The Road to Recovery: What Should You Expect After Surgery?

Planning for surgery can be physically and mentally difficult. While we leave surgery to the trained professionals, the rehabilitation phase that you will experience in the first days following surgery is critical to achieving a successful recovery. Being informed on what to expect will help ease your road to recovery.

After surgery, you can expect some pain and discomfort. You may experience some stiffness and swelling at the incision site. Do not worry, this is normal! Your care team will monitor you immediately after your procedure to assess your pain and function before you are discharged home. It is common to wear a sling or brace when you leave the hospital. Your doctor will advise you how long to use the extra support.

Some surgeries involve a shorter recovery time for pain, discomfort, and swelling to subside while others may take several weeks to experience full relief. Many types of pain medication are available to make you feel more comfortable. Applying an ice compress and resting the area will also allow your body to heal faster. It’s important to allow yourself time to properly heal to prevent re-injuries. Speak with your doctor prior to surgery to develop a plan for physical therapy and pain management.

Most incisions will require a dressing or bandage. Keep the dressing clean and dry until it is time to be removed. Your doctor will give you exact instructions on when to change or remove the dressing. If your incision is open to the air, it is important to keep the area clean and dry to prevent infection. It is very important to clean your hands before touching the dressing or the area around the wound. Using a soft cloth with a normal saline solution or mild soapy water is best for cleaning the wound. Do not use any lotion, cream, skin cleansers, alcohol, peroxide or soap with antibacterial chemicals.

Your doctor will prescribe physical therapy after your surgery. The treatment plan will vary by patient and by surgery type, however, therapy will begin shortly after surgery. Working with a physical therapist aids in the return of range of motion and strength. Following your treatment plan will restore you back to your normal activities sooner.

Follow-up care is very important to your recovery and your safety. Schedule all follow-up appointments and contact your doctor or nurse call line if you are experiencing any problems.


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Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

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