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Recovering From Surgery: Self-Care Tips

Recovering from surgery requires rest and relaxation, along with following your doctor’s instructions. Let's look at additional self-care tips for before and after your operation:

  • Get complete information about your operation. You can calm many anxieties by asking lots of questions and understanding what's likely to happen.

  • Talk about your concerns with a trusted friend or a professional counselor. Keeping worries to yourself can lead to feelings of tension and overwhelm.

  • Visualize the surgery going successfully. Focus on your breath while you do this visualization, and use it as you are being prepared for surgery.

  • If you are feeling down, read or watch something funny. Laughter has amazing healing powers.

  • While in the recovery room, meditate on your breath, exhaling softly and completely and inhaling in a very relaxed way. You can also use a headset to listen to relaxing or sacred music.

  • When you feel particularly tense while recovering from surgery, use progressive muscle relaxation. Start with your toes. Tense and hold the muscles for a few seconds, and then relax the muscles. Move through all parts of your body with this tense and hold exercise. However, be aware of the surgical area and don't tense or move surrounding muscles until your doctor gives the OK.

  • Follow your doctor's advice, relax, and let yourself heal.

Massage for Recovering From Surgery

When you are ready, and after checking with your doctor, massage can aid in your recovery. Massage around the area of surgery may not be appropriate at first. However, an overall massage to the rest of your body may improve circulation, encourage the flow of healing oxygen and nutrients, and carry away irritating waste products, potentially speeding up the healing process.

Generally, you want to stick with a gentle, nurturing massage. Leave the deep tissue techniques until you're fully recovered.

You can also try the gentle technique of lymph drainage massage, which can stimulate your immune system, reduce pain, help flush out residue of medications, and reduce swelling. Or use an energy technique, such as reiki, that involves only light, or no, touch.

The Mayo Clinic offers a free Healing After Surgery Workbook that describes various techniques you use to support healing, including acupressure, guided imagery, and aromatherapy. The workbook notes that aromatherapy can help relieve symptoms such as pain, headaches, stress, nausea, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Do not apply essential oils within four inches of your surgical incision until it is 100% healed.

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