Healing Quickly From Surgery

Posted on October 6, 2011. Filed under: Exercise, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , |

 By Dr. Gregory Steiner~

First, many heart-felt thanks to all my patients, friends and neighbors who wished me well, helped me out and (of course!) made fun of me while I was crutch-bound following the cartilage transplant on my knee. Sorry – I’m walking again…..all by myself! Now see if you can catch me….

The surgery was extensive, involving a large, “full zipper” scar nearly a foot long; bone was cut and screwed back into place; several other procedures were packaged in as well to this 5-hour long “How I Spent My Christmas Vacation” episode. Rehab has started now that the bone has healed enough, though there is still a gap to fill in.

On to the point of the article – getting back to normality as quickly and surely as possible.

In my clinic, my job as an acupuncturist and chiropractor usually is to try and save patients from surgeries, though at times if I come across a condition that is severe, surprising or non-responsive, it’s equally my job to get those patients to a good surgeon; good medicine is all about teamwork.

Other times a patient will come in after having had a surgery to see how to speed recovery, or to recover to a higher level if he or she feels that improvement has stalled out. There is good news though no-one really looks forward to having surgery.

The three biggest fears usually revolve around pain, medication effects, and the temporary disability following many surgeries. The good news is that there are natural ways to reduce pain, (which lessens the need for as many medications) and to speed the repair process which in turn reduces temporary disability.

I’ll just tell the story as though I were the “case history;” I’ve often used myself as a guinea pig over my career to gain an empathetic understanding of my patients, and also to expand knowledge, and this time was no exception.

Starting a month and a half before surgery, I began a very specific exercise program to work the muscles around the knee, including methods to improve balance. The logic was simple: the stronger the muscles before the surgery, the less they will weaken during the non-weight bearing weeks of recovery. Same with balance – I had it on good authority (patient experience) that if someone doesn’t walk for an extended time, it’s almost as though the body “forgets” how, and each step is very unsteady wobbly – even if the muscles are getting stronger.

Next, I did extra acupuncture on points which assist musculoskeletal repair.  Third, I began to take a regimen of enzymes to reduce inflammation; Chinese herbs which speed trauma repair; and I also upgraded my basic diet to assist in healing as well.  Finally, I did engage in mental/psychological visualizations to make sure I entered the surgery with a good and positive healing attitude.

Surgery day

I came out of the long surgery and used the available morphine for a few hours only, then downgraded the pain meds to hydocodone which made the pain tolerable, and only at a nuisance level. At the end of the third day my leg just stopped hurting altogether except when moving……or one of the kids would bump it!

Usually people remain off work for 2-6 weeks with this surgery, but I was able to go back to the clinic the following week and work out of a wheelchair….which many patients found amusing in a black-humor sort of way! I went back to the gym after 6 days, but of course only to do moderate exercise at upper body machines.

Crutches followed for several weeks, and while the pain was not bad, the cartilage and bone needed time to knit.  Being off crutches has felt like freedom, and the strength continues to build very rapidly. Proper physical therapy (which is absolutely indispensable after surgery) has begun as well – again we had to wait until basic tissue healing had taken place.

Over the weeks since surgery the nutritional regimen has continued, though with modifications. Certain of the Chinese herbs needed changed to reflect the healing process, as did the enzymes. Upper body exercise continues at a much more vigorous level (the anesthesia did take some days to totally wear off); walking improves daily; and it’s time to start thinking about the other leg…..no- not quite yet!

The summary is this: if it’s your time for surgery, if you “pre-hab,” rehab and effectively control your nutrition your pain will almost certainly be less and your recovery faster – or very much faster. Speed isn’t the only thing though – it’s setting the stage for the highest level of recovery that’s the most important factor when you undergo a surgical procedure that will change your body forever.

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