5 Considerations for Your Successful Recovery From Orthopedic Surgery

Hint: It's a Whole Self Thing

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Photo by Nino Liverani

I decided to return to ice skating after a 20 year hiatus

and it was kinda like riding a bicycle…

I moved cautiously at first —

it felt somewhat natural and familiar

as I attempted my first few strides on the ice.

But instead of everything falling in to place…

everything fell apart.

I slipped.

Despite going very slowly

while nearing the last corner

on my very first lap around the indoor rink.

I heard a loud crack —

I did not feel any immediate pain.

It came fiercely within the first several minutes.

I was in such fear and shock when we arrived to the ER

I declined the IV for pain meds…

somehow negotiating with the nurse

that I may not need an IV.

Kinda ridiculous to think of now.

I’d never had a major injury or surgery before

and honestly the thought of it terrified me.

Of course when I do something —

even for the first time —

I bring my inner over-achiever out in force.

And this was no different.

The diagnosis…

a pilon {fancy word for spiral} fracture of the tibia

and tri-maleolar break {three pieces broke away in the ankle}.

4 months of hard core recovery…

7 years of ongoing recovery…

100+ patient interactions in my acupuncture practice on this topic…

and numerous chats with family, friends and friends of friends

have led me here.

My perspective on what it really takes to recover fully.

For me, to be the 1 in 10 to make a full recovery —

according to my surgeon…

who presented my case at some fancy conference.

1. Get Help

Clearly not everyone will have the same recovery time —

the injuries vary

and therefore the surgery will vary.

Here’s what I do know…

When you lose the mechanical function of your body

for a period of time…

that takes a toll on your daily ability to contribute.

In my case —

I was in bed, period.

I needed my hubby to carry me to the bathroom…

give me a shower…

administer the shots…

Let alone clean, shop, do the laundry, cook, take care of the kitties

and perform at his 9–5.

You will need help.

Emotionally too.

Don’t expect your caregiver to be your one and only

in all these areas for you…

The trauma is happening to them as well.

Hire a housekeeper.

Ask family to bring food {not just for the first few days}.

Reach out to cry it out with friends.

Ask for help.

And keep getting help beyond day 7.

2. Treat the Scars

After clinically seeing patients in my acupuncture practice

over several years…

it came to my attention

scars are too often overlooked post surgery.

And as a result…

longer term issues may surface.

As an example…

It is possible your full range of motion

may become permanenetly limited

by the build up of scar tissue in the region.

Or chronic pain may surface.

Here’s my disclaimer —

this my opinion, this is not medical advice.

Use common sense.

That’s what I did.

I immediately began massaging my scars

as soon as I had access to them and it was approved safe by my doctor.

Releasing the skin in the area…

making sure no adhesions were forming…

and honestly

getting in touch with the injury —

initially I felt very disconnected to the injured area.

I’m 100% confident this is why my three incisions are barely visible,

amazingly smooth…

and a big part of the reason my range of motion is nearly 100%.

Thanks to a great surgeon too.

BTW I also used silicone gel pads


and cold laser

on the incision sites.

3. Double Down on Therapy

My surgeon prescribed physical therapy

after the bone healing was well on the way.

and I distinctly remember

asking for the over-achiever plan —

wanting to ensure to do everything possible!

So I went 3 times per week for three months.

I did all the exercises

as prescribed and scheduled.

Plus I had chiropractic adjustments…

cold laser…



and herbal medicines.

I did it all.

Not just for the scarring…

I made recovery my full time job.

And then I doubled down.

The actual repair of your bone parts

is truly only the beginning of your healing.

If you’re facing the 1 in 10 scenario like I was

here’s what I can tell you I did differently…

I decided.

From the first post surgical visit…

I had it in my mind I would recover fully.

And committed.

4. Consider the Whole Self

Honestly, I didn’t just have an injury to my bones —

I had a major surgery that landed me 40 pounds lighter.

You read that correctly.

Laid up and in bed, no exercise and I lost 40 pounds.

Surgery can be hard on the body…

I came out with a very unhappy gut

that was extremely sensitive

and required it’s own level of care.

Not to mention, right after surgery I cried uncontrollably.

I was detoxing the chemicals.

It’s common…

except I didn’t know about it.

I felt disconnected from my injury too —

which I already mentioned.

And these are only a few examples.

So here’s the point.

Surgery is a trauma to your whole self.

Thank goodness the surgeon

was able to fix the mechanics…

I just want to ensure you don’t overlook

the other ways in which you may need

additional healing.

Consider your whole self

in your recovery plan.

5. Never Lose Focus

You know the saying hindsight is 20/20 —

well this is one area I would really love to do over…

after all the effort

to recover fully

I neglected to keep it going.

At some point you do get sick

of nursing your injuries so to speak.

So when I was walking…

and feeling like my old self —

about one year post surgery…

I did not continue to invest

and this was a mistake.

Over time I developed an uneven gate {walking pattern}

and a curve in my lower spine.

I made excuses for why

I wasn’t able to move my body on a regular basis.

I had committed to a full recovery

but I did not continue to commit.

Note: these types of injuries are forever.

Eventually I found myself with chronic

and excruciating back pain.

Waking nightly…

becoming sleep deprived…

possibly due to this trauma

or others…

So back to deciding…

this time on not only to recover

but to never lose focus.

Chiropractic, massage, EFT Tapping

and lots of Bikram yoga later…

I’m stronger than ever.

Pain free.

And my next goal is to run a mile

for the first time in almost ten years.

Originally published at

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