No two procedures are the same, just as no two patients are the same – but here are some very general tips to help you navigate your post-op experience. *
1. Your body is not stupid, listen to it. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, sleep. If you want to watch ‘the Princess Bride’ six times in a row… Tune in.
2. Surgery is stress. Essentially, we turn off your brain (or at least your nerves) and assault you. Some of your body systems are run by a part of your nervous system that works best in times of calm, so after procedures things stall.
This is most relevant for your digestive system.After surgery (or childbirth, or other stress) your bowels tend to be sluggish. This means loss of appetite, bloating, burping, constipation, etc. It usually takes about three days for this stress-hit to reverse and allow things to go back to normal.
Again, listen to your body, it will tell you when it’s ready for food – and usually what kind ;)Don’t force it. Most of us have enough stores to go without much food for at least 5 days without significant harm (water is another story). Puking against an incision is NOT fun.
3. Move. Your body is used to moving. We’re designed to breathe upright, contraction of abdominal wall and calf muscles help keep bowels and blood moving, and your body starts to realize the trauma has passed if you’re up and about. Your bowels will wake up sooner, you’ll be less prone to blood clots, pneumonia, etc., and you’ll feel better faster if you move. So, medicate, move slowly, but move.
4. Each day should be the same or better than the day before. It’s really hard to tell someone how long it will be before they can…, but you should be consistently improving. Increasing pain, increasing redness, especially if you were improving, can be a sign of a problem.
Surgery is not magic. For most of us it’s actually pretty hard to screw up an outpatient recovery. Add things to your routine very gradually, listen to your body, expect to be wiped out, and let everything that isn’t absolutely necessary go for a while.