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Renewal - Education Focus: Recovery from surgery

"Renewal: an instance of resuming something after an interruption or the replacement or repair of something"

Easter is around the corner (for those celebrating), and it inspires a season of renewal. This got me thinking as we reach the 4th month of the year - many of our new years resolutions have faded out and we need to renew our promises to ourselves. It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race we sometimes call life, we loose focus so quickly. There is no better time than the present.

Recently I was reminded of a story I heard long ago, the Jar of Life:

A philosophy professor once stood before his class with a large empty jar. He filled the jar with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full. The students said that yes, the jar was full. He then added small pebbles to the jar and asked again, “Is the jar full now?” The students agreed that the jar was indeed full. The professor then poured sand into the jar and asked again. The students then agreed that the jar was finally full.

The professor went on to explain that the jar signifies one’s life.

The rocks are equivalent to the most important things in your life, such as family, health, and relationships. And if the pebbles and the sand were lost, the jar would still be full and your life would still have a meaning.

The pebbles represent the other things that matter in your life, such as your work, school, and house. These things often come and go, and are not permanent or essential to your overall well-being.

And finally, the sand represents the remaining small stuff and material possessions in your life. These things don’t mean much to your life as a whole and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.

The metaphor here is that if you start with putting sand into the jar, you will not have room for rocks or pebbles. This holds true for the things you let into your life too.

If you spend all of your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important. So in order to have a more effective life, you should prioritize important things in your life and then worry about pebbles and sand at a later time.

This story is does not mean to say the pebbles and sand in our lives are not valuable and necessary, rather that we remember to prioritize the rocks, be deliberate and mindful of our choices.

Let us have another look at our goals, hopes and priorities - maybe some were new years resolutions forgotten - and renew our commitment to the people (including ourselves), "the rocks" in our life and remember it is never to late to re-prioritize or start again...

Education Focus: Recovery from surgery

This is a very broad topic, as each surgery is as unique as are the individuals. Here I will cover principles of a healthy recovery, some of the tips and recommendations that I give in everyday practice.

Before we talk specifically about recovery, I must make mention of a very important step, preparation. We don't always have this luxury, oftentimes these procedures are emergencies. Before we have an elective procedure we need to educate ourselves on what it involves and what we can do before hand to improve the outcome. I am going to focus on elective orthopedic procedures here, a general overview.

Surgery is done to fix something broken or damaged by removing damaged /bulging or excessive tissue development or repairing tissue that is torn or broken. Surgery is usually indicated with injury/pain/weakness, followed up with tests/imagining/scans. You would usually way up your options and the success of conservative treatment vs surgical intervention. Once the decision is made that you require surgery, you will begin preparation.

  • Ask the Doctor about all the surgical implications, the what, where and how

  • What should you protect/not do, and what is safe; before and after the procedure

  • What is the expected recovery time, best and worst case scenario, plan for both

  • Speak to other professionals you are working with for advise and guidelines, like your Physiotherapist

  • No two surgeries, doctors, patients or outcomes are the same, so if you speak to others or google similar procedures, remember this! Manage your expectations.

  • Strengthen what you can

  • Control your pain

  • Mobilize what you can

  • Use ice for swelling/red/warm/hot injuries

  • Use heat for comfort/relief, as long as the injury or pain is not swollen/hot/red

Once you have had the procedure, remember to listen to the instructions of your doctor. write down questions before and after as you can often forget the little things.

  • How much can you safely move, and what is the expected progression

  • What are the limits of your movement and weight bearing if relevant

  • Do you need a brace, what is the purpose of it and how should it be used and when can you remove it

  • Keep any wounds/dressings clean and dry. Do not change them without specific guidance. If the site becomes more red/hot swollen and painful, contact your doctor

  • Elevate as necessary

  • As allowed, move the joints and muscles as much as permitted

  • Function is your first exercise

  • For major procedures, follow a routine in recovery. Healing is best done under consistent/predictive circumstances

  • Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy balanced diet

Your goal from any treatment/surgery is to always have good quality and comfortable function. In the case of muscles/bones/joints, you want aim for symmetry - what you can do on the one side, you can do on the other. Sometimes this is not possible, especially if your anatomy has changed, working towards the highest level of function possible is your objective. Don't expect a quick fix or to simply be a passive bystander

, nothing is that simple, there is always cause and effect. Surgeries have come so far and so much good can be done from them, but the best results come from a team effort, where you are the biggest role player in your own renewal and healing, so make it count!

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