A 4-Step Guide to Post-Op Recovery

Person being bathed in sunlight

For many, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As operating rooms across the globe continue to stagger openings, elective surgeries are going to resume as we slowly defrost from our current situation.

Therein lies a problem. 

In-person accessibility to rehab professionals and facilities may still remain limited. Not only because extra steps have to be taken to adhere to social distancing guidelines. But it’s also because there may be trepidation on the behalf of the individual who is seeking post-operative help. 

Totally understandable. 

Not to mention, as the weather here in the states warms, we want to optimize surgical outcomes so that we can reap the physical and mental benefits of spending time outdoors.

Not everyone is living with a physical therapist in quarantine. 

So who’s it up to now to achieve the best possible outcome? It’s up to us. #IUTU

That’s right. You.

By now, the loyal followers here at The Ready State, know that the TRS ecosystem is about empowering you to take control of your own health. And this time it’s no different. With continued efforts to flatten the curve, it’s going to be interesting to see how the traditional medical system faces the challenge of who can truly be the most effective at getting their people better in the least amount of time. The question will be: do you and should you have to rely on seeing a professional 2-3 times a week for x amount of weeks after surgery to have a successful outcome? I’m not so sure …

Granted there are and will be unique precautions and recovery protocols with each specific procedure, so please check with your surgeon before if you’re unsure, but here is a universal 4 step guide on what you can do to recover from surgery the way you are meant to, with or without a rehab professional.

#1: STAY AHEAD OF THE IMPENDING … SWELLING

Kids in bright clothes stacked like blocks in between two buildings to illustrate staying ahead of swelling in Post-Op Recovery.

When an injury or in this case, trauma occurs, this creates for a lack of a better term – a cluster. 

Although swelling is part of the normal healing response, staying ahead of it is going to set the tone for everything else that follows: pain, ability to function normally and stave off impending muscle loss. The sooner we can disrupt that loop, the sooner we trend upward and make progress. 

This process normally occurs even without any intervention via the lymphatic system; our universal waste removal system. This is a passive system that is supported by muscle contractions. Those muscle contractions which are produced when flexing for a selfie or walking, act as mini pumps throughout the body and facilitate lymphatic drainage. 

So all you have to do is take more selfies – right?

Sometimes, it is easier said than done, although the inner narcissist in all of us may beg to differ. Pain is real. We all know what it can do, so stay ahead of the swelling with these high or low tech methods: 

HIGH TECH

LOW TECH

Since all of us are going to spend a lot of time walking or moving soon after surgery don’t neglect the joints below the surgical site. What goes down must come back up. Gravity dependent positions can cause pooling into the hands, feet, and ankles, so we want to be mindful of this as well.

#2: CONNECT THE BRAIN TO THE MUSCLES

Picture of a man with his brain and nerves lit up with bright lights leading to his fingertip to illustrate the importance of connecting the brain to the muscles in Post-Op Recovery.

Now that you’ve taken the steps to stay ahead of swelling, the next step is to reconnect the brain to produce non-threatening muscle contractions (yes, they do exist, even early on). This can be achieved by performing isometric exercises; which are muscle contractions that don’t result in range of motion changes of the joint(s). The goal here is to regain trust and get comfortable generating force. Isometric exercises also have analgesic effects to help de-sensitize pain and are the best place to start.

#3: KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON

I love you 10,000 meme for Post-Op Recovery

I think we’ve all learned that sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves has not been helpful nor productive for mind and body. Maintaining a level of fitness makes us feel badass, allows us to still feel attractive to our significant other (speaking for a friend), and supports the rebuilding of muscle. At The Ready State, we heart walking.

If there are greater post-op limitations that require prolonged immobilization, then walking may not be a reasonable option. There’s supporting research that strength training of the opposite limb can result in strength gains of the immobilized limb.  

To kick it up a notch, the Assault Bike is a versatile torture device because it still affords for heavy-duty conditioning while simultaneously protecting a surgical site until you receive clearance.

#4: BFR FOR THE WIN

Earlier we discussed staving off muscle loss. Another thing that’s easier said than done. With muscle loss starting as early as several days after an injury or surgery, the conundrum we face in building or holding onto muscle is that it may be too early to apply heavier loads that yield muscular adaptations. The benefits of blood flow restriction (BFR) training play a significant role early in the rehab process. Simply put, BFR promotes muscle building responses with lower resistance levels. 

Decreased workload and increased #gainz you say? Sign me up. 

There’s no doubt that we are indeed living in an unprecedented period of time that not many have seen. In essence, we’ve all become Renaissance men and women – learning new things and activities at home to become more resourceful, resilient, and well-rounded. Continue to take this time to learn more about yourself until we can once again high five and embrace one another without ZOOM or behind an emoji.

Stay well.

Leave a Reply