When a person sustains any injury or accident, in some situations, surgery may be recommended by the physician and it is a no-joke decision as it will hamper and prevent a person from doing certain activities. Many times, people are used to going in and out of the hospital to have their check-up or perhaps, to undergo certain medical procedures or operations yet very few are equipped with the knowledge of the steps and things to do in preparation, nor are they afforded the time or resources. It is a medical treatment that requires a great deal of thought and consideration since it involves a lot of stirring emotions, discomfort, risks and the unknown impact of a person’s daily routine. It is not just the operation itself that can be worrisome and with a level of uncertainty, but for a person who underwent a surgery they must also take into consideration the necessary steps to their recovery.
In this informational guide I will share with you some steps you can take to prepare for an upcoming procedure, speed up your recovery(as is medically appropriate), avoid painkiller dependence and surgical complications. My goal is to get you thinking of how you can take steps to ensure you do not undergo unnecessary surgery or that you will be able to achieve post surgery success with the least amount of pain, frustration or disruption to your life.
Take the Challenge and Take Action!
With this new knowledge my hope is that you feel encouraged to ask questions, get the right answers, and feel EMPOWERED to take the next step. Knowing that YOU did everything you could to prepare for success, take back control and leave any FEAR or ANXIETY behind.
1. How You Can Avoid Surgery In The Future:
Acute Pain, Injuries & Limitations:
Often less complex injuries with minimal structural damage, instability, pain and limitation may not require surgery. There is usually a WHY behind pain and injuries. It is critical to identify, address and prevent injuries from recurring. Under the guidance and recommendation of a physician most injuries and pain can improve with Physical Therapy quicker and decrease the risk of injury progression, sustaining another injury or recurrent injuries throughout your lifetime.
You should be instructed and provided with self-treatment options including; stretching and strengthening corrective exercise, self-massage, and ways to promote recovery and healing.
It is unfortunate when individuals opt for the quick fix of painkillers, injections or surgery and are still hindered without any resolution of their pain or limitations. Some of these interventions can just mask the underlying cause only to increase their predisposition to develop repetitive injuries, pain and ultimately arthritis.
Chronic Pain, Injuries & Limitations:
This is the wearing away of cartilage on joint surfaces leaving the bone exposed resulting in; pain, instability, clicking, catching and cracking. High impact activities can accelerate and exacerbate these symptoms and their progression.
Typically through modification of activities, diet, and exercise arthritis can be more conservatively managed. A Movement Specialist can assess your unique presentation and identify which interventions will be best for you. It takes dedication but this work is more desirable than completely avoiding the activities you love, causing other pain and compensations or having to undergo a joint replacement.
Instability & Weakness:
Such limitations can be a result of a person’s unique anatomy, body physiology and structure, involving the overstretching of supportive ligaments, muscles and joint capsule.
These individuals can be prone to popping, clicking, catching, buckling or repeated joint dislocations(especially in knees and shoulders). Unfortunately, IF the underlying deficits are not addressed and corrected these conditions ultimately NEED surgery. When they get to this point more structures are often damaged and it is important to address the problems to avoid further structural damage and pain.
A skilled Movement Specialist will assess and identify the best program that will help stabilize unstable joints or inefficient and weak movement patterns. Additionally, modifying things as simple as sleep positions, supportive devices, shoes and activity performance may keep you from going under the knife.
Loss of Movement & Range of Motion:
Mobility limitations are commonly dismissed as not being “that severe” or that a person is “just tight.” When you do not have the mobility or flexibility needed, your body ends up fighting against itself to move, maintain stability and correct alignment. Unfortunately, continuing to perform activities with inflexibility, immobility or loss of range of motion can predispose someone to develop; muscle and ligament tears, frozen shoulder, fractures and eventually arthritis.
2. How To Prepare For Surgery:
Establishing Your Health Care Team & Surgery Game Plan:
Do your research and rely on credible resources this DOES NOT include Dr. Google or YouTube!
Questions to Consider and Ask:
Have you been thoroughly evaluated by an Orthopedic Specialists and the appropriate tests and conservative measures exhausted?
Unfortunately, I have seen poor outcomes from people relying on general practitioners, clinics, Med centers or not pursuing second or third opinions.
I have had the privilege to observe a wide spectrum of surgical procedures and treated patients of some of the best orthopedists and sports medicine physicians. It would be my pleasure to provide you with recommendations of who I would let operate on me and my family.
What outcomes and service do the practitioners produce and stand behind?
You want to have a medical health team that will serve you above and beyond and for the entirety of your recovery.
A team that communicates with each other, is invested in your success and holds you equally accountable should be your foundation for surgery and rehabilitation.
Why is Pre-hab beneficial BEFORE surgery? What should you be focusing on during PRE-hab?
This will be affected by the injury, limitations, proctocols and your “life schedule.” Pre-hab is ideal to help you get educated and for better understanding your injury, the upcoming surgery, your current and future limitations and is essential for building a relationship of trust, respect and accountability.
You need to be CERTAIN you can commit to the limitations and work that surgery and rehabilitation requires.
It can help with scheduling to ensure you have your appointments scheduled before and after the procedure at the times that are BEST for you to be engaged and participate to the best of your ability.
Additionally, it allows your therapist a chance to address your needs by working on the muscle, joint, fascia and nerve restrictions or deficits present. It gives your physical therapist a chance to get acquainted with your pain patterns, limitations and goals. Knowing this before surgery helps in how you are treated after surgery. It paints a more precise picture of how your individual body responds and recovers to physical therapy and exercise. In the ideal case the opportunity to observe the surgical procedure in order to better understand; the level of injury, inflammation, how the procedure went is beneficial, and importantly it would allow your practitioner the ability to work closely with your surgeon and discuss your; tests, scans, protocol, limitations, outcome expectations, timeline and foster communication and accountability that will continue throughout your recovery(it is an ideal but often there are various barriers to permit observation, which should be respected).
Acute trauma and injuries that require surgery can be the result of trauma, accident or poor body mechanics. Either way pre-hab can help address the pain, inflammation and educate you on the necessary course of care. It is especially important to resolve the acute inflammation if it is possible before going under the knife, which only adds even more trauma to an already injured body. After sustaining an injury compensatory patterns develop and can lead to more pain, limitation and discomfort. If left uncorrected these inefficiencies often become amplified after surgery, immobilization and decreased activity.
Many people that participate in a pre-hab program BEFORE surgery may:
- DECREASE the pain and limitation before and after surgery
- Be ABLE to remain active and fit before and after surgery *(protocol & injury dependent)
- DECREASE use of painkillers before and after surgery
- More QUICKLY return to work, exercise and sports
- DECREASE the number of physical therapy visits after surgery
- DECREASE the significance of muscle loss and atrophy
- DECREASE fear, anxiety and uncertainty of outcomes
- UNDERSTAND their procedure, limitations, protocol, and a general timeline for recovery
Think of “pre-hab” like putting physical deposits in your body bank, so you have more to utilize on after surgery when the reserves are already low
Chronic Injuries & Limitations
This is most likely an elective surgery because the pain and limitation now warrants it. Due to an extended period of functioning with pain and movement limitations you have likely developed significant compensatory patterns. It is CRITICAL to identify and address these before surgery.
Improving strength, flexibility, mobility, movement patterns and coordination NOW creates less of an uphill climb after surgery. Additionally, it may help decrease possibly experiencing; headaches, numbness and tingling, muscle cramps, spasms and risk of depression.
Protocols & Immobilization
These WILL vary upon procedure, surgeon and each individual. This is NOT the time to compare yourself against others or rely on the internet. Protocols, immobilization and limitations serve a purpose and are ultimately for your SUCCESS.
They are to be followed if you want to make your surgical investment worth it. It is beneficial to communicate with your surgeon and physical therapist to educate and prepare yourself on what you can expect to follow postoperatively. (I hope they are communicating with each other).
Before surgery it can be beneficial to acquire the assistive equipment you may need and make some lifestyle changes(under professional guidance and physician approval):
- Ice machine, packs
- Practice using crutches or sling at home, with daily hygiene, work, in the car
- Purchase multiple slings for shower and hygiene
- Sleeping: pillow supports, recliners and positioning devices are critical
- Sit to stand desks or supportive devices(dictation software/headsets)
- Car: stick vs. manual, ease of operation and navigation
- Diet & nutrition: detox from processed foods, adopt a low inflammation diet, no-smoking, limit alcohol, sugar and heavy processed foods
Returning To Activities, Work, Exercise & Sports
Prepare yourself before returning to previous activities, daily demands and expectations. Trust me you do not want to have to troubleshoot scenarios or not have the assistance you need when you are in pain, on medications and physically compromised.
People overestimate the ability to be independent after surgery. It is recommended that you organize for someone be available for the first 2 days after, especially in the evenings. For procedures that involve immobilization and are more invasive try to have someone to be available for the first 1-2 weeks.
Depending on your occupation, travel, commute time you most likely can work up to surgery. It is beneficial to make sure that the activities you are doing are not making things worse.
Getting things ready. Ask yourself- do you have stairs, rugs, dogs, small children, can you access the kitchen, bathroom, and where you sleep? If you will be limited in the use of a single arm or limb, navigate with crutches or in your sling- you will be GRATEFUL you did, it is harder than you think. Organize your home so things are readily accessible and will not cause injury.
Typically you can remain active before surgery, remember you do NOT want to make things worse(consult with your physician for clearance).
I have seen people adopt the “it’s already messed up, I can’t do anymore damage” mentality and pay for it, because you can make things worse and damage more structures, and you can make a once fixable problem become UNFIXABLE.
3. How To Recover From Surgery Successfully & Avoid Complications
Surgery is like being in a knife fight for anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. You need to respect and commit to the healing process. Follow your surgeons and therapist’s guidance.
4. The Importance Of Following The Stages Of Healing & Protocols
These may be identified before and after the procedure, and your surgeon will identify when it is appropriate to initiate physical therapy.
Even if you are in minimal pain do it” does NOT mean you can disregard the limitations outlined.
I have witnessed many people push it and need another MRI, and were left waiting and hoping that they didn’t cause it to fail. If you have questions ask and FOLLOW the instructions of your physician and therapist.
5. How To Return To Activities, Work, Exercise & Sports Without Risking Re-injury Or Surgical Complications Or Failure
Your surgeon will explain your protocol and immobilization requirements, these determine your ability to return to the specific demands of your job, exercise and sport.
Return to work can typically vary from 3 days to 2 weeks depending on your age, occupation, and commute time. Long travel time and flights may be advised against initially to avoid blood clots, increased pain, stiffness and the impeding of the recovery progress.
It is critical to make a COMPLETE recovery and not rush back into things. I have witnessed people damage the surgical repair, or have less than optimal and successful outcomes due to not patiently putting in the work.
Just because the date on the calendar changes does not mean you are healed or prepared to return to all of your activities. Please do NOT become a surgical boomerang for the rest of your life.
My hope is that if you do need surgery that it will be your first and last surgery and injury.
So what is the next best step for you?…
Are you finding yourself afraid that you may need surgery and do not know what to do? You are not alone.
Most people are confronted with this decision during their lifetime. The problem is that most of them allow the problem to get worse before looking for a solution, rush into it or wait too long to have surgery.
We hope this information has given you some ideas of how to confidently avoid, prepare or recover successfully from surgery.
If you are currently dealing with pain and limitations or have been told you will need surgery, whether it is new or something nagging, we are more than happy to provide you with a FREE Phone Consultation and help provide you with any resources, referrals or recommendations. Be certain to get the right medical care you need and don’t try to just “figure it out” on your own, the longer you wait the longer it will take to recover.
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