Tips for Taking Care of Yourself After Surgery


In 1995, when we first began treating post-surgical patients, massage therapy and other so-called “alternative,” treatments were just coming to be accepted as viable methods to speed up healing and to provide more favorable surgical outcomes and greater patient satisfaction.

It has always seemed obvious to us that physicians should expand the box of tools available to them to promote post-surgical healing. And over the last several years, the effectiveness of more and more of these basic, evidence-based modalities has been clinically demonstrated – including our own Peri-operative Therapy.

Nutrition & Peri-operative Therapy Help Our Bodies Heal Themselves

Recently, we heard a surgeon state that there’s no need for any post-operative care, because “the body will just heal itself.” While there’s no doubt that our bodies have the extraordinary ability to heal themselves, to say that there’s no need for post-op care, or that post-surgical care is a waste of time or resources, is simply incorrect. In fact, there are many ways we can help our bodies to more efficiently do what they’ve naturally evolved to do.

Overcoming Medical Community Skepticism

As our business has gained momentum, one of the steepest hills we've climbed on our journey has been skepticism regarding ‘alternative medicine,’ from practitioners of the standard, Western model of medical thinking. We’ve had to encourage expanded views about, and perspectives on alternative modalities that can favorably support people’s surgical outcomes.

It has been a pleasure to observe over the past 15 years as physicians have opened up to new treatments and support mechanisms, without the fear of jeopardizing their professional credibility. In fact, today it seems that if a surgeon isn’t integrating some alternative ideas and treatments into their practice, they’re “behind the times” or “old school.”

Besides Peri-operative Therapy, one of the most powerful of these techniques is also one over which you – the patient – have a lot of control: your diet and nutrition.

Last month, we discussed the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. If you follow the link to revisit that article, you’ll find some very solid advice on generally healthy eating, why it’s so important, and how to get started on it.

And for post-surgical patients, many of those tips still apply.

What Should We Eat After Surgery?

A wide variety of solid studies, based on good science indicate that a healthy diet is even more important when you’re in recovery then at normal, lower stress times of your life, and that a healthy diet will help you heal faster and more efficiently.

  • Whole Foods – This is more of a global suggestion, or strategy than a particular food item. Processed foods, fast food, frozen meals and boxed meals are simply not good for you. When you’re recuperating from a bodily trauma like surgery, the sugar and other highly refined carbs and unhealthy fats inhibit your body’s natural healing processes.

    So choose brown rice rather than white rice or pasta, whole grain or whole wheat breads over white breads, whole fruits or vegetables instead of juices. Order a baked potato instead of fries.
  • Focus on Fiber – Here’s another bit of general advice. One of the most common complications reported by post-surgery patients is constipation. The best weapon against continuation is dietary fiber, so make sure to eat plenty of beans, green vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains.
  • Protein – Wounds heal faster when you include protein in your diet, and surgical incisions are a type of wound. Keep it relatively lean and make sure to include chicken and eggs (especially the whites), fish (which contain healthy fats like Omega 3s), and even some grass-fed beef, which provides vitamin B (as long as it’s relatively lean, like a sirloin or filet).
  • Carbohydrates – Another commonly reported complication after surgery is fatigue. Your body has been through a lot during your surgery, and it’s also investing a lot of energy resources in repairing the damage. The right kind of carbohydrates provide the energy you need to heal your incisions, and get some appropriate exercise.

    Unrefined carbohydrates are best like beans and legumes (which also supply fiber), whole fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
  • Healthy fats – Healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, and fish like salmon helps boost your immune response of prevent post-surgery infection, and to expedite your healing process.

A Great Resource for Post-Surgery Diet Information

One of our referring physicians – Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Gregory A. Buford – recognized, based on his years of helping patients heal, that how and what we eat plays a major role in how we heal.

Dr. Buford has presented on this topic at medical conferences nationwide, and has come to be regarded as a leader in the movement to help patients get better faster by helping them make better health choices (including nutrition and massage), both before and after their surgery.

Eat Drink Heal: The Art and Science of Surgical Nutrition, is Dr. Buford's latest book on the topic. In it, he writes about why proper nutrition is important and how to plan for optimal healing before you even go to surgery. This information is meant for anyone scheduled for elective or non-elective surgery. It may quite simply mean the difference between whether you have a smooth or a rough recovery.

Other Steps You Can Take to Help Yourself Heal After Surgery

  • Soulstice Peri-operative Therapy – integrated manual techniques to assist in post-op rehab
  • Stop Smoking – Smoking shuts down extremity circulation, and can slow or stop surgical healing. Some surgeons will no longer perform surgery if a patient smokes because of poor long-term outcomes
  • Exercise – Gentle walking to stimulate lymphatic flow and blood circulation
  • Meditation – Calms the mind, helps manage pain
  • Medication – Supplementing with some pharmacology may help with post-surgical pain
  • Herbal supplements – Like arnica to mitigate bruising
  • Hydration – This is so important for your energy, to prevent cramping, and to keep your digestive tract functioning properly. If you don’t like drinking water, eat water-filled fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers, or jicama.
  • Rest – Even though your mind may tell you it’s time to get back to your regular routine, your body actually needs up to several weeks to get itself back on track

You can pick up Dr. Buford's book at Amazon.

The way we look at it, if there’s anything that can be done to assist the body’s healing after a surgical procedure, then why not engage it?

Take your healthy habits to the next level with therapeutic post-surgical massage. Call 303-628-0205 and set up your next appointment with Soulstice.