Recovering After Surgery
Undergoing surgery is never easy, and there are no procedures that allow patients to return back to normal life immediately. The length and difficulty of your recovery will be highly dependent on the type of surgery you’re having and your condition and health going into the surgery. If you’re looking for advice on how you can help ensure a speedy and full recover, there are some important steps you can take and things you should keep in mind.
Knee Replacement Surgery Recovery
- You’ll be given physical therapy exercises to strengthen your knee, improve range of motion and reduce scar tissue. You may be instructed to perform these exercises 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a day.
- Your doctors may instruct you on how to use mobility aids, such as a cane or walker, if you need one during your recovery.
- Patients can usually resume normal activities within six weeks of their surgery.
- Patients can often begin driving within three weeks of their surgery, but it may take longer.
- Full recovery can take up to six months.
- Keep in mind your artificial knee will feel a little different from your natural knee. Some patients report knee stiffness, crackling sensations and sounds, numbness and swelling. These symptoms do not necessarily mean the surgery was unsuccessful.
Your specific recovery instructions after knee surgery will vary based on your specific surgery and other factors, so speak with your physician for more details.
Hip Replacement Surgery Recovery
- You will need to undergo physical therapy after hip replacement and will likely have physical therapy appointments and be given exercises to do at home.
- If you experience swelling after your physical therapy, you can apply a cold or warm compress for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Your physical therapists and doctors will likely instruct you to walk a certain distance each day, with slightly increasing distances daily.
- You may be prescribed compression stockings and blood thinners to reduce the chance for blood clots. This may last for up to a week.
- The average hip replacement patient will need pain medications for a month and a half to three months.
- A mobility aid such as walker or cane will likely be suggested during your recovery.
- Follow your doctors’ instructions regarding when it is safe for you to return to normal activity levels or resume driving.
Every patient is different, so your specific recovery won’t strictly follow any specific guide. Make sure to follow all your doctor’s recommendations and do your best to keep up with all physical therapies so you regain strength and stability as quickly as possible.
Shoulder Surgery Recovery
- You will likely need to wear a sling for approximately six weeks and possibly longer.
- Driving shouldn’t be attempted for at least a month after surgery, and potentially longer.
- Physical therapy will focus on exercising the shoulder joint, and your therapist will likely perform passive movements of the joint at first. This involves your physical therapist moving your arm rather than you moving it yourself.
- You will likely be given instruction on moving the arm without contracting specific muscles.
- Following the first six weeks, you may be given approval to use your arm to perform limited movements, but there will be many restrictions.
- You may be given arm strengthening exercises to perform three to six months after your surgery. Keep in mind that the long months of inactivity will have weakened your arm considerably.
Shoulder recovery cannot be rushed. If you want to regain as much of your former strength and range of motion as possible it’s important to follow your doctors’ and physical therapists’ instructions as closely as possible. It will definitely be frustrating, but in the long run you will be happy you did.
Be Prepared Before Surgery
Your health going into surgery is going to be one of the biggest factors impacting the speed and fullness of your post-surgery recovery.
If you’re a smoker try to quit months before your procedure, if possible, as smoking can significantly interfere with recovery, especially for orthopedic surgery. Studies have been performed specifically on the topic of smoking’s effect on bone healing, and more than three quarters of those studies found smoking negatively affected the speed of bone healing.
Your weight, nutritional, wellness and overall health condition are also going to have an influence on the speed and extent to which you recover after surgery. If you are obese or overweight, try to lose weight prior to your procedure. It’s important not to starve yourself just to lose weight in time. You don’t want to go into surgery or begin your recovery malnourished.
Exercising can sometimes be difficult for people who are undergoing orthopedic surgery due to joint issues, ligament damage or other conditions that may prevent them from being active. Working with a physical therapist or a trainer prior to surgery may help speed up your recovery after surgery.
Listen to Your Doctors and Make Your Follow-up Appointment
Going into surgery healthy is important but listening and following your doctor’s instructions is equally important, if not more so. Orthopedic surgeons and specialists do this for a living, and they’ve helped hundreds or even thousands of patients’ recover after surgery. Their advice is invaluable and any guidelines they provide should be followed closely.
You’ll also have follow-up appointments scheduled after a surgery, and it’s vital not to reschedule these if you can avoid it. Risks for things like infection are highest in the days and weeks after your procedure, and you want to make sure your doctor has a chance assess how your incisions are healing and spot any issues before they become bigger problems.
Stay Off Your Feet and Rest, But Not Too Long
Your physicians should give you advice on exactly how much bedrest you should have after surgery, and it’s important to follow these instructions. Trying to do too much too soon can have serious negative consequences after surgery, so if your doctor says don’t lift anything over 10 pounds, make sure not to lift anything over 10 pounds.
Your doctor will also likely tell you to resume activity after a given amount of time. After a hip surgery they may recommend something like walking a little bit every day once you can. Don’t ignore these instructions! Regaining your strength is recovering, and that will require exercise and physical therapy, so don’t waste any time getting to it once you are able to safely do so.
Stick to Medications as Prescribed
You may be prescribed antibiotics, painkillers or other medications after surgery. Sticking to the recommendations and dosages prescribed is the best way to ensure your recovery goes smoothly. Don’t assume that just because you’re feeling fine after surgery means you’re out of the woods in terms of infections or that you can dispense with the rest of your physician’s instructions.
This is true for physical therapy and rehabilitation as well. Recovery plans are carefully crafted to increase your strength as quickly and safely as possible. They’re designed to prevent you from injuring yourself due to overexertion while pushing you just hard enough to maintain a steady, healthy rate of recovery. Don’t slack when it comes to recommended physical therapies.
Don’t Go Back to Work, Start Driving or Resume Your Day-to-Day Activities Before You’re Ready
No one expects you to be back to work the day after your surgery, and the stress and exertion is only going to delay your recovery. Take the necessary amount of time off, don’t resume all your household chores right away and don’t get back on the road before you’re ready, especially if you have been prescribed medications that could make driving dangerous for you and other people on the road.
Stick to Your Breathing Exercises If They Were Prescribed to You
If you were put under during your surgery, your surgeon or doctors may instruct you on breathing exercises to perform during your recovery. Anesthesia can have a detrimental effect on your body’s pulmonary function, so it’s important that you faithfully perform these breathing exercises and give your lungs a chance to strengthen and recover. These exercises will help expand your lungs and clear out mucus that may have gathered while you were under the effects of anesthesia.
Properly Care for Your Incisions
This advice should fall under the umbrella of following your doctor’s instructions, but it’s worth emphasizing the importance of proper incision care. You should look out for wound drainage, monitor the color of the skin around the incision site and make sure the staples or sutures are intact at least a few times a day. You should also be careful when cleaning your incisions. Scrubbing too hard, removing scabs or otherwise treating your incision too roughly isn’t good for your recovery.
Careful With the Things You’d Normally Take for Granted
You may normally sneeze or cough with great force and exuberance, but that’s not great when you have healing incisions. There’s only so much you can do about your bodily functions, but you may want to compensate by gently bracing your incision while you cough or sneeze.
Get Help With Your Recovery
If you’ve recently undergone surgery and are concerned about your rate of recovery or you think you’re exhibiting any worrying signs, like you can’t keep food or water down, your wound is bleeding or it looks infected, contact your surgeon or physician. If you can’t get ahold of them, go to the emergency room.
The orthopedists and staff at Desert Orthopedic Specialists are here to help any of our patients who have recently undergone surgery from Dr. Fox. We are committed to your recovery and want to answer any questions you may have about ensuring your recovery is as fast and full as possible.
We are dedicated to helping patients realize the potential the human body has to heal itself if given the proper nurturing, nutrition and modern orthopedic care.