One of my friends just had a knee replacement. I read up a bit about the post-surgical experience and kept in close touch with her about her impressions in case I—or someone whose caregiver I might have to be—must someday undergo that surgery too. Here are a few important general points about recovering from surgery:
Predictions about the time it will take to recover after surgery differ widely based on the specific procedure and the person you’re asking. For example, a minimally invasive hysterectomy may require only a few weeks of recovery time, while an open procedure with its long incision could require a recovery time of 10-12 weeks. And everyone’s physiology and healing time differs, too. Your surgeon is the best source for the most accurate information possible.
Compliance is key
To be most comfortable after surgery and decrease your recovery time, you really need to listen to your discharge instructions. Read the materials that you are given, ask for clarification on any dressings, medication, procedures, therapy—any points that aren’t clear to you—and then follow those instructions. A shocking number of patients hurry to leave the hospital without really paying attention to the education they are being offered and then can’t properly comply. It won’t hurt to have a companion there to make notes and take it all in, just in case your mind is not at its sharpest.
My friend had this surgery…
If you have a friend who’s been through it, you can speak with her more intimately and comfortably about details of recovery. It’s not the advice of an expert health professional, but she knows you and your habits: “No, honey, I don’t think you can go out to jog this week.” She can confide her fears and her successes that might be relevant to you: “I was able to take a shower with my husband’s help.” You may get some helpful hints about meals, entertainment, managing sleep, local support services, and so on from your friend who is aware of your lifestyle, unlike from a professional who isn’t really aware of your lifestyle and idiosyncrasies.
On the other hand, listening to all your friend’s own experience and advice can be confusing. Though she has been though it, her suggestions may not always be helpful to your unique situation. You can expect your friend’s advice to be helpful in many personal ways, and you can expect your surgeon’s advice to be accurate, based on extensive expert knowledge. Of course, your doctor is always the one to call right away if you have concerns or complications.
Both physicians and friends alike will remind you that a healthy diet of fresh food, compliance with therapy and prescriptions, and deep rest are important. I have found in my own experience and my experience with patients that the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique affords the body an unusually deep state of rest and reduces the time needed for healing.
Even when the incision has healed and you are returning gratefully to your normal routines, the deeper layers of the physiology can continue to heal for months following surgery The traumatic effects of surgery are, in themselves, damaging and have to be alleviated—research shows that the deep, healing rest experienced in TM allows for knots of stress to be dissolved with the result that the body’s natural balance is restored.
One example of the value of the TM practice in recovery was shown by a peer-reviewed study in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies. The researchers found that women with breast cancer who practiced the TM technique experienced reduced stress and improved mental health and emotional well-being through the course of their illness and treatment, including those who underwent surgery.
A note about post-surgical medication
Post-operative pain is “acute” pain (in contrast to “chronic” pain) and it is expected that most women will use prescribed pain medication for a few days following surgery. However, in the aftermath of surgery, women—especially millennial women—are the most at-risk for becoming “newly persistent” opioid users. In studies, women were found to be 40% more likely than men to persist in using opioid prescriptions three to six months post-discharge.
To avert the danger of opioid dependence, one technique that is significantly helpful is the Transcendental Meditation technique. It not only reduces the brain’s perception of pain, but it increases resilience.
A study supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health indicated that TM meditators experienced a 40-50% lower brain response to pain compared to healthy control subjects, as reported by a NeuroReport journal article. According to Dr. Orme-Johnson, lead author of this research, “Prior research indicates that Transcendental Meditation creates a more balanced outlook on life and greater equanimity in reacting to stress. This study suggests that this is not just an attitudinal change, but a fundamental change in how the brain functions.”
As a nurse and a woman
About the effects of surgery—I’m a woman who has been there myself and speak from experience about the tremendous broad range of benefits TM has brought to me. In 2017, I underwent bone fusion foot surgery. It was a real eye-opener to be on the side of the patient and to observe the nurse-patient relationship first hand, and to live through all the post-op directions and the stages of post-surgical healing. Nothing, however, brought me relief from my discomfort as much as when I settled down to a state of peace and relaxation during TM.
As a nurse, I’m happy to be able to save you some unnecessary discomfort, perhaps alleviate your pain, and speed up your recovery with the recommendation of the addition of this simple tool to your post-surgical toolbox.
About the Author
Amy Ruff, RN BSN, is the education director and director of TM for Nurses nationally in the United States.