This is a common question we get asked as physiotherapists. Having surgery is a big decision, certainly not one to be taken lightly. A big part of our job is to ensure that the patients we are seeing go in to surgery feeling prepared and having their questions answered. It is normal to feel apprehensive, uncertain or even scared. However, with the proper guidance and reassurance from your health care professionals, you should have a clear idea of what to expect when you wake up from your surgery so that you are not surprised by the outcome. Here are some helpful things to consider:
Prepare your Body
No matter the surgery, you should consider preparing your body to help with optimal recovery. The first point of consideration is your diet. What we eat is what fuels our bodies. To aid in optimal recovery, we need to make sure that the fuel we consume is nutritious, and not just empty calories. Secondly, ensuring you are getting enough sleep is crucial. Both of these things combined will help to ensure that your body has energy, which will make the recovery process easier. Lastly, and probably one of the most important considerations is “Prehab”. Prehab is a form of therapy that focuses on physically preparing the body for surgery. This can be done in the form of physiotherapy and home exercises. The goals for prehab may include increasing range of motion, improving flexibility of muscle, increasing strength and endurance of muscle. In addition to the above, prehab should consist of education regarding common adverse effects of surgery, as well as the rehabilitation process. Patients will learn how to perform post-surgical exercises prior to their surgery. This will also allow you the opportunity to meet with a qualified physiotherapist in your area. It is important to establish realistic goals together so that you have a plan of action in place following surgery.
Muscle Atrophy and Swelling
These are both common side effects from surgery. Muscle atrophy refers to the loss of muscle mass. This can happen as a result of inactivity and swelling. Swelling commonly happens around the area of surgery as it is the way our body responds to inflammation. The degree of muscle atrophy and swelling that will be experienced will likely depend on a few factors. It will depend on the type of surgery you are having, your pre-surgical level of fitness, any comorbidities or other health related issues you currently have and it will also depend on your body. The most important point here is that both muscle atrophy and swelling are to be expected to some degree. No need for initial concern. However, it is important to consult a therapist to determine what is within normal limits, and what is considered abnormal.
Pain Management
This is a difficult, but important point to discuss. Let me set the record straight, surgery comes with pain. It may not be the same pain you are experiencing, but there is almost always some level of discomfort after the surgery is complete. You should not be discouraged at the onset of pain. We are here to help! Physiotherapy can use a variety of modalities to aid in pain relief and pain management. Similarly, your physician or surgeon should discuss the use of medications to help with the pain initially felt post-surgery. It is important to remember that the pain should be transient. As time passes, and the tissues heal, your level of pain should decrease. Similarly, the more activity and therapy done should help get you through this process as well.
Be Patient, be motivated
Recovery from surgery doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s important to be patient and keep a positive attitude during the recovery process. To help keep a positive and focused mindset, discuss setting realist goals with your physiotherapist. Set timelines and pick achievable and measurable goals. This will allow you to work on completing one task at a time. It will simplify the process. It also keeps the rehabilitation process on track. It gives you something to work towards. We appreciate that recovery takes time. The more you stay focused on your end goals, the quicker you will get back to your activities.
Doing your research and securing the help of a qualified physiotherapist is the first step in guaranteeing a smoother and speedier recovery. For those of you reading this blog who are having surgery, we wish you well. Knowing what to expect is one of the best forms of preparation!

If you are unsure of how to safely integrate these exercises into your routine, please comment below. If you are looking for physiotherapy in Mississauga or physiotherapy in Etobicoke, please give us a call or book an appointment online.