Post Surgery Tips: 10 Ways to Heal Faster

Post surgery means what happens after surgery. Post surgery recovery can be painful and slow as the healing process takes over. Heal faster after surgery using these 10 tips.

10. Post surgery recovery tip – Get your affairs in order

  • Set up an advanced healthcare directive, a healthcare power of attorney or a healthcare proxy. These legal documents protect your wishes in case something goes wrong.
  • Shop for foods that are easy to digest and nourishing. Consider following a highly restricted, low-carb vegan diet for the first 1-3 days after surgery because ketosis reduces nausea.
  • Cut out cane sugar, alcohol, and anything made with flour (i.e., pasta, macaroni, cake, pie, etc..). These substances are pro-inflammatory, increase swelling, and slow down recovery. Avoid them for the duration of recovery, if not forever.
  • Wash or buy super comfy lounge clothes to wear during recovery, such as a soft set of bamboo lounge pants and shirt
  • Wash the bed sheets and towels.

Before surgery, do as much as possible to get ready to be down for 2-6 weeks. Getting ready for surgery includes:

9. Post surgery recovery tip – Delegate and arrange for support

Who is going to feed the dog or cat? What about the trash? Who is going to help at work while you are out? Delegate and arrange for support before surgery. Consider asking partners, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to help with important tasks. Many people enjoy helping others. Most importantly, tearing stitches from lifting a heavy bag of pet food just isn’t worth it.

8. Post surgery recovery tip – Take anti-nausea medication

Post surgery recovery starts in the recovery room of the hospital or surgery center. Typically, people receive anti-nausea medication called ondansetron (brand Zofran) only after nausea appears. Unless you are 100% sure that you never feel nausea after anesthesia, do not risk it. 

Vomiting is bad any time. Vomiting with fresh surgical wounds is truly awful. Worse, nausea slows recovery by 3-7 days (or more) because the body does not receive the nutrition it needs to heal. Key nutrients for healing include: B and C vitamins, choline, fiber, magnesium,  polyunsaturated fat, and protein.

Speak to the anesthesiologist before surgery and share concerns. Ask about receiving an injectable dose of ondansetron as soon as you wake up in the recovery room. Ondanestron is injectable, and therefore, avoids the stomach altogether. Do not leave the recovery room until nausea is under control. Wait until water and an easy food, like applesauce, stay down.

Furthermore, talk to your surgeon about a prescription of ondanestron that will last at least one week after surgery. Ask her if you can take the medicine before each meal to prevent nausea. The typical dose is 4 or 8 mg. If she says okay, fill the prescription before surgery and set it on your nightstand.

7. Post surgery recovery tip – Ask for help

Some things are easier if we do them ourselves, like lifting a purse or opening a tight lid. Post surgery recovery is about letting go of nearly everything so the body can heal faster and not suffer set backs. Instead, ask a friend to open the lid and carry the purse. Depending on the type of surgery, people need help bathing, showering, or getting dressed. Ask friends or partners you fully trust for help with sensitive tasks.

6. Post surgery recovery tip – Celebrate recovery milestones

Post surgery recovery is disorienting because it separates people from regular routines. Also, it involves dealing with physical pain and discomfort. Feelings of frustration, sadness, loneliness, or depression frequently arise. Boost your mood by acknowledging all of the good work you are doing to support the body. Celebrate recovery milestones.

First week

After one week of post surgery recovery, the pain is down. Sleep improves. Eating improves. Celebrate with a special meal of wild-caught salmon and homemade soup. Nourish and honor the body for all of the hard work it is doing.

Getting stitches out

Stitches typically come out 2-3 weeks after surgery. Celebrate this milestone by investing in a quality anti-scar cream, such as BioCorneum Scar Treatment SPF 30. Massage the scream twice a day into the scars to break up scar tissue. Above all, enjoy the amazing process of skin knitting itself back together. 

My Picks for Scar Treatment:

One month

At one month post surgery, it is time to get out of the house. Plan an easy getaway for the day or overnight. Time in nature or visiting dear friends feels very nourishing.

Three months

Likewise, after three months of recovery, it is time to getaway and savor this major milestone. Plan a mini-vacation somewhere that speaks to the heart. A few days at a resort on Maui is always great!

Graduating from physical therapy

Go for a walk, swim, or hike. Enjoy moving the body. Recognize and honor the progress. Things may not be fully healed yet, but the heavy lifting is over. Good job!

5. Post surgery recovery tip – Let the body and mind rest

Most people have busy lives. Work that involves a lot of thinking means the brain uses a lot of energy. Throttle back thinking and movement during recovery. Instead, meditate. Enjoy time in nature. Read uplifting books. Talk to a dear friend. Listen to soothing music, like Maui’s own Jeff Peterson on slack key guitar. Let the body have all the energy to heal normally spent on being busy.

Furthermore, practicing present moment awareness (or mindfulness), allows the mind to quiet and calm. Zen master Thich Naht Hahn offers a straightforward method tailored to Western people. He teaches us How To Relax to allow our bodies and minds to heal.

4. Post surgery recovery tip – Stay ahead of the pain

Play it safe and take pain medications as directed. Anesthesia usually wears off 4-6 hours after surgery, which is not the time to fill the prescription. Fill prescriptions before surgery and set the pain medicines on the nightstand, along with a bottle of water. 

Talk with the surgeon about any concerns about addiction. Non-addictive pain medications include naproxen and ibuprofen, both of which are available in prescription strength and reduce inflammation. These work synergistically with gabapentin, a medicine that treats nerve pain. Pain medications do not have to be addictive. 

Take pain medications that include anti-inflammatory action as directed for at least 3 days, even if you feel okay. Then if you really do not need them, taper off. Risking a pain spike is not worth it. Pain spikes increase stress chemicals in the body and cause inflammation–exactly what the body is already suffering.

3. Post surgery recovery tip – Do the physical therapy

A good physical therapist will help you find ways to heal faster and restore range of motion and strength. Most surgeons recommend starting physical therapy 3-5 days post surgery before scar tissue has time to build up. Therefore, ask your surgeon for a prescription for PT. Line up the weekly appointments before you go under the knife.

One caution: physical therapy can be tedious, receptive and boring. That said, the benefits are worth doing it to the letter. Katherine Milkman, Ph.D., professor at that Wharton School at Penn, developed a strategy to improve motivation called temptation bundling. The idea is to tie two activities together. Connect an activity that you want to do with the activity you need to do, but avoid. For example, allow yourself to listen to that beloved podcast only while riding the stationary bike.

2. Post surgery recovery tip – Ice, ice baby

Remember that Vanilla Ice song from the 80’s? The first 20 seconds of the song says it all. Ice controls pain and reduces swelling better than anything.

ice after surgery
Ice, ice, baby
  • Ice for 10 minutes every hour for the first three days. Ice through the night to control pain. Add light compression on day two or three.
  • Next, reduce ice to 10 minutes every 2-3 hours for the following few weeks.
  • Finally, ice as only needed to control pain, including after physical therapy sessions or any irritating activity.

The best ice packs are gel or clay. I love large packs that wrap around the whole surgical area. My personal favorite is ThermiPaq Hot/Cold Pain Relief Wrap X-Large (9.5″x16″) Hot/Cold Therapy, Therapeutic Pain Relief for Back, Knees, Ankles & Elbows. They wrap well and hold up well to heavy use. I have three, and I alternate so the packs are always cold.

I keep a cooler at my bedside for the first few days after surgery to store ice packs. Keep the cold packs handy and use them often. Set timers to remind when it is time to ice. Do not wait for pain to spike. Again, stay ahead of the pain.

Pro Tip: Slip the ice pack into a pillow case to protect the skin and give some leverage on wrapping. 

Ice machines

Joint surgery–hips, knees, shoulders, or elbows–deserves a special discussion about icing. These areas are difficult to ice because they are curved. Clay or gel packs slide off. Professional athletes use machines with special velcro wraps to ice joints. Game Ready is one example, and it provides compression. Also, these machines work through the night, which controls pain and accelerates healing.

The downside to ice machines is cost. Buying a Game Ready unit outright is expensive. However, if there are multiple joint surgeries ahead, then it may be worth it to invest. Also, it is also possible to rent an ice machine for a few weeks for a fraction of the the purchase price. Ask the surgeon.

1. Post surgery recovery tip – Follow the doctor’s orders

You know your body best. However, your surgeon knows the procedure best. Most importantly, do not second guess her instructions. If she says not to lift anything heavier than a water bottle for four weeks, do not lift. If she says not to put any creams, ointments, or gels on the stitches, stear clear. If she orders physical therapy twice a week for six weeks, do it all. Most surgeons go to great lengths to ensure a great outcome. You have paid handsomely for expert advice. Just take it.

If this information has helped you or someone you know, tell us you story. Leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

Best Toiletry Bag

As en elite frequent flier, I always carry on toiletries. I will show you how to choose the best carry on toiletry bag for your needs. You will breeze through airport security.

Types of Carry On Toiletry Bags

Which type of toiletry bag is for you? Designer, Walmart, or plastic quart? There are a lot of good choices now for carrying toiletries on an airplane.  Some of my top picks include: 

Zip Top Bags

These bags are inexpensive, recyclable in many places, and easy to replace.  If you go with the gold standard zip top bag quart bag, some brands are thin and easy to puncture. Others are thicker plastic and withstand stretching. Unless you plan to change bags during your trip, find one that is strong and can stretch out without tearing.

Stretch strength becomes especially important later in your trip when you find yourself stuffing it to the max, and then it rips. Hefty One Zip Travel Bags Quart Size and Ziploc Double Zipper All-Purpose Storage Quart Value Pack Bags – 50 CT(2Pack) (or ziplock, depending on how you spell). Both companies make strong quart size plastic bags that meet TSA rules for liquids.

Another good option has emerged: the heavy duty polyvinyl chloride ziptop bag. These bags are TSA-approved and will take hundreds of flights before wearing out (assuming you don’t over stuff the bag and break the zipper).

Tip: Always carry backup quart bags in your luggage.

Type of Bag Closure

Most “zip top” plastic bags seal when you press two plastic seams together. Some even change color when the bag is sealed properly. This is fine for tonight’s leftovers, but for air travel it’s less than ideal. When you’re rushing to the airport at 4 AM it’s so easy to miss the seal, and colors don’t help in a dark hotel room. You end up later with a goopy mixture of lotion and toothpaste smeared into your luggage. Don’t get me wrong, this type of bag will work, especially if you’re careful to tighten all the lids inside and carefully seal the bag well. It’s just not my favorite.

I prefer the quart size bag with an actual zipper seal. These seal every time, and it’s obvious when they’re not closed. They’re also strong and stretch beautifully to accomodate that last-minute hand cream you just can’t travel without. As a bonus, TSA makes these bags available for free at many airports.

Hefty OneZip Storage Bags, Quart, Value Pack, 40 Count (Pack of 3) 120 Bags Total”>Zip top quart zie bag that meets TSA rules for liquids
This zip top quart size plastic bag cinches and stretches to accomodate liquids according to TSA rules. Even better, I got it for free at Portland International Airport.

For instance, I found a giant box of Hefty One Zip Quart Storage Bags, 22 Count Boxes (Pack of 4) Total 88 Bags bags just before the security ticket/ID check at Portland International (PDX). I grabbed a dozen to get me through the next year of flying. I always leave one or two empty bags in my carry-on luggage for the inevitable moment when the plastic bag rips and all of my toiletries spill out.

You might even try Hefty OneZip Glow in the Dark Halloween Quart Size Storage Bags (10ct) so you can easily find your toiletries in a dark hotel room.

Avoid These Travel Toiletries Bag Problems

Even if it fits in the quart bag, toiletries over 3.4 ounces are not allowed through TSA

As en elite frequent flier, I always carry on toiletries. I see many people get stopped for a secondary search because of toiletry bag problems. These are the most common. Don’t let them stop you.


This bag is overstuffed. This zipper doesn’t close. It definitely will trigger a secondary inspection (i.e., full body and luggage search that can cause up to an hour delay).

Tip: Unpack non-liquid items until it zips closed. Better yet, replace it with a clean bag.

Items larger than 100 mL (3.4 ounces)

This bag looks like it might pass TSA because it’s not overstuffed and closes. But look again. That hand lotion is larger than 3 ounces. This traveler will be given the option of going back to airport check in counter or surrendering the lotion.

Tip: Remove all items larger than 100 mL or 3 ounces before checking in for the flight.

Can’t see through the bag

This bag was issued to first class travelers by American, and it is quart sized. However, that doesn’t matter because the agents at TSA cannot see through it. It will trigger a secondary inspection.

Tip: Use only clear bags for carry on toiletries.

A good solution is a heavy duty PVC ziptop bag. These bags are TSA-approved and will take hundreds of flights before wearing out (assuming you don’t over stuff the bag and break the zipper).

Pro Tip: Always carry backup quart bags in your luggage.