Most patients experience a certain amount of pain after a hernia operation. This is usually accompanied by bruising and swelling around the incision. Some other manifestations that may be felt up to a year after the operation include pulling, burning, and tugging sensations in the groin area. These sensations can be expected after any operation.
On the other hand, each person may undergo a different experience—meaning that what you sense may be less dramatic than what other people feel. The important thing after undergoing a successful operation is to make sure that you take adequate precaution; let your body heal properly and, if anything seems out of the ordinary, check with your doctor to make sure that nothing is amiss.
How well or quickly people recover from hernia surgery can differ greatly from patient to patient. For instance, someone having open surgery may experience mild pain while another person that underwent a laparoscopic procedure may experience significant pain. Laparoscopic surgery is supposed to be less painful, but this simply isn’t a blank check guarantee. In the end, your experiences may be drastically different than the so-called “norm.”
TIMELINE OF RECOVERY
Day One through Four
The patient should not be engaging in any activities that are too physically stressful. In fact, only basic functions should be engaged in so soon after the operation; these may include light shopping not requiring too much walking, getting around the house, eating, showering, etc. Expect to be off from school or work for a few days so you can give your body adequate time to heal. You will experience mild to moderate pain which may require prescription-strength painkillers.
Day Four through Seven
Many people may be able to return to school or work by day four. Because your body is still healing, don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. If you do return to school or work, make sure that you limit yourself to 50% or less of what you are generally expected to do, including any walking, physical exertion, etc. By this time, you should be able to engage in any activity that doesn’t burden excessively or require you to lift too much weight. You may still experience pain requiring OTC painkillers (Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, etc.). You may (and, in fact, should) engage in light exercises, such as short-distance walking, simple stretching, etc.
By the 2nd Week
You should be able to return to your job or school, though some precautions may still apply, including not lifting in excess of 20 pounds. Expect to be at a 75% level of your usual self. Exercises you may consider include biking, jogging, Pilates, yoga. Even though a whole week has gone by, you may still feel some soreness & stiffness, discomfort, and some occasional pain; you should be able to treat these light symptoms with OTC painkillers.
By the 3rd Week
You should have been able to return to your school or job responsibilities by this time, although some mild restrictions may still apply, including not lifting more than 20 pounds. You should be at about 85% of your usual capacity. Exercising may increase in quantity and intensity and may include cycling, running, Pilates, yoga, surfing, swimming, golf, tennis, and limited weight lifting (no more than 20 pounds). You should no longer need painkillers.
By the 4th Week
Most patients will have by now returned to their school and work responsibilities without any lifting restrictions. You should be about 95% of your usual self; you may expect to be at 100% within a few days or weeks, depending on your age, how quickly you usually heal, and whether you were healthy before the operation. In most cases, patients can return to their normal schedule of physical activities, including heavy lifting, contact sports, and full competition/training.
Even this far into the healing process, you may have lingering sensations, including some tugging, pulling, burning, aches, swelling, heaviness, sharp pain now and then, and the occasional discomfort—this is normal for most postoperative hernia patients. You should see a gradual, consistent reduction of these intermittent symptoms as time goes on; if this isn’t the case, talk to your doctor.
This is what you should normally expect after undergoing hernia surgery:
You will find that whether you can engage in sexual activities without experiencing too much pain is a good way to gauge how quickly you are healing. Your ability to return to such activities should be on par with your returning to work or school schedule. In other words, there is a gradual recovery gradient to go through that may also be expressed in terms of percentages not dissimilar to those given in the recovery timetable given above.
Just as you had to wait before you were ready for school, work and exercise, you may have to wait a reasonable amount of time before returning to pain-free regular sexual functions.
Constipation & Avoiding Straining
Some of the medications commonly taken for pain/discomfort following surgery may induce constipation; in fact, if you aren’t used to taking pain medicine on a regular basis, you may be especially vulnerable to side-effects and unusual reactions.
For many patients, the use of a stool softener (e.g., Colace) may be in order as a proactive measure. In fact, you might start doing so on the day of surgery, thereafter continuing to take such until normal bowel movement returns.
If you were subjected to general anesthesia during the operation, your reasoning and motor skills will, of course, be off for a short while after the operation. As a matter of fact, for the next 48 hours, until all your faculties return to normal, avoid operating any kind of sophisticated machinery, consuming alcohol or signing any legal documents.
You should be able to perform most simple activities within a week after the operation. You may even return to school or work after the first week of healing. Keep in mind, though, that some people may need additional time for recuperating, especially if your job is physically demanding.
You will be instructed to avoid heavy-duty exercising but keep in mind that exercise can help the healing process, as long as it isn’t too strenuous. That may include sex, which you may resume as soon as doing so isn’t too painful.
Consult with your doctor regarding when it would be okay to resume driving. One way to gauge whether you are ready to drive is to determine if you can safely and quickly react to an unexpected situation, such as your having to stop suddenly or swerve.
You are not ready to drive if you are still even slightly groggy from the anesthesia or painkillers or if driving is too painful to do. Although people heal at different rates, don’t be surprised if you may have to wait a week or two before you are fully ready to drive a vehicle safely and with the same ability you enjoyed before the operation.
You might also contact your insurance agent to see what restrictions (if any) are imposed by the insurance carrier for people undergoing surgery.
Activities You May Perform Soon After Surgery
–You may resume a normal diet soon after surgery, depending on how you feel.
–On the same evening after surgery you should be able to walk, stand or climb stairs, though you may feel discomfort at doing so.
–On the day following surgery, you may take a shower, though bathing and swimming should be off-limits for at least 5 days.
–On the day following surgery, you may, if you want to and feel up to it, do limited-scope exercises, including walking and using a treadmill or stationary bike. Of course, more intense exercising should be avoided until at least 2 weeks after the operation, preferably when the pain/discomfort is no longer a major issue.
–Some patients can go back to work and/or school after 3 to 7 days.
–Report any unusual circumstances (anything that wasn’t mentioned as something you should expect) to your doctor ASAP after surgery. Make sure that you follow recommendations as to when to report back to the surgeon for a follow-up.
–Although laparoscopic surgery patients generally recover sooner and faster than open surgery patients, you should nevertheless allow approximately 3 weeks to get back on track in terms of normal routines.
Possible Post-Operation Complications
Do contact your surgeon/doctor, if any of the following symptoms emerge after an operation:
- Any kind of bleeding
- A fever that persists
- Increasing pain or swelling near the incision site
- Any pain you can’t control with OTC painkillers
- Ongoing vomiting or nausea
- Persistent shortness of breath or coughing
- On-going redness around the incision
- Urinating with any difficulty