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Tips for Working Out When You're Recovering from Surgery

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Recovering from surgery is a journey that requires patience, TLC, plenty of rest, and a gradual return to physical activity. 

While rest is important, so is movement. It's crucial to follow the post-op instructions from our team of board-certified orthopedic surgeons, but know that safe and gentle workouts (as part of a physical therapy plan) can actually help play a significant role in your recovery process. 

Read on as our team at Orthopedic Specialists of Oakland County shares ten practical tips for working out when you're recovering from surgery.

1. Talk to us

Working out after surgery doesn’t mean that you can jump right back to your pre-surgery workout. You need to ease back into working out, and the best place to start is often with physical therapy. 

Your physical therapy plan may include exercises and stretches that start off passive and gradually become more active. 

Obtain clearance and specific guidelines on when and how you can safely resume physical activity. Your Orthopedic Specialists of Oakland County provider will consider the type of surgery you had, your overall health, and any potential restrictions to tailor recommendations that align with your recovery.

2. Focus on your range of motion

Range of motion exercises are particularly helpful when you’re recovering from surgery. For example, research indicates that range-of-motion exercises in people who had knee surgery helped to reduce post-operative pain.

Try exercises that promote flexibility and improve your range of motion. Gentle stretches and mobility exercises can prevent stiffness, reduce scar tissue formation, and enhance your overall recovery. 

3. Try core-strengthening exercises

Core-strengthening exercises aren’t just for chiseled abs. Your core supports your entire body (especially your back), so having a strong core helps you perform daily tasks. Depending on the type of surgery, core-strengthening exercises may be beneficial for your overall stability, help prevent overuse injuries, and help prevent joint pain related to a weak core.

4. Listen to your body

Pay close attention to how your body responds to exercise. If you experience pain, discomfort, or unusual symptoms, stop the activity immediately. 

When in doubt, give us a call and talk to us about your symptoms.

5. Stay hydrated

Adequate hydration is always important, but it’s even more important when you’re exercising and when you’re recovering from surgery. Drinking water helps thin your blood, which helps nutrients and oxygen flow easier throughout your blood and to your tissues. More cell-repairing nutrients means that your tissues can heal smoothly.

Hydration is just as important when you exercise. Drinking water helps replace water that you lost through sweat, and without replenishing lost fluids, you’re at risk for dehydration, which can delay your healing.

Tip: Keep a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day, so you’re never without water.

6. Choose low-impact activities

Try low-impact exercises that minimize stress on your joints and your surgical sites. Swimming, stationary cycling, and elliptical training are excellent choices that offer cardiovascular benefits without excessive strain. These activities provide a gentle yet effective way to improve fitness during recovery.

Safety first: Even in regards to low-impact activities, you still need to be cleared to exercise. You shouldn’t swim or submerge any surgical site that has sutures, for example.

7. Focus on your breathing

Deep breathing exercises can aid in relaxation, reduce tension, and enhance oxygen flow to your healing tissues. Practice diaphragmatic breathing and incorporate it into your workout routine.

8. Set realistic goals

While you may be excited to get back to your pre-surgery routine, it’s important to set realistic and achievable (and safe!) fitness goals based on your current condition, how recent your surgery was, and the guidance of our team. 

Celebrate small victories along the way, and acknowledge the progress you make during your recovery journey.

9. Eat nutrient-dense meals

When your body is healing, nutrient-dense meals are non-negotiable. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, 100% grains, and healthy fats. All of the foods that support you as you heal also help fuel your body for your workout.

10. Ask questions

When you’re recovering from surgery, what you eat, how much you rest, and how much you move plays a big role in your recovery. If you have questions at any point in your recovery, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 248-335-2977. 

If you’re thinking about the benefits of surgery for chronic painbook an appointment at our Bloomfield Hills or Clarkston, Michigan, office.