To recover quickly from surgery, take action before and after your operation

The Washington Post—December 31, 2012

If you’re scheduled for surgery, one of your main questions is likely to be “How long before I can get back to my regular life?”

As you might expect, the answer depends in part on what type of operation you’re having and how healthy you are going in. But much of it also depends on you. The following steps can help you improve your chances for a speedy recovery and reduce the risk of complications that can leave you sidelined longer than you intended.


Don’t tough out pain. Doing so may set back your recovery, warns Alejandro Gonzalez Della Valle, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. After knee replacement, for example, “it is important that patients take the prescribed painkillers,” he says. “Good pain control allows them to rehabilitate faster and develop range of motion.” In contrast, those who are reluctant to take painkillers generally don’t do enough physical therapy, which can lead the knee to heal with thick scar tissue that limits range of motion, Gonzalez Della Valle says. Taking painkillers if needed can also make it easier to breathe and cough, reducing the risk of pneumonia.

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