5 Reasons for a Slow Recovery from Surgery



“How long does it take to recover and how do I get back as soon as possible?” These two questions are almost always the first ones asked when patients find out they need surgery. Recovery time depends on several things including the type of surgery and biological factors like age. However, there are a host of things you can avoid doing to help ensure a speedy recovery.

Doing Too Much Too Soon

We know how hard it can be when it feels like your life is completely altered the first couple of weeks after surgery. You may have to lean on your support system more than you have before, and this can put you in vulnerable situations. We encourage patients to not do too much too soon. You will need to learn how to ask for help, and not be afraid to let someone do the small things that were once easy.

Doing too much too soon after surgery puts you at risk for further injury, inflammation, and pain (all things we want to avoid!). Make sure to get your rest the days after surgery and ask your doctor or physical therapist what you are cleared to do. While not doing too much is recommended, you do want to find a balance of rest and movement.

Staying In Bed

It may be tempting to veg out for a while after the surgery. The anesthesia and medications taken after surgery can make you have a drowsy couple of days! While resting is completely ok after surgery, you will want to make sure you are getting up out of bed regularly. Small, frequent movement is good for the joints and will prevent stiffness. Your physical therapist should work with you after surgery by showing you certain stretches that will help your range of motion. It is normal for your range of motion to be little, so be careful and go very slow when trying to get out of bed.

Not Doing Physical Therapy

You may think you can skip physical therapy, but the truth is that you cannot if you want to have a speedy recovery. These physical therapy exercises and stretches will make all the difference in your range of motion and pain after surgery. Once you go to your first session after surgery, you will see what a difference it can make in your ability to get around. At Elite, our physical therapists use the top technology in physical therapy to help reduce inflammation and increase range of motion. Devices like the Hivamat or GameReady ice machine are available for patients to use.

Not Eating or Drinking Enough

Another side effect of post-op medications may be a loss of appetite. If you are struggling with a loss of appetite, talk to your doctor about other options. It is important that you eat an anti-inflammatory diet that is lower in sugar and bad fats. Maintaining your usually caloric intake while including leafy greens, protein, and healthy fats have shown to be the best diet post-op.

Drinking enough water is also important. Your joints and body lose fluid such as blood during surgery, making it important to rehydrate so that your body can properly recover.

Not Taking Your Medications

If you have any questions or concerns about the medications taken after surgery, it is imperative to discuss those concerns with your doctor. These medications help cope with the pain and swelling that comes with surgery. Though you may think you can handle it, it is better to get ahead of the pain rather than wait until it is too late. Again, talk to your doctor about your concerns surrounding medications after surgery and see if there are any possible alternatives if necessary.

Cassie Whittaker Cassie is the Communications Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/cassie-whittaker-802a3b173

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