Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Laughing After Tummy Tuck

With a tummy tuck, you can get rid of excess skin, fat and tissue from your abdomen. But there are other potential benefits as well.

For example, some people who undergo a tummy tuck say that they’re able to laugh more easily and without pain after their surgery. In fact, one study found that many of the participants reported feeling more confident about how they looked after their surgeries because they could laugh without experiencing any pain or discomfort. This may be due to the fact that when you have loose skin on your stomach area, it’s more difficult for your abdominal muscles to contract properly. In this guide, we review the aspects of Laughing After Tummy Tuck, how long will it hurt to cough after tummy tuck, how long does it take for tummy tuck stitches to dissolve, and why am i coughing after tummy tuck.

In addition, another study found that many participants felt better about their body image after undergoing a tummy tuck due to the fact that they no longer had extra skin hanging around their midsection area—something which had previously been bothering them constantly before having this procedure done on them!

Laughing After Tummy Tuck

Just had a tummy tuck? This complete guide covers everything you need to know about your tummy tuck recovery.

There are so many common questions tummy tuck patients ask. This post will put your mind at ease. You will learn: 

  • Can you cough or sneeze?  
  • What medications you should take
  • When to start exercising again
  • When you can return to work

As a board certified plastic surgeon who has been in private practice for more than 25 years, and who has done many tummy tucks, I have refined my post op regime into a system that allows almost everyone to get back quite quickly to work and play. 

First and foremost, I would advise my patients to ignore the things you have read on the internet or advice you have gotten from a friend. The problem with the internet is that anyone can post anything. There are people who love to complain about everything and they tend to be most prolific on the internet. Also, with the internet, anyone can call themselves an expert. Anyone can find a person who describes their horrendous post op surgical experience, no matter how minor their surgery. The vast majority of my patients have found their tummy tuck recovery far easier than they expected.

Tummy Tuck Tupelo | Abdominoplasty North MS | Accent Plastic Surgery

IS TUMMY TUCK RECOVERY PAINFUL?

The question is why is there any pain? The discomfort after a tummy tuck does not come from the incision in most cases. Due to the fact that many sensory nerves are cut during the surgery, the abdominal skin will actually feel numb. When I perform a tummy tuck, I inject the incision with a long lasting local anesthetic, so it is rare that people complain about incisional pain.

The most common discomfort complaints after a tummy tuck are:

  1. A tight feeling in the abdomen
  2. Discomfort in the flanks since I usually perform liposuction to the flank area during a tummy tuck.  Does everyone know what a flank is

The tight feeling in the abdomen is because I almost always tighten the fascia over the rectus abdominis muscle (abdominal muscle) with a series of permanent sutures. The fascia is a thin layer of tissue (somewhat like a thin coat of leather) that encloses the muscles. Many people describe this as feeling like they have done way too many sit ups! It will feel tight and this will make it somewhat challenging to stand up straight or to get up from a lying down position. 

TUMMY TUCK RECOVERY VS C-SECTION

Almost every woman will say that their C-section surgery was much more painful. This would make sense since a C-section requires going much deeper into and through the abdominal wall. Also, the uterus has to be cut, the baby is removed and then the uterus is sutured closed. Contrary to what some people seem to think – No muscles are cut during a tummy tuck. – they are only tightened. 

WHAT ABOUT COUGHING, LAUGHING, SNEEZING ETC? WILL I COME APART?

Not surprisingly, coughing, laughing or sneezing can be uncomfortable after a tummy tuck. The reason for this is because doing these activities results in a strain that comes from inside of the muscle layer. When you strain or cough, the best thing you can do is to hold a pillow firmly against your abdomen, to provide a counter force. However, rest assured that you will NOT come apart, even if it hurts or is uncomfortable. 

WHEN SHOULD I BE WALKING? SHOULD I STAY IN BED ALL DAY LONG?

I believe one of the main reasons that my patients bounce back far quicker than most other surgeon’s patients, is that I strongly encourage my patients to stand up straight immediately following surgery. I also strongly encourage them to start walking around the house (including doing stairs) right after surgery and several times per day.

Some patients worry that they will come apart if they stand up straight but this has never happened to my patients. All meals should be eaten at the kitchen table and not in your bed. The worst thing you can do is to spend all day laying in bed. You will get stiff and your muscles will get tight.

This will make it much, much harder to get mobile and loose. I encourage gentle stretching. Patients worry far too much about “damaging something” by moving around. Of course, like everything in life, it is a balance. It is also important to give yourself time to rest and nap. 

Walking also helps prevent blood clots from forming in your legs so this is very important. It also helps with digestion and helps prevent constipation. 

WHAT IS THE BEST POSITION TO BE IN BED? DO I HAVE TO LIE PERFECTLY ON MY BACK? CAN I LIE ON MY SIDE?

When you are resting in bed, it is going to be more comfortable if you have 4-6 pillows behind your head and 1-2 pillows behind your knees. You can lie on your back or you can lie somewhat on your side. Your body will find the most comfortable position. 

PAIN MEDICATION? WHAT SHOULD I TAKE AND WHAT SHOULD I AVOID?

Everyone is different but I give the following prescriptions to almost all of my patents. At the conclusion of your tummy tuck, there is local anesthetic infiltrated into your incision and also you are given some painkillers through your IV. 

I give all of my patients, Celebrex, which is a long acting NSAID (like Motrin, Ibuprofen, Aleve etc), as long as  there is no serious sulfa allergy. I also prescribe either Percocet or Norco which is a narcotic. 

Most of my patients do not require narcotics very often. If they do, they generally don’t need them for more than a few days. Most will just take for a day or two and then quickly switch to only at night for maybe one more night. Most are off of them by day 3 or 4. 

What works very nicely is to alternate Tylenol with Motrin/Advil etc and avoid the narcotics.

All narcotics have the side effect of constipation. They can also make your brain a bit foggy. I have noticed very consistently that as soon as my patients are off all narcotics, they feel much better.

I also instruct my patients to avoid aspirin containing products such as Bufferin (which is completely different than Tylenol) because they are potent anti-coagulants. 

HOW LONG BEFORE I CAN RETURN TO WORK?

This will, of course, depend on your job. If you work from home, and if you are really motivated, you should be able to put in a few hours of work after 3-4 days – but definitely don’t plan on doing more than 2 hours at a time. 

If you work in an office, then most healthy people can return in 10-14 days. Closer to 10 days, if you are in good shape and more like 14 days, if you are on the older side.

My senior office manager, Cheryl, had a tummy tuck by me, many years ago. She came back to work in 6 days and then worked 12 hours per day. I have had a few other patients go back to work in 6 days, but this is unusually fast. You just said that Cheryl went back to work in 6 days.

If you have a more physical job such as a waitress or floor nurse, you can expect to be back at work in around 3 weeks. This however, depends on how much lifting you have to do. 

It is important to remember that even if  you have returned to work, you will not necessarily feel 100%. Healing is a gradual process. Be patient with your healing process and you should certainly expect to be feeling healthy within a few months.

WHEN CAN I EXERCISE AFTER A TUMMY TUCK? 

This, of course, will vary from person to person. Generally, I would suggest that you avoid driving your heart rate up for about 2 weeks. If you overdo it early in the first 12 days, then  there is an increased risk of seroma formation. A seroma formation is a build up of fluid under the surface of your skin. 

When you start exercising, I would suggest something like the elliptical or a spinning class or maybe light weights. Most of my runners will be running by 3 weeks. By 6 weeks, there are no restrictions at all on what you can do. 

TUMMY TUCK RECOVERY WITH A BABY OR SMALL CHILD

I have found that a lot of patients need a relative to move in  for a few weeks. If you are in good health, you really should be able to manage very soon (after just 2-3 days at the most) totally on your own. However, you will want to pay a friend to take your small child for 2 hours each morning and afternoon, so that you can rest up and take a nap. If you have a small infant, it should not be a problem holding them in your arms.

If you have a small child, you can trick them. What I mean by this, is that you can let them lie next to you in bed, or you can sit on the floor with them. Since you are close to them, they will not realize that you have not picked them up. When the time comes to get them into a high chair or car seat, you will find tricks, such as using your knee or foot, to help them climb up if you find it hard to lift them.  

BREAST SURGERY (EITHER AN AUGMENTATION OR REDUCTION) AT THE SAME TIME AS A TUMMY TUCK?

This generally will save you money for the cost of the procedure. Also your total time away from work will be less than if you did each procedure separately. However, it will definitely slow your recovery down a bit because you now have 2 different areas of your body recovering. I have had some patients recover very fast and I have had a few patients who definitely took closer to a week to feel more comfortable. 

WHEN CAN I RESUME MARITAL RELATIONS?

I am much more liberal than most surgeons in this regard. You can resume relations and the various options in that sphere, whenever you feel up to it. I would not try for any new records but I have had patients resume sexual relations within a week and for others, it is several weeks later. 

HOW ARE THINGS DIFFERENT IN THE RECOVERY IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A MUSCLE REPAIR?

If you do not have a muscle repair, which is uncommon but in select cases, I have done this, then your recovery is very quick. You should have much less discomfort since most discomfort, comes from tightening the muscle. You can return to full exercising in just 2 weeks. 

QUICK SUMMARY OF THE DO’S AND DON’TS

  1. Do get out of bed and walk around, including the stairs. 
  2. Do walk straight and not bent over
  3. Shower either the following night (30 hours after surgery) or at the latest by 48 hours. You can get everything wet and can shower daily. You will feel much better after your shower. 
  4. It is definitely a balance between being active and also resting. Your recovery will be much quicker if you listen to your body. You know yourself best. Your body will tell you if you need to push a bit harder or rest up a bit more.
  5. Don’t let the pain get ahead of you. On the other hand, just because you have some discomfort, does not mean that a narcotic is required. You don’t need to worry about getting addicted to narcotics, if you are only taking a few narcotics for significant pain, for a short period of time.
  6. Watch out for constipation. I tell all of my patients, that if you have not had a bowel movement by day 3, then you need to start taking Dulcolax (or a similar laxative) aggressively starting the 3rd morning. You should take the Dulcolax first thing in the morning and then repeat in 2-3 hours. 
  7. Never be afraid to text me your concerns or questions. All of my post op patients are given my personal phone number and are encouraged to reach out to me. You are never bothering me.

Tummy Tuck Internal Stitches Popping

What are some of the tummy tuck risks you should be aware of before you have this surgery? Most serious complications associated with abdominoplasty (those resulting in hospitalization) are not very common. However, other non-life threatening problems such as less-than-ideal aesthetic results occur pretty frequently. More extensive forms of abdominoplasty (such as the Fleur-de-lys that uses a T incision) have a high rate of complications with wound healing compared to a traditional tummy tuck that has only a horizontal incision. Overweight patients and those who smoke tend to have higher than average tummy tuck complication rates.

The list of tummy tuck risks below includes both very rare and fairly common complications for this extensive and invasive plastic surgery. An experienced plastic surgeon can discuss your personal risk profile based on your medical history, the elasticity of your skin, the type of abdominoplasty you need, your lifestyle, and other factors. That way, you can make an informed decision about whether the risks are worth it for you. Be sure to get answers to all your questions prior to signing the informed consent form. This may include asking what course of action your surgeon would take if you do have a complication. Knowing what to expect in advance can help you identify potential warning signs of a complication and help you stay calm if something does go wrong.

Tummy Tuck Risks During the Operation

Adverse reaction to anesthesia resulting in respiratory failure or cardiac arrest is the most serious risk since it can cause death. However, the chances of this actually happening are extremely small. If you do have a history of allergic or adverse reactions to anesthesia, you are not a good candidate for a tummy tuck. Sometimes, patients may go into shock simply from the physical trauma of the surgery itself (especially for an extensive abdominoplasty or one done in conjunction with other plastic surgery procedures). Limiting yourself to one cosmetic surgery at a time is usually the wisest course of action.

Excessive bleeding is another potentially serious side effect. This is most common in patients who are taking medications that interfere with normal blood clotting. Since there are literally hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can thin the blood and affect clotting, it is vital for you to disclose ALL substances you are taking prior to surgery. Your surgeon will let you know what is safe to keep taking, if you need to adjust your dosage, or if you should stop taking a medication temporarily.

Surgical error such as unintentional damage to important blood vessels is another potential risk during abdominoplasty surgery. Every surgeon makes mistakes at some point. However, this is much more likely with an inexperienced surgeon or one who agrees to do the surgery even for patients who are poor candidates. To protect yourself from this risk, you should thoroughly research the background and reputation of the surgeon you choose for your abdominoplasty. If you are turned down by one or more surgeons based on your risk profile, you should reconsider whether getting the surgery is really a good idea for you.

Tummy Tuck Risks During Early Recovery

The first week or two after tummy tuck surgery is the time when a number of serious complications may arise. These include:

  • Post-operative bleeding (in extreme cases, this may require additional surgery to stop the blood loss)
  • Fluid accumulation (the fluid may need to be drained)
  • Bloods clots including deep vein or pulmonary thrombosis which can be fatal (walking as soon as possible after surgery may help reduce this risk)
  • Fat necrosis causing lumps under the skin (fatty tissue that has its blood supply disrupted by the surgery may start to die)
  • Wound separation (the edges of the wound don’t knit together and the skin at the edges may die leading to permanent skin loss and the need for additional surgery to close the wound)
  • Wound infection (this may be treated with antibiotics if mild and with additional surgery if severe)

The following side effects generally occur beginning immediately after surgery and persist for a long period of time:

  • Pain ranging from moderate to severe. This is managed with prescription pain medication. Following post-operative instructions for rest and limiting activity may reduce the severity and duration of pain.
  • Swelling is a side effect that everyone experiences. Wearing the compression garment as directed will help reduce swelling and associated discomfort.
  • Skin discoloration such as bruising around the surgical site. This should fade over time.
  • Numbness, tingling, discomfort or other changes in skin sensation around the incision that may linger for many months.

Tummy Tuck Risks Later In Recovery

Later in your recovery, as the initial discomfort and swelling subside, you may notice additional problems. These include:

Asymmetry: Everyone has some asymmetry between their right and left side. However, a noticeable difference may occur after surgery in some cases. Liposuction may occasionally help even things out.

Dog ears: This term refers to the bunching of the skin that may occur at the two ends of the horizontal tummy tuck incision, creating little pointy bits of skin. These may smooth out over time during healing. If they don’t, the “dog ears” will need to be snipped off and the corners of the incision re-sutured, lengthening the scar slightly.

Weird-looking navel: Your belly button may look strange if it was “untethered” and reattached higher on your abdomen as it is in a traditional tummy tuck. If the result looks too unnatural, the belly button may be surgically reconstructed. This tummy tuck risk isn’t an issue with a mini tuck which leaves the navel intact.

Visible sutures: The sutures in the skin are removed within the first two weeks after surgery (unless absorbable sutures are used). However, the deep tissue sutures that help hold the underlying tissues in place remain inside you. In some cases, these may start poking out enough to be visible under the surface of the skin or actually poke through the skin. These sutures may need to be removed.

Excessive scarring: All patients experience some scarring. However, raised and discolored scars (keloid or hypertrophic scars) that are very unsightly may require laser treatment or other revision therapies to help them shrink and fade. Talk to your surgeon if you tend to have problems with scars. There may be steps you can take during recovery to minimize scarring.

Coughing Up phlegm After Tummy Tuck

Even though it’s planned and well-intentioned, the basic fact is that when you have surgery, someone is cutting through your skin and tinkering with your insides. Your body is going to react to that, just like it does when you accidentally cut or bump yourself.

Often, your doctor can give you an idea of what to expect afterward. Sometimes there will be complications, too — things that aren’t a normal part of the healing process. While the most common ones aren’t usually serious, some, like blood clots, can become dangerous. And they’ll slow your recovery.

Pay attention to what’s happening to your body and how you feel in the days and weeks after your surgery. If you’re concerned or something seems “off,” call your doctor.

Pain

Nearly everyone has some pain after surgery. How much will depend on what type of procedure you’ve had and how healthy you were before you went into the operating room.

Many procedures now are less “invasive” — in the end, it hurts less and you recover faster. And there are plenty of options for managing your pain. Don’t tough it out. Talk to your doctor before your surgery about your options and what’s best for you.

When your pain is well-controlled, you’ll be more willing to move again, and that’s key to getting back to your daily routine. You’ll also be also less likely to have complications like blood clots or pneumonia.

Reaction to Anesthesia

When you wake up from “being under,” you won’t be feeling your best. Common complaints include:

  • Being queasy
  • Confusion
  • Chills
  • Itching
  • Sore throat

These symptoms usually don’t last long.

Severe reactions to anesthesia are rare, but they do happen. For some people, confusion and memory loss can last as long as a week. And certain people are at greater risk of long-term memory loss. Talk to your doctor about these risks if you have:

  • Heart disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • Lung disease
  • A past stroke

Breathing Problems

Anesthesia hampers your normal breathing and stifles your urge to cough. After chest or abdominal surgery, it could hurt to breathe in deeply or push air out. Mucus may build up in your lungs.

You may not have any symptoms. But if a large part of your lung collapses or stops inflating, it can cause:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Blue lips or skin

To prevent a collapsed lung, your doctor may have you use a device called an incentive spirometer. It measures your breathing and helps you practice taking slow, deep breaths.

Get up and move around as soon as you can after surgery. Try to cough to help clear fluid from your lungs and let them re-inflate.

Diastasis Recti Surgery: Preparation, Recovery

Infections

Most of them are minor, affecting just the skin around the surgical cut. They slow the healing process. But sometimes one can become severe and even life-threatening.

Watch out for:

  • Redness and swelling around the cut
  • Fluid or pus draining from the wound
  • Fever

Generally, fewer than 3 people out of 100 will get an infection after surgery. But your chances go up if you’re older, you smoke, you’re overweight, or you have diabetes or other medical issues. The risk is also higher with an emergency operation or a surgery that lasts more than a couple of hours.

Your doctors, nurses, and other health-care providers should clean their hands and all tools and devices they use thoroughly. While you’re recovering, carefully follow your doctor’s instructions for caring for your cut. Wash your hands before you do. When friends and family come to visit, ask them to clean their hands, too, with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

Trouble Using the Bathroom

Some types of anesthesia can make it hard for you to pee. If you feel like you need to go but can’t, your doctor may have to put a small tube called a catheter into your urethra to help you empty your bladder. Usually it’s a short-term problem, but it can lead to an infection or bladder damage if it’s not treated.

Constipation is also common after surgery. Anesthesia can cause it. So can certain pain medications, a change in your diet, or being in bed for a long time.

Your doctor may prescribe laxatives or stool softeners to help keep your bowels moving. Stay well-hydrated. Get up and move around when your doctor says it’s OK.

how long will it hurt to cough after tummy tuck

When you lose a lot of weight or undergo pregnancy, you can end up with plenty of loose skin, especially in your tummy area. In order to help improve how the abdomen looks, a tummy tuck surgery can be done. This type of plastic surgery removes the excess skin, fat, and tissue on the tummy. It can also help mend the muscles that split up.

The recovery from a tummy tuck surgery can be more challenging than other plastic surgeries because the incision is usually much bigger than the others. The area worked on is also greater, and the patient needs to be in a flexed position at the waist for several days during the recovery period. With all plastic surgeries, it can be difficult to do usual daily activities because of the healing wound. One of the most difficult things to do when you are recovering from a tummy tuck surgery is to cough, sneeze or laugh. It can be very uncomfortable, and some patients dread these because it is too painful for them.

When we sneeze, cough or laugh, the abdominal area contracts and stretches. This is the reason why those who have undergone a tummy tuck will feel very uncomfortable. After about six weeks, the muscles will now be able to handle the force needed for sneezing, coughing or laughing, but it can still be very uncomfortable for the patient because the wound is still healing and there might still be some swelling or inflammation inside the body.

Some people also fear that powerful sneezes, coughs or laughter can cause their sutures to open or be disrupted. However, the sutures that are used to repair the muscles together won’t tear that easily. Although the pain and discomfort are present, the suture will still hold. It is best to observe yourself and watch out for any increased swelling or bleeding as well as a formation of a new bulge in the tummy area. These things can be indicative of a tear in the suture that will need your surgeon’s immediate attention if it happens.

The best way to cough or sneeze after a tummy tuck procedure is to hold your tummy with your hands or put pressure on a pillow while you sneeze or cough. This is a simple action that can greatly help make you feel more comfortable when you really need to sneeze or cough during your recovery. Sneezing, coughing and even laughing are things that we naturally do everyday. Although it can be challenging to do them after a tummy tuck, you simply have to hold on. Coughing helps clear out your lungs and sneezing helps clear out your airways. These may be very painful now, but they will eventually get better as the body heals more.

how long does it take for tummy tuck stitches to dissolve

Tummy tuck is a body contouring procedure that may achieve tightening of the abdominal wall and soft tissues. It removes redundant skin of the abdomen and strengthens the abdominal muscles. One of the most common questions from patients considering this type of surgery relates to recovery. “How long is healing after tummy tuck?” This question is best addressed by focusing on different aspects of recovery:

Incision healing after tummy tuck

Resorbable (dissolving) stitches are used to close the abdominal incisions. These stitches gradually resorb over a few months post-operatively. Early wound healing occurs over the first couple of weeks, which effectively closes the incisions. Incisions during early wound healing demonstrate low tensile strength. The incisions gain strength as scar maturation occurs over one year of healing after tummy tuck.

Weaning pain medication

Patient generally require narcotic pain medication for a few days post-operatively. Patients typically report discomfort at the muscle repair site. Several measures are taken to reduce discomfort along the muscle plication. Following surgery, local anesthetic is infiltrated within the rectus sheath to reduce discomfort upon awakening. This local freezing lasts approximately 6-8 hours. Oral pain medication is then taken as needed and weaned as soon as possible to lower risk of associated complications. Patients may also experience less discomfort when slightly flexing the waist when mobilizing over the first 24-48 hours following surgery. Once prescription pain medication has been discontinued, patients may resume driving as able.

Discontinuing the abdominal compression garment

The abdominal compression garment provides support to the muscle repair during early healing and reduces swelling and fluid accumulation. It should be worn full-time as healing takes place. It may be discontinued at 6 weeks post-operatively. The garment may be concealed under clothing as patients return to work and other day-to-day activities.

Resuming exercise

As the muscle repair heals and incisions gain strength, it is important to refrain from exercise and heavy lifting over 5 lbs. Exercise may be resumed at 6 weeks post-operatively, which will be confirmed by Dr. Power during routine follow up at that time point. Patients often inquire whether exercise may be resumed sooner if core abdominal work-outs are avoided. Unfortunately not. Any form of exercise that elevates heart rate and blood pressure may increase risk of bleeding, further swelling, and healing complications. By 6 weeks post-operatively, one’s activity level may be gradually advanced to exercise as tolerated.

Returning to work

Healing after tummy tuck requires recovery time before returning to work. Patients may generally return to office-based work within 1-2 weeks of surgery. This may depend on physical requirements of the job. If work responsibilities are more strenuous, modifications may be required upon return to work to lower risk of complications, particularly over the first 6 weeks.

why am i coughing after tummy tuck

If you are having surgery, you may be interested in how you can heal faster, return to work faster, maybe even get back to the gym faster. Overall, recovering from surgery is a straightforward process of following the discharge instructions. For most surgery patients it is truly that simple. For others, healing quickly requires extra diligence and effort in caring for their incision, and their body as a whole, after surgery.

Here are some helpful hints for how to be the patient who heals quickly, easily and faster than the surgeon predicted.

1. Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

This seems like a no-brainer, but many patients follow the instructions that they think are meaningful and disregard the ones that they don’t like or don’t feel apply to them. A simple instruction, such as no baths after a procedure, may seem silly but there is typically a very good reason for them. If your doctor says showers only, or no swimming, or tells you not to lift anything heavier than ten pounds for the first few weeks after surgery, there is likely a very good reason for this.

2. Keep Your Follow Up Appointments

Another suggestion that seems like it would be obvious, but many patients do not keep all of their follow-up appointments. If you are feeling good and your wound is healing well, an appointment may seem like an unneeded expense and waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your physician will want to know how you feel and if your incision is healing well, but they will be looking for additional things that you may not. Your surgeon may be looking for something you cannot see, especially if your incision isn’t visible (such as a vaginal hysterectomy). They may do follow-up blood work, look for signs of infection, or want to make sure your condition has been adequately treated by the surgery. You may also require adjustment of your medications in the weeks following surgery.

3. Prevent Infection

Preventing infection is one of the simplest things that you can do to have an excellent outcome from your procedure.2 Washing your hands before touching your incision is one of the easiest and most important things you can do during your recovery.

4. Inspect Your Incision

Looking at your incision may not be your favorite thing to do, but it is important that you take a good look at your incision several times a day. Now there are procedures where this isn’t possible, but for the vast majority of procedures, a mirror makes it possible to have a good look at the surgical site. Is your incision pink or red? Is there wound drainage and what color is it? Are the stitches or staples intact? These questions are very important and looking at your incision several times a day will help you determine if your surgical site is continuing to heal or if it has become infected.

5. Drink and Eat Properly

Many people don’t feel like eating after having surgery. They are nauseated, constipated, or just not hungry. Staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet after surgery can help promote healing, minimize common complications, and help you get past unwanted side effects of anesthesia.3 Just remember, it is hard to heal if your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs to get better.

6. Cough and Sneeze Carefully

Who knew that coughing and sneezing the way you’ve been doing it your entire life isn’t good enough after some surgeries? It turns out that if you have an abdominal incision, you can do some serious harm to your incision if you cough or sneeze the wrong way. A new incision isn’t very strong and a violent sneeze can actually cause a surgical incision to open.

Bracing your incision, which means applying pressure to the incision, is essential when coughing, sneezing or even going to the bathroom. You can do this with your hands, or a pillow if you have one nearby. Just remember that coughing is important and you should be coughing frequently after surgery: coughing helps prevent pneumonia!

7. Care For Your Incision The Right Way

You know you should wash your hands before touching your incision, but then what? Caring for your incision doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. Believe it or not, most patients try to get their incision a bit too clean. They want to scrub their incision and remove the scabs that form, or they want to use alcohol or peroxide to keep the area free of germs. Unless your surgeon specifically instructs you to do any of those things, a gentle wash with soap and water is more than adequate.4

It may not be pretty, but it is normal to have scabbing on your surgical staples and removing them could actually cause your incision to heal far more slowly. Soaking your incision in an effort to keep it clean can also be harmful because it can weaken the incision line. Many surgeons recommend showers instead of baths following surgery and often forbid swimming during the early stages of recovery.

8. Know When To Go to the ER

Are your symptoms normal or a sign of an emergency? The general answer is this: if you are seriously concerned you should call your doctor or go to an ER. In general, if you are bleeding, having trouble breathing, can’t keep food/water down, cannot urinate, or you have obvious signs of infection, you need to see a doctor. If you can’t reach your surgeon, your primary care physician or the emergency room should be your next stop.

9. Control Your Pain

Keeping your pain under control is very important after surgery. Some patients hesitate to take their pain medication as prescribed because they fear addiction or other issues. Others feel that taking pain medication is a sign of weakness, or they don’t like how they feel when they take prescription drugs. However, if you are in too much pain to cough, you are at risk for pneumonia. If you are in too much pain to walk, you are at risk for blood clots and pneumonia.

Keeping your pain at a tolerable level (no pain may be an unreasonable goal) will help you keep moving and speed the healing process.5 Just make sure to drink ample fluids along with pain medications, as they can lead to dehydration and constipation.

It is often easier to control pain if you take the medication regularly, as prescribed. Waiting until the pain is severe and then taking pain medication results in a long wait for the drug to take effect. It is better to keep the pain under control and at a tolerable level, rather than waiting until it is severe and waiting for relief. Good pain control can make it far easier to sleep, which also promotes healing.

10. Get Moving

Walking after surgery is one of the most important things you can do after having a procedure. It may seem like a simple thing, but a quick walk every hour or two can help prevent serious complications like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pneumonia. It can also help prevent one very common and annoying side effect of anesthesia: constipation. Walking is a gentle way to return to physical activity and can help promote a return to regular activities.6

Talk to your surgeon about when you can return to more strenuous activities, such as running and contact sports. Swimming should wait until your wound is completely closed.

New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

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