Upper extremity injuries and surgery will inevitably cause disruption in your lifestyle. When surgery is required, either because of a fracture or an acute reccurring injury that does not subside, active participation in your recovery is the best way to return to normal function as quickly as possible.
Your doctor will prescribe a recovery plan that should be closely followed to ensure that the healing process goes smoothly.
Pain immediately after surgery is often treated with medication that is tapered off as soon as it is practical. If you have lingering pain in the weeks after surgery your doctor might recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) to help relieve it. Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking any pain medication and communicate openly about any discomfort you feel.
The combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation is a standard approach for many injuries, including recovery from surgery.
Getting ample rest is necessary for your body to heal itself. Your body will consume more energy than usual as it repairs tissues and copes with the trauma of surgery.
Using ice or other cold therapy methods is proven to help reduce the swelling and pain that you will experience after surgery.
Compression is used to help remove edema, or excess fluid, and also contributes to the reduction of swelling.
Elevation helps limit swelling by making it more difficult for excess fluids to travel to the affected area. Controlling swelling is important for speeding up the healing process. Although some swelling is normal (and in fact beneficial), too much swelling impedes cellular and tissue repair.
Physical therapy after surgery is essential for restoring strength and flexibility to your injured muscles and other tissues. Some activities that might be included in your therapy include:
- Muscle strengthening exercises to help you return to normal function
- Stretches to increase flexibility and improve mobility
- Activities to help reduce scar tissue on your skin
Always follow the directions from your physical therapist to ensure optimal recovery. Although you may be encouraged to start using your hand or wrist shortly after surgery, too much activity can slow down the healing process. Work closely with your therapist to strike the right balance of activity.
Cold Compression Therapy
Cold compression therapy is recommended for surgery recovery for all the same reasons it is used to treat reoccurring acute injuries. It is more effective than ice packs and static compression bandages, and there is no risk of tissue damage from temperatures that are too cold.
This type of therapy is particularly beneficial for surgery recovery because it helps accelerate the healing process in the following ways:
- Cold reduces cellular metabolism, which reduces cell death and secondary tissue damage
- Active compression removes edema, which can contribute to slower healing
- Active compression increases blood flow, which brings more oxygen for tissue repair
The faster your muscles, ligaments, and tendons can heal after surgery, the more quickly you will be able to return to normal activity. Adding cold compression therapy to your recovery program is the best way to ensure the fastest rehabilitation.