How to Perform Post-Operative Exercises to Improve the Recovery Process

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One major goal of pre-operative teaching is to prepare and equip the patient with all necessary information needed in order to increase the patient’s comfort, minimize the chances of developing post-surgery complications and improve the recovery pr

Any form of surgery is usually a unique experience and no matter how many times a person has undergone successful operations, there is always the concern and fear due to risk factors associated with surgeries. The potential of developing post-surgery complications is high in almost every patient and these complications can range from respiratory infection such as pneumonia to more serious cardiovascular complications such as shock. 

One major goal of pre-operative teaching is to prepare and equip the patient with all necessary information needed in order to increase the patient’s comfort, minimize the chances of developing post-surgery complications and improve the recovery process. The risk of developing post-surgery complications can be minimized by teaching the patient on how to perform simple exercises.  These post-operative exercises should ideally be taught a few weeks before the surgery in order to give the patient enough time to practice.

The two most important post-operative goals for any patients are; knowing how to promote optimal lung expansion and other exercises that can help in improving the overall circulation.

How to Perform Diaphragmatic Breathing

This is the most effective form of breathing exercise. During inspiration, the upper abdominal muscles enlarge displacing the dome of the diaphragm and enabling the air to rush into the lungs. During expiration, the abdominal muscles contract and air moves out.

  • Position the head of a bed in 45 degrees (semi-fowlers position).
  • Make a loose fist and allow one of your hands to rest lightly on the upper chest and the other one below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel the chest movement as you breathe.
  • Breathe in gently and fully through your nose letting the abdomen rise as the lungs fill with air.  As much as possible do not move the hand positioned on the upper chest.
  • Hold this breathe for a count of five.
  • Tightens your abdominal muscle and let out all the air through your mouth (exhale). Use the pursed lip breathing techniques (as if you are blowing off a candle). Do not move the hand positioned on the upper chest.
  • Patients can repeat this exercise around 15 times, twice a day by taking short rest in between a group of five.

How to Perform Coughing Exercises

Coughing exercises help in clearing mucus by dislodging it in the respiratory tract. Sometimes, coughing exercises may feel very uncomfortable but the good thing is that, it cannot harm the incision site.

  • In a sitting position, lean forward and position your interlaced fingers across the incision site in order to give it support when coughing. You can also use a pillow to support the incision.
  • Inhale around 3-4 deep breathe through your nose and exhale by use of pursed lip technique as discussed above.
  • Take a deep breath through your nose. Hold the breath for a few seconds.
  • Expel the air out sharply by saying “hack” around 3-4 times.
  • Take another deep breath and immediately give a strong cough once or twice.

Repeat this exercise 3-4 times a day or as long as you feel comfortable doing it.

How to Perform Leg Exercises

This is done to improve the leg circulation and to promote venous return.

  • Position the head of the bed in a 45 degree or lie in a semi-fowler’s position.
  • Slightly flex or bend your knee and raise your foot up, hold it in that same position for a few seconds. Extend it and lower it on the bed.
  • Perform this exercise for five times with one leg then move to the other leg and repeat the same exercise.
  • Assume that you are tracing a circle by use of your feet. Bend the legs down, towards each other, up and then outwards.
  • Perform this exercise for at least five times.

 How to Turn on the Side

  • Flex your uppermost leg and use a pillow to support it while turning on the side.
  • Hold on the side rail to give you extra support that you need during turning.

These exercises can help in preventing possible complications and improving the recovery process but should only be performed if recommended by a physician.  Some exercises like early ambulation requires assistance from health care personnel and should not be attempted by any unstable patient. Other patients are put under complete bed rest and no exercise should be performed. Consult your physician before starting any form of exercise.  

3 comments

Timm
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Posted on Apr 19, 2012
Sandy James
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Posted on Apr 19, 2012
John Smither
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Posted on Apr 19, 2012