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Recovering from surgery at home

Recovery at home

If you’ve recently had surgery, or are planning on having surgery soon, there are a number of things you can do to help with your recovery at home.

Activity

You need a balance of rest and exercise for your recovery. It is best to plan to rest between activities. Resting can include sitting quietly for 20-30 minutes or sitting / lying down on your bed. It is important not to be sitting for long periods of time, so make sure you get up and move regularly.

Walking

Regardless of what surgery you have had, walking is one of the best forms of exercise to increase strength and improve your cardiovascular fitness following surgery. It is important to gradually build up the distances you are walking:

  • Start with the same distance you were walking on the ward (average of 5-10 minutes) ideally on the flat. Aim to do this three times a day.
  • Once you are comfortable with this, add another 2-5 minutes to your walking time.
  • After two weeks, gently try and progress your walking. For example, start adding slopes to your walks or start weaning yourself off the crutches (unless specifically advised by your surgeon).
  • Progress from two crutches down to one crutch, using it on the opposite side to the operated leg.

Home exercise programme

Depending on what surgery you have had, there will be specific guidelines on what exercises you should be doing at home. In the hospital, your physiotherapist will generally teach you exercises if these are required. Continue these when you get home and progress the exercises as advised by your physio or surgeon. Your physio will likely give you written information on how to progress at home.

When can I start driving again?

Your surgeon will advise you when you should be getting back to driving. Please check with your surgeon before returning to driving as this will usually be when you are confident and able to make an emergency stop. For joint replacements, cardiac surgery and spinal fusions, this will be approximately 4 – 6 weeks. For abdominal surgeries, this may be between 2 – 4 weeks. It is good to be aware that most car insurance policies will not cover you for six weeks regardless of what surgery you have had, so it will pay to check with your insurance provider.

I am still experiencing swelling, is this normal?

Yes, swelling is a normal part of the healing process, and the amount of time this will last will depend on the individual. Just remember to keep your limb elevated after activity and to not sit with your legs down for more than an hour without moving. It is also recommended to keep applying ice to your joint which can help reduce swelling and aid in pain relief. Leave the ice on for 20-30 minutes at a time.

Do I require ongoing physio?

You may wish to see a physio for progression of your exercises or if you feel you are not making the progress you think you should be. Sometimes your hospital physio will recommend you continue with physiotherapy once home. Your surgeon may also advise you of an appropriate time to start having physio input. There are different options for physio which include; home visits (a physio visiting you at home for assessment and exercises), one-on-one appointments at a clinic, or attending our hip and knee classes if you have had a joint replacement. Your TBI hospital physio will be happy to help with any ongoing problems or queries. You can call us directly on 0800 824 432 to discuss options and make an appointment.

When can I start back at swimming?

It is recommended to refrain from swimming for 6 weeks after your surgery. This is because of the time it takes for your wound to heal. A swimming pool can have lots of bacteria, and returning to swimming before your wound is properly healed puts it at risk of infection.

We wish you the very best with your recovery after surgery!

Important note: Always follow your discharge advice given to you by your nurses, surgeon and physiotherapist when returning home. Stop any activity immediately if you feel extremely short of breath, feel faint or dizzy or have chest pain. Rest until symptoms subside and consult your GP.