt bone healing. The same is true with alcoholic beverages.
- Follow your medication
Apart from consuming the right food, you should also follow the medication prescribed by your doctor, most of which are crucial to pain management. In most cases, you may be prescribed opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol that can help ease severe pain and discomfort following a major operation. However, these powerful painkillers may cause complications if you have any pre-existing conditions, so your doctor may prescribe safer alternatives.
You can also take mild pain relievers like ketamine to treat acute pain. This is often administered to patients who have undergone knee or hip replacement surgeries. In case of mild pain, you can use over-the-counter pain relief drugs. These may include acetaminophen such as Tylenol and Advil. For nausea and vomiting, promethazine and droperidol should help offset the effects of anesthesia.
Your doctor must have the final say when it comes to available medication, especially “natural” painkillers. Even if you don’t need a prescription to use certain medications, seek your doctor’s guidance or, better yet, settle with the drugs already prescribed to you.
- Keep your mental health in check
Going through surgery can be life-changing, so patients are often expected to go through postoperative depression. This is usually marked by feelings of hopelessness and fear for the future, but other symptoms may also occur such as a loss of appetite and irritability. In this state, patients are uncooperative or hostile towards their carers, complicating the recovery process.
A surgical operation in itself isn’t a direct cause of depression. Chronic pain, guilt, and stress over the financial cost of the surgery can lead to this condition. In some cases, patients may also develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder which usually occurs after an amputation or a mastectomy.
Even if you are not feeling any of the symptoms of postoperative depression, it’s still important to guard your mental health and ensure that you recover with a more positive outlook in life. There are several ways you can lift your mood as you wait for your body to heal. Talking to your loved ones and letting them know what you are feeling throughout this experience is a good way to cope. You can also converse with your doctor or with the hospital staff that’s overseeing your recovery.
Keeping your mind busy is also important, so read a book or write in a journal in case no one is around. In the later stage of your recovery, you can ask your doctor if you can go outside for some fresh air. This will give you a much-needed change in the environment that’s guaranteed to lift your mood and recover faster.
- Exercise when you can
Lying in bed for long periods can take a toll on your body. For this reason, you should consider working out if your wounds have fully healed and you feel less pain. Exercise is a great way to restore your flexibility and increase blood flow so your body will heal faster. In addition, physical activity can also improve your mood and help you sleep better. Not only that but it can also improve your immunity and reduce the risk of infection.
It’s only a matter of choosing exercises that fit your situation. You will need to go through it one step at a time since your tissues and muscles may have gone stiff. Simple stretches in bed should be enough to loosen up the joints and ease you back into more strenuous activities.
Once you feel you are moving more freely, ask your doctor if you can go walking or jogging. You should be good after your 20th day unless the incision site needs more time to heal. Once you’re cleared, spend at least 30 minutes brisk walking every morning. As you do so, try to get a feel of how your body responds and slow down in case you feel any discomfort.
There are several factors that affect how long your body will heal after surgery. Fortunately, you can cut the time it takes to recover simply by following your doctor’s advice and doing what you can to boost your healing.