What to Do After Orthopedic Surgery?


You’ve just undergone orthopedic surgery and might be feeling a bit lost in the face of pain and the lengthy recovery process ahead. Don’t worry, it’s normal to experience some anxiety. The good news is that you’re not alone in this journey. Millions of people recover from orthopedic surgeries every year. With proper care, rest, and patience, you’ll soon regain your mobility and independence.

In the weeks and months to come, there will be ups and downs. Sometimes, the pain might seem unbearable, and the road to recovery endless. But remember, this is temporary. With the support of your loved ones and by following your doctor’s recommendations, you’ll get through this challenging period. Keep reading to discover some practical tips that will help you better manage pain, expedite your recovery, and regain a good quality of life.


Managing Pain After Orthopedic Surgery

Pain after orthopedic surgery is normal, but it can be managed. Here are some tips to help you overcome discomfort and speed up your recovery:

Take your pain medications as prescribed. This might include anti-inflammatories, pain relievers, or opioids for more severe pain. Ensure you don’t exceed the recommended dose and don’t abruptly stop opioids.

Apply ice

Place ice packs or cold compresses on the painful area for 10 to 20 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling and soothe pain. Be careful not to apply ice directly to the skin.

Rest and elevation

Keep the operated leg or arm elevated and at rest as much as possible. This reduces pressure and promotes blood circulation.

Light exercise and physiotherapy

As soon as your surgeon allows, start with gentle exercises and stretches to prevent blood clots and maintain your range of motion. Physiotherapy can begin shortly after surgery to help you regain strength and mobility.

With time and patience, the pain will subside. Trust the process and focus on your healing. Soon, you’ll be back on your feet! If the pain becomes unmanageable, contact your doctor.

Physiotherapy Exercises to Expedite Healing

Physiotherapy is essential for expediting recovery after orthopedic surgery. Here are some key exercises to do with the guidance of your physiotherapist.

Passive mobilization

Your physiotherapist will gently move your joint in all possible directions to prevent stiffness and stimulate blood flow. While this might be slightly painful, it’s important for recovering your range of motion.

Isometric exercises

Before starting active exercises, perform isometric exercises where you contract your muscles without moving your joints. For example, squeeze a towel between your knees or press your hands against each other. Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds, then release. Repeat 10-15 times.

Assisted active exercises

Once the pain begins to decrease, your physiotherapist will guide you through light exercises using elastic bands or weights. For instance, slowly lift your leg while it’s attached to an elastic band. Or do knee bends with a light weight placed on your thigh.

With time and practice, your exercises will become more challenging as your strength and range of motion increase. Always listen to your body – don’t force it if the pain is too intense. With patience and perseverance, you’ll soon regain your mobility and independence!

Nutrition and Diet to Support Recovery

After orthopedic surgery, your diet can significantly impact your recovery. By prioritizing whole and nutritious foods, you’ll provide your body with the energy it needs to heal. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Consume more protein. Aim to have 3 to 4 ounces of high-quality protein with each meal, such as fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, or legumes. Proteins provide the necessary amino acids for building new muscles and repairing tissues.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to avoid dehydration and help your body absorb medications. Herbal teas, broths, and diluted fruit juices are also good options.
  • Reduce inflammation. Opt for an anti-inflammatory diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, olive oil, and turmeric or ginger. Limit red meat, sugar, and processed foods. An anti-inflammatory diet will help reduce pain and expedite healing.
  • Consider supplements. Discuss with your doctor about supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc. They can aid wound healing and bone health. But take supplements under medical supervision, as some may interact with your medications.
  • Monitor your weight. If eating is difficult due to pain or nausea, consume nutritious drinks or smoothies to maintain your weight. Losing weight after surgery can slow down your recovery.
  • Be flexible. Your appetite and tastes may change as your body heals. Don’t hesitate to adapt your diet to what you’re hungry for and what you can easily digest. The most important thing is to stay nourished, so do your best and be patient with yourself.

Adopting a nutritious and balanced diet tailored to your needs is one of the best ways to promote recovery after orthopedic surgery. Your body will heal faster, and you’ll feel better sooner by giving it the fuel it needs. Stay positive – you’ve got this!

Rest and Sleep: The Importance of Rest for Recovery

Rest and sleep are highly important after orthopedic surgery. Your body needs time to heal, and rest is essential to the healing process.

Give Your Body a Chance to Heal

After surgery, your body works hard to repair tissues and reduce inflammation. This requires a significant amount of energy. Rest allows your body to focus on healing. Adequate rest also helps prevent complications and improves recovery time.

Try to get more sleep at night and take naps if possible. Limit physical activity and mental stimulation from TV, phones, and computers. Keep your mind clear and calm. Even light activity, like short walks, should be minimized during the first week after surgery.

Find a Comfortable Position

Finding a comfortable resting position can be challenging depending on the surgical procedure. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for proper positioning and use additional pillows for support. Elevating a leg, ice, heat, and over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate discomfort.

If you’ve had joint replacement surgery, keep the joint elevated above heart level as much as possible. For upper body surgeries, a reclining chair may be more comfortable. Place a pillow under your arm for support and elevate your hand above heart level. For lower body surgeries like hip replacement, lie on your back with a pillow under your knees and apply ice to the joint.

Ask for Help When Needed

Don’t try to do too much on your own after surgery. Ask friends and family for help with daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, bathing, and changing dressings. Let others assist you with going up and down stairs, walking, and exercising. Accepting help will allow you to rest as much as possible, which is crucial for your recovery.

The recovery process can sometimes be difficult and frustrating. However, with sufficient rest, proper positioning, and the assistance of others, you’ll find your way back to healing and independence. Be patient throughout the process and remember that rest truly is the best solution.

Gradual Return to Daily Activities

The path to recovery after orthopedic surgery involves a gradual return to normal activities and mobility. It’s a gradual process that requires patience and caution. Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding the timeline and be sure not to overexert yourself.

Light daily activities

After a few days of rest, start with light daily activities such as short walks, gentle stretches, and light household chores. Walks should be brief, around 5 to 10 minutes, twice a day. Stretches will help prevent stiffness and increase your range of motion. Simple tasks like dusting, doing dishes, or preparing light meals are acceptable, but avoid strenuous activities.

Return to work

The timing for returning to work will be determined by the surgeon based on the physical activity and lifting involved. Make sure to inform your employer about your leave duration and any temporary work adjustments needed upon your return.


You can resume driving once you’re no longer taking prescription pain medications and you feel in control of the vehicle. Begin with short distances before attempting longer trips. Be very cautious when getting in and out of the vehicle. You may need special equipment like a seat cushion for added comfort and support.

Advanced mobility

Over the weeks and months, gradually transition to more advanced mobility and heavier activities. Walking, cycling, and swimming are excellent ways to regain strength and range of motion. Light resistance band exercises can begin around 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. Always start slowly and avoid impact activities like jogging until your doctor gives you the green light.

The key is to progressively increase your activity level. Even after being cleared for normal activities, listen to your body and don’t overdo it. Full recovery can take several months, so try to be patient with the challenges. Stay attentive to your physiotherapist, surgeon, and your own progress in mobility. By staying active and mobile, you’ll be able to fully embrace life once again.


Now that you’ve undergone orthopedic surgery and your body is starting to heal, remember to continue taking care of yourself. The pain will gradually subside, even if it seems unbearable at first. Keep in mind that this is normal and it will pass. Focus on your rehabilitation, perform your exercises, and try to move a little more each day. Also, make sure to take time to rest. Listen to your body and don’t push it beyond its limits.

This recovery period might feel long, but it will pass quickly. Before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet and active. So, stay positive, take care of yourself, and don’t hesitate to seek help from your loved ones if needed. Healing is a journey, so make sure to surround yourself with support along the way. You’ve undergone a significant surgical procedure, so congratulate yourself on having the courage to go through with it. Now, focus on your healing and your return to a normal and active life. You’re almost there!


Read also:

When to See an Orthopedic Surgeon?
What is an Orthopedic Clinic?
Private Orthopedic Surgery in Quebec: Is it the Best Choice?
Types of Orthopedic Surgeries
Choosing Your Orthopedic Surgeon
What to Do Before Orthopedic Surgery?
Managing Chronic Pain After Orthopedic Surgery