Phases of Healing Following Surgery


Undergoing surgery of any kind is a traumatic experience, and your time spent healing can be a painful, daunting, stressful process. For many people, the questions that arise during their recovery can morph into an endless stream of confusion.

“Am I supposed to feel this way?”

“Is this how I’m supposed to look?”

“When will I feel better?”

All of these questions are perfectly normal, but when they go without answers, the growing anxiety can become an obstacle in your recovery. By making a choice to actively participate in your own healing, you are directing your awareness out of your anxious mind and into your recovering body, with its innate ability to heal successfully. At Soulstice, we provide Peri-operative Therapy, a gentle approach for surgical patients that facilitates accelerated healing. Along with Peri-operative Therapy, we provide support and guidance, educating you and your body along every phase of your healing journey.

With any surgery – be it elective or reconstructive plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery, or OB/GYN – there are three distinct phases of healing that your body passes through as it repairs itself. Understanding these stages, as well as the support Soulstice provides along the way, helps take the mystery out of the recovery process.

Acute, or Inflammatory Phase

The inflammatory phase begins immediately following your surgical procedure and is characterized by swelling, redness, and pain. This stage can last from a few days up to six weeks, and it is during this time that your body is doing all it can to protect the affected area. This sense of guarding can echo into your mental state as well – many people tend to hole up in their homes to heal in private. For people undergoing surgery, dramatic changes in appearance coupled with bruising and swelling can further contribute to this quiet isolation. It is during this initial week following surgery that you feel inclined to withdraw, stay inside, and keep to yourself.

At Soulstice, we encourage you to get out and move as soon as you are able – and what better incentive to do so than by travelling to Soulstice for a healing, calming, therapeutic appointment? We greet you with warmth and optimism, knowing full well that your body looks entirely normal in relation to the trauma it underwent. Our clients say how helpful and positive it is to have a reason to leave the house for compassionate, focused care. It’s easy to forget how powerful human touch can be, and welcoming Soulstice into your recovery changes your journey from a solo expedition into a team effort.

Your initial appointments during this phase of healing will center on light work that mobilizes your lymphatic fluid, reduces swelling, and accelerates the beginning of your healing process. Most importantly, you’ll have gained an extra set of eyes and hands trained to monitor you, your surgical site, and your surrounding tissue. Additionally, you’ll have gained a resource in answering any questions that may arise during your recovery.

 Sub-acute, or Proliferative Phase

Your body transitions into this second phase of repair approximately three to six weeks post-surgery, and can remain here for up to a year. To proliferate is to grow by rapid production, and that is exactly what your body is going through during this stage. The visible signs of inflammation will subside, and new tissue forms, with the edges of your wound pulling back together. This new tissue is fragile, and susceptible to injury.

It is during this phase that people feel like their mind is ready for them to be better, but their body is lagging behind. Oftentimes, remaining bruising and limited range of motion can bring about a sense of buyer’s remorse, with people questioning why they decided to undergo surgery in the first place.

“Can I get back to work? What about exercise?”

“Is this my final result?”

“I thought I’d be better by now.”

The fear that tends to arise during this phase of healing can cause you to guard the area even further. You may be scared to move too much, and this anxiety can cause you to lock down and stay still in order to protect yourself. This fragile new tissue, however, is susceptible to more than just injury – it is also susceptible to stagnancy, and restricting movement can form adhesions. These adhesions can limit range of motion when movement is eventually reintroduced, so appropriate mobilization of the tissue during this stage is important.

The benefit of working with your peri-operative therapist lies in their knowledge of what will and won’t be best for you. Some people close down, and we remind them to get out and move. Some people push themselves too far too fast, and we remind them to slow down and allow themselves to heal. Your greatest benefit lies in getting answers to your questions, and support to get through your fears and anxieties.

Chronic, or Remodeling Phase

This phase can continue for a period from several months to several years. It is during this stage that new tissue organizes itself and matures. Your mind may continue to receive confusing messages from your body based on the memory of the trauma. Even when the body has fully healed, the alarm in your brain may still be turned on, and your body can continue working to heal the area of trauma. It is during this stage that these tissues may become stuck – your pain goes away, but you can be left with persisting symptoms that limit your range of motion and aggravate your mental well-being. This is when many people question when, or even if, they will ever be “back to normal.”

The answer to that question has a caveat – your body is different now. Your skin, muscles, and sometimes even your bones are all in new places, in positions they have never been before. Because of this, “back to normal” really translates to “discovering your new normal.”

Helping you discover your new normal is your therapist’s primary goal. Remodeling can be difficult to push through, but much like the final few miles of a marathon, the support of your Soulstice therapist combined with your own awareness and strength will get you past the finish line.

Health Maintenance

Once you have passed through these three phases of healing, you once again have the freedom that comes with good health and well-being. You also gain the opportunity of choice when it comes to maintaining this health and well-being.

Oftentimes, our Peri-operative Therapy clients choose to transition into receiving health maintenance massage – regular tune-ups to keep their bodies in a place of wellness. Other clients come in and out of receiving further massage therapy by returning to Soulstice when new injuries arise. Some simply continue moving forward, content with their newfound independence and imbued, freshly healed spirit. Whatever your choice may be, the door at Soulstice is always open, and allies in healing will always be here for you, through all the seasons of your life.

Charles Turlington, Soulstice Peri-operative Therapist

This is why here at Soulstice, we say we build relationships for life.