Postoperative Care & Recovery

An exhausted runner catching a break during her morning run.

If you have surgery planned soon, you’re probably very interested in learning how you can heal faster and get back to your normal day-to-day life. More often than not, recovery after surgery is pretty straight-forward, especially if you follow all of the discharge instructions that are provided to you. However, following after-surgery care instructions isn’t always the easiest, especially if you didn’t take time to prepare for postoperative care and recovery ahead of time.

Here’s what you need to know about setting yourself up for safe and successful postoperative care and recovery.

Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon

It’s been a few days since surgery and you’re feeling better. While you may be experiencing less pain, this doesn’t mean that you’ll want to partake in physical activity. Getting active too quickly can have a negative impact on your post-surgery recovery.

When you’re recovering from surgery, it takes time to heal. You don’t want to risk jumping the gun and getting into too much too soon. This can cause your incision to heal improperly, slow the recovery process, or lead to excessive pain the next day. You don’t want to spend days recovering, only to end up back at square one.

If your doctor gave you specific post-operation information about physical activity and working after surgery, follow them. While you’re likely cleared for light, simple activities, avoid strenuous exercise after surgery unless you’re cleared to participate.

Exercises You Can Do After Surgery

It is important to incorporate gentle exercises as soon after surgery as your doctor recommends. Surgery, inactivity, and bed rest may increase your risk of developing blood clots.1 Your body may release natural substances that increase blood clotting, which is an essential part of how a wound heals. Physical activity improves circulation and helps prevent unwanted blood clots in blood vessels, so even gentle stretches in bed or sitting can be very beneficial exercise after surgery.

Always follow your doctor’s recommendations, as the right exercise routine and timing of when you return to normal activity will be different depending on the type of surgery you have. In general, these specific exercises are a gentle way to keep blood flowing and maintain flexibility:

  • Walking short distances, even from a bed to a chair at first. Use your arms, if they are unaffected by surgery, when rising from a chair to maintain upper body strength.
  • Chair exercises, including foot pumps, shoulder rolls, flexing your ankles, and lifting your feet a few inches off the ground.
  • Stretches lying down, in bed if needed. Point your toes, then flex your ankles to point them up. Stretch your thighs by raising each leg in turn and holding it up until you feel the gentle pull in your hamstrings, followed by raising your knee to your chest and holding it there, if this does not cause pain in your incision areas.

Working with a physical therapist in the months after surgery can help you return to maximum mobility, track progress, and avoid muscle loss.

Go to All Post-Op Appointments

It’s also important to go to all follow-up appointments. While this may seem obvious, many patients choose to skip their postoperative appointments because they feel good and are healing well, so going to the doctor may seem like an unnecessary trip and an unneeded expense. Yet, your doctor wants to know how you feel and will want to examine your incision to ensure you’re truly in good health and healing as expected.

Remember, physicians are trained medical professionals, and they are able to spot things that you as a patient may not know to look for. Post-surgery appointments are also a time when your doctor may adjust pain medication, recommend dietary changes, or prescribe physical therapy.

Take Care of Yourself

During postoperative care and recovery, you may become your own at-home doctor. If this is the case, you need to do everything possible in order to take optimal care of yourself. This means eating a healthy diet, taking medications as prescribed, getting enough sleep, and staying active to prevent blood clots.

Other steps you’ll want to take in order to keep yourself in tip-top health while recovering from surgery, as directed by your doctor, include:

  • Using soap and water to clean your incision
  • Inspecting your incision
  • Washing your hands often
  • Sneezing and coughing carefully

While there are many dos, don’ts, tips, and tricks for a smooth postoperative recovery, the most important thing to do is to follow your doctor’s instructions and to call your doctor if anything feels wrong.

Foods That Promote Healing After Surgery

A table full of foods that promote healing after surgery such as whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and fishes.

Making changes to your diet after surgery can help speed the healing process, regulate blood sugar levels, and support the immune system. Some of the best foods that promote healing after surgery include2:

  • Whole grains for fiber and carbohydrates—these may be in bread or cooked form, including oatmeal, whole wheat, corn, and other grains
  • Fresh fruits, including citrus fruits and berries for natural antioxidants
  • Vegetables, cooked or fresh, including dark leafy greens for vitamins and minerals
  • Lean protein, including fish, chicken, nuts, and tofu, which is essential for muscle healing

Foods to Avoid After Surgery

Constipation is a common side effect of surgery and can put stress on healing tissues and increase pain levels. Returning the digestive system to normal function is one of the reasons for the foods recommended above. There are foods to avoid after surgery which have a tendency to cause constipation or make it worse.

Some problem foods following surgery are2:

  • Red meat, which is difficult to digest and may be high in saturated fats
  • Cheese, milk, and dairy products, which should be eaten in moderation once postoperative constipation as passed
  • Processed foods and sweets, which contain very little fiber and are high in fat and sugar
  • Dehydrated or dried foods, such as jerky, some chips, and dried fruit (prunes are an exception to this, as they naturally fight constipation)

Problems Eating After Surgery?

Sometimes due to digestive distress, pain, or medications, some people have trouble eating following surgery. If this is a problem for you, focus on eating small portions of nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods throughout the day. A supplement or meal replacement drink might be recommended by your doctor to make sure you are getting enough calories, protein, and nutrients to promote healing.

How atHand® Overbed Table System Can Help

A picture of the atHand® Overbed Table System that showcases its adjustable LED lights, one for reading and one for nighttime activities.

There are all sorts of products that are designed to make the recovery process easier, but one item that you don’t want to be without is an atHand® Overbed Table System. These table systems are especially beneficial if you’re on your own after surgery, though they can be valuable to anyone who wants to maintain their independence during the recovery period.

We’re proud to offer an overbed table system that includes all sorts of features, such as:

  • Power & USB ports
  • Touch LED lighting
  • Storage cabinet
  • Easy-glide table
  • Two locking wheels

Moving after surgery can be limited—so, by having an atHand® Overbed Table System, you can have everything you need within an arm’s reach. Our table system offers plenty of storage so that you can have access to remotes, smart devices, medications, and anything else you need on a daily basis.

The atHand® table is designed for usability and convenience in mind. The table tray can be rotated and positioned just the way you want it. It’s also made with two locking wheels that keep the table safely in place while also offering the ability to move where you need to.

Our table system offers a smooth design, so you never have to worry about things falling in between gaps and crevices. A smooth design also lowers the risk of trapped germs and bacteria that could impact your recovery.

When it’s time to start planning for your recovery and care weeks after surgery, you’ll want to ensure you have everything you need. If you’re interested in learning more about the atHand® Overbed Table System, contact us online or call our team at (440) 628-9550. We look forward to being part of your recovery!


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-prevent-blood-clots-after-surgery#takeaway
  2. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-to-eat-during-your-recovery-after-surgery-3156923