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Planning a surgery? Don’t forget to plan your recovery.

You did it! You made it through surgery and now you’ll need to stay off your feet for a few days and recuperate. But let’s remember that surgery can take a lot out of you, and how well you care for yourself over the next several weeks will make a huge difference in your comfort, recovery time, and long-term health.

The first, and most important, the task is to review and follow your physician’s instructions to the letter. In addition to instructions on medication and rehabilitation, they’ll also provide a full list of do’s and do-not’s, along with potential warning signs to look out for. Generally, these instructions will be simple and straightforward, but sticking to them may prove challenging if you haven’t planned ahead a bit. Here are a few quick tips you can use to make sure you experience a successful recovery after orthopedic surgery.

1. Prepare your home.

After any surgery, you can expect to find yourself weaker than usual. That flight of stairs you easily glide up and down several times a day may soon become a daunting post-surgical challenge, while an empty fridge can feel like a giant dead end, or leave you depending on food delivery services far more than you’d anticipated. Consider setting up a temporary first floor bedroom for a while. Stock up on easy meals, have lots of clean, loose-fitting clothes at the ready, and pre-fill any prescriptions as much as possible.

2. Establish a support network.

You’ll be slowing down for a while, but life won’t. Dogs still need walking, plants need water, and you’re sure to discover one or two vital items you forgot to pick up from the store. Make sure you have some friends and family available to help you with daily tasks, as well as any unexpected needs that may arise, like trips to the store. Recovering from orthopedic surgery is no time to prove your independence, so ask your friends and family for help early and often.

3. Listen to your body.

Post-surgery can be a tricky time because what your body tells you isn’t exactly the full story. For example, for the first few days, it’s very common to feel more nauseous than hungry, but your healing body needs food. Also, you’re sure to feel some pain and discomfort as your incisions heal, but that too is par for the course, and usually not cause for alarm. The trick is to stick with your doctor’s instructions regarding food, rest and exercise, even if you don’t feel quite up to the task. Note any discomforts along the way and watch for unexpected developments or warning signs. If anything feels like cause for concern, contact your physician right away.

4. Practice patience.

Easily said, yet so hard to do. But giving yourself and your body time to make a gradual, effective recovery is one of the most important steps you can take. So why not embrace the slow lane for a while? Catch up on your reading. Rediscover the lost art of leisurely conversation with old friends. Anything to help your brain stay happily engaged while your body continues its regimen of rest and recovery. Healing takes time, and no amount of rest, medicine, or can-do attitude will change that. Pay attention to your mental health, too. If you are experiencing a surplus of emotions such as frustration, depression or anxiety, know that this, too, is part of the healing process. Just as you should report your physical status and changes to your doctor after your surgery, be sure to communicate how you’re feeling on an emotional level, too.

No two bodies are identical, and no two surgeries are ever quite the same. The bulk of your own recovery may take place over a couple of days, or it may take a good deal longer. But one thing is always true—breaking from your usual routines to let your body heal is always time well spent. Slowing down, adopting new habits, and letting friends carry some weight for you can be challenging, but it’s also the best way to win your doctor’s go-ahead to get back on your feet and back to your life.

For discharge information regarding your specific surgery, visit OHOW’s Discharge Instructions page, or call us at 414-961-6880.

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