Five Ways to Speed Up Your Recovery from Plastic Surgery
By Dr. Kamran Azad
Cosmetic procedures are exciting experiences for most patients, as it is a time to welcome new, positive changes in one’s self. After surgery is complete, patients are anxious to return to normality and be able to enjoy these changes. Many patients want to accelerate the recovery process, so they can return as quickly as possible to their normal daily life. Patients have the potential to significantly impact their recovery process, as one of the main variables affecting the length of recovery is how well they listen to and follow their physician’s recommendations. The following five tips are a few things every patient can do to increase their odds of a successful recovery.
1. DON’T PUSH THROUGH THE PAIN
If you experience pain after the procedure, it is important to take the medicine prescribed by your physician. Many patients will attempt to be “strong” and push through the pain, but it is important to control pain by staying ahead of it and not letting it catch up to you. Blood pressure can increase as a result of pain, and in some cases this could lead to more bruising, which delays recovery time. Additionally, it is important to avoid over-the-counter medicines that could affect blood clotting for at least two weeks after your surgery, such as aspirin, Motrin, vitamin E, or herbal medicines. Tylenol is often a safe alternative; however, it is always best to consult with your surgeon before taking any over-the-counter medication. When taking prescription pain pills, it is important to drink lots of fluids. Pain pills can cause constipation, and to counteract this it is important to stay hydrated and move around frequently.
2. GET MOVING
Get plenty of rest in the first day or two post-surgery; however don’t continuously lie around and do nothing. Even if you don’t feel like going out for a long walk, taking a walk around your house or going outside for some fresh air is much better than doing nothing. Moving helps the body heal, and may also reduce pain. It also helps reduce your odds of constipation, which is a common side effect of prescription pain medication.
3. WEAR YOUR COMPRESSION GARMENTS
Surgery may require one to wear a compression garment; this varies based on the type of procedure, but can be required for up to 8 weeks with a tummy tuck or liposuction and 1-2 weeks for breast augmentation and breast lift. Compression garments help control swelling and bruising by compressing the tissues, which helps the body reabsorb accumulated edema fluid. It also helps with contouring by preventing wrinkling of the skin and enhancing skin retraction. Pressure has often been shown to improve the appearance of scars, and the compression garments may make the scar softer, flatter, and less visible.
4. SKIP THE WORKOUT
Many cosmetic patients are anxious to return to their regular workout routines, however, it is important to do so in a safe manner that will not jeopardize the surgery results. For the first 48 hours, it is important to not be too active. To speed up recovery, it is important for the patient to avoid rigorous exercise for the first 8 weeks. The time will vary based on the type of surgery performed. Working out raises blood pressure, and elevated blood pressure can increase bruising and bleeding which leads to inflammation and swelling. Patients who engage in vigorous workout regimens too soon after surgery can experience serious complications, such as re-opening of incisions, which can result in worse post-operative scars. Even if the patient thinks they are ready, it is very important to stay out of the gym until one has completely healed, as it could significantly delay recovery time more than if the patient had adhered to their activity restrictions.
5. NO SMOKING
Avoidance of smoking is a given for any of my patients. I generally advise smokers to cease smoking 8 weeks before an operation, and just because the surgery is over does not mean they are clear to light up again. Smoking significantly delays the healing process, and can lead to serious complications during recovery. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, making them smaller and decreasing the blood supply to the tissues. Blood clots are more common in people who smoke. Tissues that are not receiving an adequate blood supply may not heal correctly, which increases the occurrence of complications. This will delay the recovery process, and ideal results for which the surgery was intended might not be achieved.
Every surgery is different, and the healing process will vary based on the type of surgery one undergoes. The recovery process is customized to each individual patient, his or her health, and their reaction to the surgery. It is very important to follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions to ensure a healthy and speedy recovery that allows your body to heal properly, and provides you with ultimate results.