After Surgery Care: 5 Things You Should Know

Patient Recovering from surgery

“We’re going to have to operate” are words that nobody wants to hear. But sometimes operations are inevitable. What follows after the surgery? You will most likely be stuck in bed for days, feel tired, and experience some pain. However, there are things you can do to help. Here are a few things you can do to make the recovery process a little more tolerable.

1 – Get on top of your pain

Post-operative pain will be part of your life for the first few days or weeks following an operation. This does not mean that you will be in excruciating pain every single day. Still, it is reasonable to expect at least a little bit of discomfort. There is good news, though. If you get on top of your pain management early on, you can keep the pain and discomfort to a minimum.

The key is not waiting until after the procedure to speak to your doctor about post-op pain relief. Speak to your surgeon before the operation or during your pre-surgery meeting. This is also a good time to talk about pain medications. Many patients have some hesitation about taking pain medications for fear of side effects.  Your doctor can usually prescribe different types of non-addictive pain drugs if this is a big concern.

Good pain control after surgery can

  • get you out of bed faster,
  • speed up the recovery process,
  • and reduce your risk of developing complications like chest infections or blood clots [1].

Don’t underestimate the importance of pain management. Consult with you surgeon about ALL the ways you can manage your pain.

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2- Drink and Eat Properly

You will not feel like eating after surgery. This applies to just about everyone. Feeling nauseous, constipated, and tired or losing your appetite are normal after surgery. Food just won’t feel like a top priority.

In reality, post-surgery is when the body needs as much energy and nutrition as possible. Most patients find themselves in a bit of a dilemma–they can’t stand the thought of food but the body really needs it. So what to do? Here are a few tips that might help:

  • Eat small snacks every 1-2 hours instead of full meals
  • Don’t be afraid to use anti-nausea medications for the first few days after the procedure. Take them regularly instead of at random intervals.
  • Stay away from spicy, strong-smelling, and greasy foods. Bland food is usually the way to go and it may stop your stomach from revolting.
  • Stay well-hydrated–water, ginger ale, tea. and juices are all good choices.
  • Fiber and probiotics keep your digestive tract moving along. If you can tolerate yogurt with granola, that’s one easy way to get a serving of both fiber and probiotics.
  • Consider taking vitamins and post surgery supplements to support your nutritional needs.

Protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals are all nutrients that the body needs to promote healing and minimize complications.  It’s hard to heal if your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs to get better. It is important to not neglect your diet.

As mentioned above, it may be hard to eat a well-balanced diet right after surgery. However, your body has been depleted from the stress of surgery. Your body actually needs more nutritional support after surgery so a depletion could delay your recovery. Talk to your doctor about nutritional options, such as surgery recovery supplements. Giving your body the nutrients it needs can enhance your recovery.

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3- Get moving

Something as simple as walking around the house can keep you from a return trip to the hospital. Blood clots (also called deep vein thrombosis or DVT’s) are clots that form in the legs and travel up to the lungs. DVT’s are potentially life-threatening and are more common in surgical patients.

Blood clots can form for many reasons but one of them is staying in fixed positions for long periods of time (ie. lying in bed for days). Much in the same way, doctors tell patients to get up and move during long-haul flights if traveling. You should get up and move around the house every few hours.

The body doesn’t like immobility. Simply going to the kitchen for a snack or walking downstairs a few times a day can help reduce your chance of a blood clot. Immediately after the surgery, this might be impossible. As soon as you can, get out of bed and move around the house every so often—even if it’s just around the room you’re in.

4- Stay hydrated

Food may not be at the top of your list but fluids certainly should be. Staying well hydrated will

  • help with constipation,
  • stop dehydration,
  • help get impurities and medications out of the body, and
  • aid in maintaining a steady blood pressure.

For the first few days, stick to water. Many people find it useful to carry a water bottle with them at all times so they can drink throughout the day.

5 – Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

This seems like a no-brainer. However, many patients follow some instructions and disregard the others that they don’t feel apply to them. Don’t fall into that trap. Simple instructions, such as no baths after a procedure, may seem silly but there is a good reason for them.

If your doctor mentions something that seems unreasonable or just incomprehensible, then ask. It’s good to understand the reasoning behind some instructions. If they say no swimming, no lifting, or no driving, refrain from doing so.

After surgery, the general rule is to rest as much as possible the first few days. After that, try to get back into your regular routine as soon as you can. The road back to your normal self may take a little while but start slowly (to avoid tiring yourself), and keep some of the above tips in mind.

1) Ramsay, M. A. E. (2000). Acute postoperative pain management. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center), 13(3), 244–247.

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