10 Tips for a Smooth and Comfortable Recovery After Surgery

By Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D.

In the third installment of this healthy lifestyle series from Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D., she shares her tips to recovery that she learned after a recent unavoidable surgery after all natural treatments had been exhausted.

There would be times during the years before my hip replacement surgery that the pain was not responding to my natural treatment regimen. It was taking a toll on my emotional health. It wasn’t just that I was depressed from the consistent pain; it was a depression resulting from the exile I felt. I was forced to alter my lifestyle to such a degree that I avoided stairs, long errands, and traveling. Furthermore, exercise had always helped me to feel confident about my body, burn off stress, and get my endorphins going; for someone who has led an active life and is used to engaging in physical fitness regularly, I felt alienated from my body. It wasn’t serving me like it had.  My life’s work has been about health and I’d spent my lifetime taking the utmost care of myself only to feel my body betray me; my identity itself suffered. The exile I felt was also a result of the depression that caused me to skip many social engagements and other activities that I would have previously relished. My diminished confidence caused me to become self-conscious in situations that had previously worked to affirm me. This was no way to live. The day I contacted Dr. Joel Matta at the Hip and Pelvis Institute was the beginning of a new chapter, one in which I began the process of getting my life back!

I have since resumed my regular activities and feel healthier and more energetic than I have in years. By the afternoon on the same day as my surgery, I was already feeling 80% better. And within just a few days, I was walking and moving better than I had the day before surgery. This was truly transformative, nothing less than a second chance.

10 Tips for Recovery After Surgery

It is important to remember that once the doctor and staff complete their work and you leave the hospital, you are the one responsible for your care and ultimate healing and recovery. Recovery of the body often starts with the mind and a positive attitude. Therefore, comfort and freedom from stress are essential when recovering at home. Most of us wish we had more time in bed. Well, here’s your opportunity. Why not frame this recovery time as “me” time, something that is often in short supply in our busy lives? Below is a list that I’ve created, based on my own as well as others’ experiences, that will help you to recover more comfortably from surgery (any kind of surgery at all) while avoiding stress and quite possibly even enjoying this time for yourself.

  1. Complete work and home projects before surgery so that you can focus on recovery and avoid stress. This includes things like gardening, work reports, and housework. Consider hiring a housekeeper before surgery, if you don’t normally use one, so that the house is clean and clutter-free when you return home.
  1. Put fresh linens on the bed right before the surgery so when you come home from the hospital your bed is as comfortable and cozy as possible.
  1. Consider rearranging the house a bit so that you have easy access to things. For those with stairs, this is especially important since you want to avoid climbing them during this time.
  1. People who color their hair should get it done before surgery so you don’t have to worry about it afterwards. I got my hair trimmed the week before surgery. Feeling good about yourself is important—and can help expedite recovery!
  1. In the same spirit as No. 4 above, consider what other beauty treatments you may not get to for a while and get them done before hand. These may include a manicure/pedicure or waxing and shaving. Maybe even indulge a little just because it feels good, like getting a massage, facial, or other skin treatment. I did all of this before my surgery.
  1. Lay out some books and magazines that you’ve wanted to read. Make sure that at least two of them are uplifting and inspiring books to help keep you positive and focused on your healing. I finished eight books during my recovery time.
  1. Make some food/meals/dishes to put in your freezer that you or a family member can easily heat up for quick and easy meals.
  1. If you live alone, make sure you have some friends lined up to help you out around the house and with errands in order to simplify and support your recovery. If you have pets, arrange for friends or a professional pet care provider to help out with them as well.
  1. Visualize healing. Picture yourself engaged in your favorite activities that you’ve been unable to participate in due to your pain. This will motivate and inspire you and keep you positive when you’re feeling like your movement is restricted and when confined to your bed.
  1. This final suggestion is another one to do before surgery because it could help you avoid potential infections. It involves any necessary dental work, including a basic cleaning. I got my teeth cleaned the week before surgery. The concern involves the bacteria in our mouths; our mouths are literally teeming with it. There has long been a concern that bacteria might enter the bloodstream during a dental procedure. Simply cleaning your teeth can cause the gums to bleed and we want to avoid bleeding gums. It is feared that bacteria in the blood could travel to the site of a prosthetic device such as a knee or hip implant and cause infection. If the infection erodes the bone around the implant, the patient may need another joint replacement operation. This surgery may be streamlined and easier than it was in the past, but that doesn’t mean you want to go through it again. Also, it is advised to wait at least three months after surgery before having any further dental work and if you do, consider taking an antibiotic just in case. The jury is still out on just how legitimate this concern is but it is certainly better to be safe than sorry and avoid risks. And when we get our teeth cleaned, it helps eliminate stains and tartar, making them whiter and shinier. And that’s going to be important—because once you have this surgery and start feeling like a stronger, younger version of yourself, you’re going to be smiling—a lot!

For more than 30 years, Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D., has been one of the world's most recognizable names and faces in the fields of holistic health, anti-aging, human potential, and balanced living. She taught health and fitness at UCLA for 30 years, travels worldwide as a motivational speaker, and is the author of over 25 books, including her new “healthy lifestyle” series of books: The Curative Kitchen & Lifestyle, Living on the Lighter Side and Healthy, Happy & Radiant … at Any Age, as well as her other celebrated books Recipes for Health Bliss, The Joy Factor, and Walking on Air. To order her books or to learn more about her work, visit SusanSmithJones.com.