This page will advise you how to:
- Move easily and to start your recovery
- Prevent chest and circulatory problems
- Exercise the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles
- Regain your previous level of fitness
It is important that your family understands that, although the outside scar heals very quickly, you do take longer to heal inside. Recovery times depend on the exact type and extent of surgery, your general health and your state of mind. Suffering pain can slow down your recovery and so it is vital that you discuss any pain you have with your nurse or doctor.
First Day After Your Operation
This information works in conjunction with the verbal communication you will have received from your consultant and the clinical staff caring for you. The pack contains information important to know as you undergo your custom made treatment regime specific to the type and extent of surgery you have had. If you have any further questions about your stay or your treatment, please ask any of the ward staff who will gladly answer your questions.
Take 3-4 deep breaths every hour. Breathe in through your nose, hold for 2 seconds and slowly breathe out through your mouth. This will help keep your chest clear. If you feel mucus on your chest, bend your knees up and press your hands and/or a pillow over your stitches for support and cough up the mucus. If your operation is through the vagina, place your hand firmly over your sanitary pad. You cannot harm your stitches/scar when you cough.
Pump your feet up and down for 30 seconds every hour and circle them in both directions 10 times every hour, to aid blood circulation and decrease the risk of blood clots.
Static Gluteus Exercises
Squeeze bottom muscles, hold for 5 counts and relax. Repeat 10 times every hour
With your leg straight out in front of you place a rolled up towel under your heel. Pull your foot towards you, tighten your thigh muscles and press your knee down into the bed. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax. Repeat 5 times.
Getting out of Bed
Bend your knees and roll to one side. To rest in this position, place a pillow between your knees to increase your comfort. Lower your legs over the edge of the bed and push your body up by pressing down into the mattress with your upper hand and lower elbow, allowing your feet to lower to the floor. Brace with your abdominal muscles and exhale as you push up. Do the reverse to get back into bed. This puts less strain on your operation site and protects your back.
Stand up tall. If it is painful to stand up straight because of your stitches, support your abdomen with your hands and then straighten up slowly. In the upright position take slow deep breaths in and out.
Wind Relief & Wound Healing Exercises
Some surgeries result in a lot of wind which can be disabling, contributing to diaphragm and shoulder pain. Perform these exercises 4 times per day to relieve the wind pain and aid wound healing. Continue until you are fully mobile and opening your bowels without straining.
Alternate Hip and Knee Bends
With your legs out straight bend one knee up and then straighten and lower. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
This helps ease backache and strengthens the abdominal muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent up. Press your back into the bed. Feel your back tilt and your pelvic bone rock up. Hold for 2 seconds and relax. Then arch your back away from the bed and hold for 2 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and together, feet flat. Keep your shoulders flat on the bed. Slowly roll your knees to the right, return to the middle and stop. Repeat to the left, moving only as far as comfortable. Repeat 5 times to each side.
Tilt your pelvis up and curl your bottom off the bed to make a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Do not arch your back. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly lower down, vertebrae by vertebrae onto the bed and relax. Repeat 5 times.
Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other leg straight. Draw the straight leg up from the waist to make it shorter (without bending the knee) and then lengthen. Repeat 5 times on each side.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The pelvic floor muscles (PFM) run like a sling between the legs, from the pubic bone at the front to the tail bone behind. If you have stitches underneath, working these muscles will promote healing. The PFM support the abdominal contents, control the bladder and bowel and are also important for sexual enjoyment. You need to exercise them to:
- Reduce discomfort and swelling after surgery
- Prevent leakage from your bladder or bowel
- Help prevent prolapse
To exercise these muscles, keep your buttock and thigh muscles relaxed. Imagine you are trying to stop yourself passing wind and at the same time trying to stop the flow of urine. The feeling is one of “squeeze and lift”, closing and drawing up the back and front passages. Aim to complete 10 fast contractions, i.e. a blink and 10 slow contractions increasing the hold time to 10 seconds without holding your breath. Repeat 6-8 times per day in any position and continue for 6-8 weeks after which you should continue to maintain the PFM strength throughout your life.
General Physical Advice
Listen to your body, stop if it hurts, stop when tired.
1. Good Lifetime Lifting Technique
Bend your knees and keep your back straight. Pull in your abdominal muscles and PFM before you lift. After major surgery lifting should be restricted for up to 6 weeks to light loads, i.e. a 1L bottle of water. Ensure when lifting that you are not holding your breath. If you have to hold your breath, the object is too heavy for you.
As you feel more comfortable increase the amount of walking you do each day.
Returning to driving depends on your rate of recovery. Please check with your surgeon and insurance company. You should be able to wear a seatbelt comfortably, concentrate as normal, make an emergency stop and be able to look over your shoulder to manoeuvre before recommencing driving.
Avoid contact sport or high impact exercise (running/aerobics) for 3 months. After 6 weeks the best type of exercise is low impact. This includes swimming, cycling and gentle Pilates type exercises.
5. Sexual Activity
The time when you resume sexual activity will depend upon the type of operation you have undergone and how you feel; it could be earlier than 6 weeks if you have had a minor operation. You should consult your surgeon before you leave hospital.