Surgery will rightly remove you from your normal exercise routine, even if it’s only a minor procedure.
It’s nearly impossible to forecast an exact recovery timeline, as patients experience discomfort anywhere from a few days to several months after surgery.
But even without that concrete information, you can project a timeline for yourself. Then and gradually return to the physically fit lifestyle you’ve wanted.
Understanding Your Surgery
The first step of your journey is understanding the type of surgery you had, and how it is affecting you.
A minimally invasive procedure, which only uses external incisions in small areas of the body, may not take much time to fully heal. But an intra-abdominal incision will require at least six weeks to heal properly.
It’s best to follow your surgeon’s recommendations, to the letter, if you want to recover properly.
The site of the surgery will also affect when and how you can work out.
For example, if you have surgery on a knee or an ankle, you may still be able to practice upper body routines. And if you have surgery on a shoulder or arm, you may be able to run. Again, follow your surgeon’s advice here.
Complications during surgery may also interfere with your recovery time, and when it’s possible to return to your normal routine.
If you’re a victim of medical malpractice, for example, you may experience more pain than usual, or suffer injuries that take much longer to heal.
Seeking compensation for these unnecessary injuries can ensure you get the capital for any follow-up treatment. But this might keep you out of the gym for a few extra weeks.
You should also keep in mind that no matter what type of surgery you had, or what complications you’ve faced during that intervention, every individual is unique.
You may heal at a rate faster or slower than what your surgeon projects.
Pay close attention to how your body is responding, and accelerate or decelerate your plans as warranted.
Staying Active During Recovery
Halting an exercise program you’ve grown used to can be damaging to your mental health.
Without the endorphin release of exercise, combined with the stress of surgery, you may face a depressive state, and find it hard to be excited about your future.
One way to fight back against this is to get active and stay active, as soon as possible.
Depending on the intensiveness of your surgery, you can likely begin some light movements within a day or two.
For example, you may be able to do some light arm lifts, or go for a short walk around the neighborhood.
Even light stretches in bed can feel rewarding, and help you feel like you’re staying active in the wake of your surgery.
As long as you aren’t bedridden, you have options.
Testing The Waters
After a few weeks, you’ll probably get the go-ahead from your surgeon to return to a “normal” exercise program. Of course, this doesn’t mean returning to your full capacity.
Gravitate toward exercises that are almost certain not to stress your area of surgery. For example, avoid lunges or running if you’re recovering from knee surgery.
Instead, seek exercises that work out adjacent areas, or work the area lightly. For example, you might try light cycling or walking.
That way, you can test the area gently. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop. If it feels okay, take note, and try a slightly more intense version of the exercise after a few more days have passed.
The biggest mistake people make when recovering from surgery is taking on too much, too fast. They feel good after their first light day back, so they escalate to a level comparable to where they were before.
Do not do this! It’s far better to take your time, and gradually increase your workout load.
If you find yourself unable to return to a favorite exercise due to your surgery, or if your physical capabilities have been permanently limited, seek alternatives.
Instead of running, try swimming. Instead of overhead presses, spend some extra time on your chest and triceps.
There may not be a “perfect” alternative for you. But chances are you can find another exercise that fulfils the same requirements as the one you’re missing.
The most important factors for returning to exercise successfully after surgery are following the orders of your surgeon and being conservative with your exercise choices.
Don’t take on more than you can reasonably handle, even if you’re optimistic in your estimations. You’ll risk injuring yourself further and setting yourself back another several weeks.
Get in whatever light exercises you can, then gradually escalate them over the course of weeks.