Swelling occurs due to an inflammatory response from your body, but it can hinder the recovery process. In this guide, you will learn how to reduce swelling after surgery.
With any trauma or injury, your body often has an inflammatory response that we notice as swelling. Medical procedures and surgery, in particular, can also cause swelling. After having surgery, it is common to experience swelling and its related discomfort. There are some steps you can take to reduce swelling after surgery, however, and this can help you feel better faster. Keep reading to learn more about why swelling occurs as well as what you can do before and after your procedure to help reduce swelling after surgery.
Why Do We Have Swelling?
There are many different types of injuries that can cause swelling, so it’s very likely that you have experienced it before. A sprained or strained ankle can cause swelling all the way up into your calf and down to your toes. A bumped head often causes a swollen area that is sometimes colloquially called a “goose egg.” Even a cut or a bad scratch can cause the tissues around the injury to swell. Of course, it isn’t only an injury that can cause swelling; arthritis, fluid retention, and yes, surgery can all cause tissues to get swollen.
Why does it happen? When your body detects an injury, it sends fluid, including white blood cells, to the area. The extra fluid and blood cells help promote healing. There is also a secondary benefit: The swelling is uncomfortable, and it can help the injured person to avoid putting more strain and stress on that area, which, in turn, will help them heal more quickly.
Swelling After Surgery
When you have a surgical procedure, there are a few things at play that can cause swelling.
- The first is any condition you had already, prior to the surgery. For example, if you have severe arthritis in your knee necessitating a knee replacement, your knee might have already been swollen.
- The second is the trauma of the surgery itself. Depending on the procedure you need and the way it was done, you might have had a small to large amount of soft-tissue manipulation done. The incision itself can also become swollen.
If you aren’t moving around much after your surgery, then you can retain fluid that will contribute to your overall swelling. This is one reason that your doctor and nurses will recommend that you get up and move around as soon as possible–but more on that below.
Finally, there are complications, such as infections and reactions to medications, that can cause swelling. It’s good to keep these in mind in case this is the problem. Your healthcare providers will be watching for these signs, as well.
Tips to Reduce Swelling Before the Surgery
While most of the tips for reducing swelling will be put into effect after your procedure, there are some things you can do even before your surgery to minimize future swelling.
Keep in mind that the healthier you are going into your surgery, the healthier you will be coming out. If your surgery won’t be for a while, use this time to fine-tune your diet and exercise regimens to boost your odds of having less swelling and post-operative pain.
Go for regular walks, as this will help keep your body from retaining fluid. If you have an exercise routine and it’s safe for you to continue prior to your surgery, do so. Check with your doctor before starting anything new or if you have pain to find out what is safe for you to do.
Also, work on cleaning up your diet. Avoid processed, salty, or overly fatty foods. Cut back on sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting or at least significantly cutting back. Cutting down on salt will often help prevent fluid retention in general, so you might drop a few pounds from that step alone, particularly if you had a salty diet before.
Tips to Reduce Swelling After the Surgery
After your surgery, you’ll be in some amount of pain and discomfort. Let your healthcare providers know how you’re feeling so they can make sure you’re kept comfortable enough to move around. You might be surprised at how quickly your nurses are telling you to move your body, stand up, and even walk. This is because it will speed healing and prevent fluid retention.
Moving around will also help prevent two common complications.
- The milder complication is constipation. After surgery, your digestive system can take a few days to really get moving again, and this can be uncomfortable. Activity can help speed up the process.
- The more serious complication is deep vein thrombosis, also known as a blood clot. While the clot itself might not cause serious symptoms, if part of it breaks off and goes to the heart, lung, or brain, the results can be deadly. Getting up, walking, and doing the exercises prescribed can help prevent this potentially fatal complication.
You will want to rest the area of your body that had the surgery outside of your prescribed exercises. That will help the tissues heal. Ice will also help prevent and reduce swelling after surgery. Find out from your healthcare provider when and how to apply the ice. You will need to be careful not to put it directly on your skin or to apply it for too long, as this can cause tissue damage.
Your surgical site will usually have some type of dressing on it. Depending on where it is, you might have compression bandages. Compression can physically force the excess fluids away from the area and reduce swelling after surgery. And elevation can also help; again, this will depend on where you had the surgery.
Continuing your healthy diet and avoiding large amounts of salt will help you minimize your swelling, as will drinking plenty of fluids (preferably water and healthy fruit and vegetable juices) to help flush the excess fluid out of your system. At Pearl Recovery Retreat, we have a chef on staff who will be preparing healthy meals for you that are appropriate for post-operative care and recovery.
You can count on your healthcare providers to tell you what you need to do to reduce swelling after surgery and speed your healing. If you are recuperating at Pearl Recovery Retreat, you’ll have nurses and other staff available to you; these professionals will be able to share a lot more tips on how to prevent, reduce, and treat swelling after your surgery.