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Exercising after surgery

Contrary to popular belief, you can exercise after surgery – in fact, you should. You just have to take it slowly, listen to any warning signs your body is giving you, and pay attention to what your surgeon has to say about recovery. Depending on which part of your body was operated on, advice may be slightly different, but it’s still important to keep your muscles working as your body heals. Exercise can also help with your general wellbeing and self-confidence after undergoing surgery and help you get into a routine that can keep weight off your body and avoid potential problems in the future.

Don’t forget – before you go into surgery, it’s usually okay to continue your ordinary exercise routine. Ask your doctor for advice about this, especially if exercise is a big part of your lifestyle. For some operations, such as those done on the knee, exercising before surgery is actually highly recommended.

After the surgery, bear in mind that it generally it takes about a week to recover from minor surgery and a few months to recover from major operations such as a hysterectomy. But during this time periods of light exercise will help your muscles to grow stronger and your wounds to heal faster (always get specific advice when it comes to a post-hysterectomy exercise plan). These exercises can be as simple as bending your arm at the elbow a few times a day. In addition to exercise, you should also be eating healthily and, if possible, ceasing to smoke. Ask your doctor about the best way of doing this – most healthcare facilities have advice or classes on hand for those who want to stop smoking.

Be aware of the possibility of blood clots whilst recovering from surgery. Those who smoke are in particular danger from this. If you notice a swelling in your leg, discomfort, or any discolouration, inform your doctor straight away.

Here are some popular and simple exercises you can partake in after certain types of surgery, as well as notes on what to avoid:

After a hip replacement your legs may feel weak. But you can exercise this away without even getting out of bed – try doing thigh squeezes for example. Lie on the bed and press the back of your knee down into the mattress. This tightens the muscles of your thigh. Later on, do more complex exercises, such as walking, to regain strength in your legs.

After breast surgery, you can do many easy arm and shoulder exercises or take walks to regain energy. You should, however, avoid lifting anything heavy, even shopping bags, until your doctor says it’s okay. Depending on what kind of surgery you’ve had advice may be slightly different.

You need to restore your mobility after knee replacement surgery. Whilst lying on a bed or sitting on a chair, you can bend your knee, hold it for a few seconds, then bend it back. Later, you should try walking with crutches or a walker, which the hospital will provide for you.

There are many dos and don’ts after having heart surgery. DO continue your household chores as usual without wearing yourself out, but DON’T lift or pull things that are heavier than five pounds. DO climb stairs when you need to (preferably using a handrail), but DON’T do any activity that requires your arms to be above shoulder level for any long length of time.

After a liver transplant, it’s important to get an exercise regime and stick to it. You shouldn’t try lifting more than 15 pounds for at least three months, but you should be walking as much as possible.

After a hysterectomy, you should not be doing heavy exercise but you should be taking short walks that gradually increase in length. Don’t lift anything that feels even remotely weighty for at least six weeks after the surgery.

If you have just had a kidney transplant, you will probably feel tired after the surgery and you may also feel pain or discomfort – this is normal. However, you should still start walking as soon as possible and you may also be asked to do deep breathing exercises.

After any operation, your doctor or nurse should show you some basic physical therapy as part of the care they provide. Try to get into a routine of doing them that fits around your lifestyle. However, don’t by any means continue the exercises if you start to feel pain. Instead, inform your doctor immediately.


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