American doctors perform right around 50 million surgical procedures every year. These procedures include everything from nervous system surgeries and eye surgeries to cardiovascular system surgeries and digestive system surgeries.
Not every surgery that’s performed is major surgery. But there are quite a few surgeries that fall into that category.
If you’re scheduled to have major surgery soon, prepare for how you’re going to approach your recovery ahead of time. Here are five things you should and shouldn’t do after major surgery to get your life back to normal again.
Do: Stay in the Hospital for as Long as You Can
People are spending a lot less time in the hospital than they used to. In 1975, the average hospital stay was about 11 days. Today, it’s all the way down to 6 days.
Part of this is because of the medical advancements that have been made over the last 40-plus years. But part of it is also because many people are in a rush to check out of the hospital, even in the aftermath of major surgery.
It’s best to stay in the hospital for as long as you can following surgery. It’ll allow your doctor to monitor your recovery and make it easier for you to transition back to normal life.
Don’t: Attempt to Get Behind the Wheel
At some point, you will obviously need to leave the hospital and head home. No matter how many days you’ve been in the hospital, it’s a good idea to have someone else drive you back to your house instead of trying to drive yourself.
Your motor skills and your judgment can both be affected by any medications you might be on. Depending on what kind of major surgery you had, you might also have stitches that can impact your ability to drive.
Toss someone else the keys and ask them to get you home safely after your hospital stay.
Do: Make It Easy to Get Around Inside Your Home
Doing something as simple as walking from point A to point B might be a huge challenge when you’re recovering from surgery. Therefore, it’s important to make it as simple as possible to navigate around in your home after returning from the hospital.
Prior to your surgery, clear paths throughout your home that’ll make it easy for you to walk around. Put anything you might need to get to low to the ground so that you won’t have to reach for it.
By doing these things, you’ll limit the chances of you slipping and falling in your home following surgery, which could cause further health complications.
Don’t: Try to Lift Anything That’s Too Heavy
Most doctors advise their patients not to lift anything heavy for a few weeks following major surgery. And by “anything heavy,” they often mean anything that weighs more than 10 or 15 pounds.
Unfortunately, some people fail to heed this warning. They feel fine picking up a 10 or 15-pound box and don’t think there’s anything wrong with them doing it.
But lifting things can slow down your healing process. It’s best to steer clear of doing any lifting for at least several weeks following your surgery.
Do: Take Pain Medications as Prescribed
Recovering from major surgery often involves a lot of pain. It’s why many doctors will prescribe pain medications to their patients to help make recovery a little easier.
Make sure you only take these pain medications as prescribed. It has become very easy for people to develop addictions to pain medications. If this happens to you, it’ll be almost impossible to get back to normal until you’re able to kick your addiction.
Talk to your doctor about which pain medications will provide relief without putting you at risk for developing an addiction. See if there are any products that you can purchase to help with the pain, too.
A mastectomy camisole, for example, is a great product for those dealing with the pain that accompanies a mastectomy. Learn more about how it could help you if you’re having this specific procedure done.
Don’t: Drink Alcohol While Taking a Prescription
If your doctor prescribes pain medication to you after major surgery, you should not drink alcohol while you’re taking it. You could subject yourself to all kinds of adverse effects when you mix pain prescriptions and alcohol.
Generally speaking, you should try to avoid alcohol in the weeks and even months after surgery. Speak with your doctor about when it would be OK to go back to enjoying a beer or a glass of wine at the end of a long day.
Do: Look Out for Signs of Infection
Do you have pus oozing out of a surgical wound? Does the wound keep on bleeding even though you’ve had it bandaged for days? Is the wound causing more pain than you think it should?
These could all be signs of an infection. You need to get yourself back to your doctor right away to stop an infection from wreaking havoc on the rest of your body.
Don’t: Put Off Calling Your Doctor If You Sense a Problem
Most doctors will ask patients to come back for follow-up appointments after major surgery. Circle these follow-up visits on your calendar and make sure you’re in attendance.
Additionally, call your doctor if you, at any point, sense that something doesn’t feel right. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to recovering from surgery.
Do: Talk to Your Doctor About Your Diet
There may be certain dietary restrictions that you’ll need to keep in mind when you’re recovering from major surgery. You won’t be able to eat all of the things that you normally eat right away in most cases.
Talk to your doctor about what’s allowed and what’s not as you embark on the road to recovery. You might even want to use your recovery as an opportunity to put healthier eating habits into place.
Don’t: Allow Yourself to Suffer From Constipation
Constipation is something that many people are forced to deal with following surgery.
Those who have a gastrointestinal surgical procedure, in particular, may find that constipation is unavoidable. But it’s not uncommon at all for those who have had any surgery to suffer from constipation.
See if your doctor would recommend you using stool softeners or laxatives. Try to up your fiber intake and drink more water as well.
Avoid Trying to Get Things Back to Normal Too Quickly After Major Surgery
Most people who have major surgery want to get their lives back to normal as quickly as they can once returning home. It’s natural to feel this way, but you shouldn’t rush the process.
Ease your way back into everyday life by using the do’s and don’ts found here. They’ll help guide you along the way as you make your recovery.
Take a look at our blog to find out some of the other ways to help your body heal after a surgical procedure.