Stephen McCulley, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon. MBChb, FCS(SA)Plast, FRCS(plast)

5 post-surgery tips for a comfortable recovery

Recovering from surgery is a different experience for everyone and recommendations will vary according to your individual circumstances, so always ask your surgeon for the best aftercare plan for you. Here are a few general tips to keep in mind that will help you during recovery.

1. Keep moving

Although you should avoid strenuous exercise or movement, particularly in the first two weeks after surgery, staying still is also not recommended. Gentle exercise, such as a few light walks, during this period will stop you from getting restless and keep circulation flowing.

After the first 10 days you should be able to try some moderate exercise like cycling on an exercise bike or taking a longer walk. And after six weeks you should be able to get back to high-impact exercise.

2. Rest and recuperate

It may sound obvious, but undergoing surgery is an ordeal for your body and you need to give yourself enough rest for it to heal. Rushing to get back to normal before your body is ready could lead to complications. Allow yourself some time off and enjoy the rest – it’s a good opportunity to have a break from your normal daily routine.

The amount of rest you need varies with the type of surgery you have had, so you should consult with your surgeon about this.

3. Dress lightly

After your surgery you should wear light clothing that doesn’t put pressure on or stretch your wounds, so avoid anything elasticated or tight. A onesie, for example, is a great garment to wear around the house while you’re recovering: loose-fitting, warm and comfortable.

4. Care for scars

Scarring is a consequence of surgery and the amount and rate at which scars fade often depends on the individual. But there are things you can try to manage and minimise your scars:

  • Moisturising – once the scars have formed, massaging in moisturiser once or twice a day is helpful.
  • Using silicone tape – for tummy and breast scars, silicone tape can help reduce the appearance, but they need to be worn as much as possible within the first three or four months to be effective. Speak to your surgeon if this option is of interest to you.
  • Avoiding the sun – it’s important to avoid exposing your scars to direct sunlight for the first six to 12 months after surgery. Scar tissue often doesn’t have pigmentation, which means it has no natural protection from the sun.

5. Choose showers over baths

Because the body produces a special kind of ‘glue’ to cover wounds, you’ll be able to shower soon after your surgery. You may be given shower-proof dressings for the first week, but your surgeon will let you know if this is necessary. After two or three days your wounds should be sufficiently healed to get them completely wet in the shower. However, baths are not hygienic for wounds and can soak off the natural ‘glue’ on your wounds and cause infection.

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