This is one of the most common questions I get from new massage clients. There…
Surgery can be both physically and emotionally traumatic. No matter how invasive your surgery may be, the prospect of undergoing a surgical procedure – and the post-operative pain that comes with it – can be downright scary. It’s this post-operative pain that can be especially stressful. Post-operative pain causes anxiety, obstructs the healing process by messing with your appetite and your sleep, and can even keep you from returning to everyday life. And, the more invasive the surgery (such as heart surgery), the more post-operative pain you’re likely to experience.
What Should You Do About Post-Operative Pain?
Controlling the pain you experience after surgery will ultimately improve your outcome. Doctors and patients alike often want a non-pharmacologic treatment to help control the pain like massage, acupuncture, meditation, etc. Massage therapy, particularly therapeutic massage, can offer relief in the intensity of post-operative pain, muscle tension, and anxiety, allowing your body to heal properly so you can get back to normalcy. Having massage therapy while in a hospital can be especially effective because it also offers comfort in an otherwise clinical setting.
How Therapeutic Massage for Post-Operative Pain Works
After surgery probably seems like the LEAST ideal time for massage, but it isn’t. In general, therapeutic massage lowers any stress and anxiety your are left with after going through surgery. A professional massage therapist will know how to position you comfortably on the massage table and what areas to avoid due to your recent surgery, so do not let those concerns stop you from seeking relief and relaxation.
The massage won’t happen on or near the site of the pain (i.e. where you had the surgery), but you can still experience relief. The therapist will avoid deep pressure and its associated techniques. When possible, neck, shoulder and back massage is tension-relieving for the entire body, which can make a huge difference for you overall while you’re recovering. Foot massage as well can be effective for pain in other areas of the body.
Always get massage cleared by your doctor and give the massage therapist all the information about your recent surgery. I suggest to my clients that they start receiving massage therapy as soon after their operation as the doctor allows. Hospitals often employ a massage therapist that can see you in the hospital. Once you’ve been released, it is important to continue with the massage. It helps with the pain, but also addresses tension that has developed in the fascia and muscles from the surgery and the recovery process. Even minor surgery can be traumatic to the body, so seek out massage therapy and other alternative therapies to help your body heal properly.
Other Tips for Post-Operative Recovery
If you are unable to go somewhere for a massage, consider calling around for someone who provides in-home massage therapy. Many massage therapists will travel for an extra fee, which will minimize your discomfort. Here are some other ideas that will may provide you with additional comfort as you recover from surgery:
-Soak your feet with Epsom salts and lavender essential oil. This is incredibly relaxing and will soothe your entire body.
-Humor heals! Watch a funny movie or a standup comic to take your mind off the pain.
-Make a healthy smoothie with frozen bananas, cinnamon, honey, walnuts and almond milk. These are all healthy ingredients that make this smoothie taste like an ice cream shake!
Help Your Body Heal Itself
Since surgery is so traumatic on the body, it’s crucial that you not only give yourself time to heal but you also aid your body during the healing process. Therapeutic massage therapy does just that by releasing tension, easing anxiety, and eradicating any pain or discomfort you might experience.