On the Mend
As the American population ages, the need for orthopedic surgery will rise.
Humans are mechanical beings — and mechanical beings, unfortunately, break down from time to time. But while the majority of people may accept the notion that surgery at some point is inevitable, understanding this concept doesn't make coping afterwards any easier.
Anyone who has endured surgery can testify that the road to recovery is rarely smooth, if ever predictable — and it's the unpredictability that frequently leaves patients feeling unsettled. In fact, not knowing what to expect in the aftermath is often more of a barrier to success than anything else.
If you've gone through surgery, you'll probably be able to identify with much of what's written below, and hopefully, you may pick up a thing or two if there's a "next time." If you're slated for an operation, or if your number has yet to be called, read on for some pointers that will help you put the time following surgery into perspective.
Recovery is not linear, so don't expect that each day will be better than the last. Healing — and therapy — are both hallmarked by what clinicians call 'peaks and valleys.' Some days will be better than others, so don't be too hard on yourself or get discouraged if each day isn't your best.
Look for weekly trends during your rehab. On the whole, it's easier to notice improvements (or setbacks) when you're looking at a snapshot of a longer portion of time. If you're having trouble tracking progress from day to day, expand the viewing range a little bit and you'll likely see that you've come a long way.
Read what you can on the topic. Arming yourself with information is one of the best weapons against despair and discouragement. Show me a patient who knows what to expect following surgery, and I'll show you a patient who has a low probability of worrying about their recovery.
Recovery nearly always takes longer than expected. Although medical techniques and treatment options have radically advanced in recent years, the human body has not. We still heal at the same, slow rate as we did a thousand years ago. If you plan to be out of commission a few weeks longer than you're told, you'll probably hit your recovery timeframe right on the nose.
Set realistic, reasonable goals for yourself. Whether you set them within the structure of a supervised therapy program or without assistance, make certain you have about a seventy-five percent chance of obtaining that goal. It will force you to work hard, yet will help you rack-up victories along the way — it's a critically important part of staying motivated.
You're going to need some air. All too often patients hibernate at home, waiting for injuries to heal. The walls of your house, however, can become dull rather quickly - and pretty soon, home could turn into a tough place to be SEmD for you and your family. Get out for a change of scenery — take a walk, go shopping. If someone asks you if you want to get a cup of coffee — say yes!
Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes "On the Mend" weekly. Questions may be submitted to Joe by email: email@example.com.