In many cases, some form of recovery, such as home-exercise or physical therapy is recommended after surgery. Depending on the surgical procedure, your surgeon and physical therapist will create a plan based on your specific needs. This plan should be followed through to completion and is critical in the recovery process as your body heals.


It is important to follow the post-surgery recovery instructions.

Pain management will be unique to each patient. Your care team will work with you before and after your procedure to manage your pain and help you continue your recovery and healing at home.


  • There are a variety of pain relief methods including IV and oral pain medications, nerve blocks, and alternative methods such as ice, meditation, and relaxation techniques
  • Before you leave the surgery center/hospital, make sure you understand what medications you will be taking at home, why you need the medications, and possible side effects
  • Take your medications as directed
  • If you receive a nerve block with your surgery, you will be provided information on what to expect prior to leaving the surgery center/hospital
  • If your pain is not being relieved, or if your pain is getting worse or has changed, please call your surgeon

Additional Pain Management Strategies

  • Relaxation and distraction – Relaxation and deep breathing exercises can help relax your muscles and decrease your pain. Distraction techniques including listening to music, watching a movie or visiting with family and friends can also be helpful in decreasing the perception of pain.
  • Reposition and movement – Sometimes, all it takes to relieve pain is a change of position. In fact, frequently changing positions is recommended to decrease pain and muscle stiffness. Sitting or standing at the side of the bed, walking around your house or taking short walks around your neighborhood are some examples.

The simplest way to decrease tissue swelling around the surgical site is to elevate the surgical site above your heart. Ice can reduce bleeding and swelling, helping control pain and muscle spasms. For same-day surgery patients, such as knee scope or carpal tunnel procedures, most pain and swelling will subside after 48-72 hours; however, if at any time you are experiencing increased or persistent inflammation, continue icing and elevation. For total joint patients, you should continue icing even after 48-72 hours. Icing following therapy sessions is important throughout your recovery period for pain control and to help reduce swelling.

Sleep has immense healing powers, with the capacity to promote tissue development and ward against wound infections. It is recommended that most healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best.

It is important to breathe deeply and cough after surgery to clear your lungs of anesthetic, reduce fever, and lower your risk of pneumonia. It is also important to move and change positions often. These position changes help make your breathing and coughing exercises work better. Deep breathing can help relax your muscles and decrease your pain.

The nurse will give you written and verbal instructions on how to care for your incision prior to going home, including:

  1. Keep your incision clean and dry
  2. Always wash your hands before and after caring for your wound
  3. Do not touch the dressing, sutures, staples, or white steri-strips
  4. Do not apply ointments or creams until it is completely healed
  5. Do not soak your incision in water including swimming pools, hot tubs or baths until it is completely healed

The majority of patients will be able to shower the next day. The nurse will review the procedure for caring and protecting your incision. For safety, plan to take your shower with a family member close by to keep you safe.

Following surgery, nausea and vomiting can occur. This can happen due to various reasons however common causes after surgery include the type of anesthetic or pain medication.

Tips to prevent nausea and vomiting:

  • Eat light meal(s) and advance to a normal diet unless instructed differently
  • Avoid heavy, greasy, and spicy foods
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages for the next 24 hours or while you are taking prescription pain medications
  • Take your medications with food, unless instructed differently
  • If you experience nausea, do not eat or drink anything until the nausea is gone. After the nausea is gone, take small amounts of water at first and then progress to other fluids and solid foods as tolerated
  • If the nausea does not subside, please contact your surgeon. It is important that you do not get dehydrated

Following surgery, constipation can occur. It is important to focus on your hydration and drink the daily water recommendations.

Eating fruits, vegetables and foods high in fiber will help prevent constipation. The use of over-the-counter stool softeners would also be acceptable, if needed.

After surgery, your body needs calories, protein, vitamin A and C and zinc! If you are diabetic, it is very important for you to closely monitor your blood sugars while your body is healing.  The more controlled your blood sugars are, the easier it is for your body to heal!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family and friends. Know that your surgeon and the OSMS PREP Team are available to help answer any questions you have along the way. For total joint patients, always plan to have someone with you the first week following your surgery.

Although rare, following surgery, infections can occur.  An infection can occur when a bacteria is introduced to the body through a break in the skin or more specifically through a surgical incision. Patients who are obese, diabetic or smoke are at higher risk for experiencing surgical site infections. If you are questioning if you have a post surgical site infection, you will need to consult your surgeon as soon as possible.

Prevention of Surgical Site Infection:

  • Keep your dressing clean and dry
  • Follow your surgeons instructions re: dressing removal, showering and activity
  • Do not apply any lotions or ointments directly to your incision
  • Keep animals and pets away from your dressing / incision

Signs & Symptoms of Surgical Site Infection:

  • Persistent purulent, cloudy or puss like drainage
  • Increased pain or tenderness
  • Localized swelling, redness or heat
  • Fever of greater than 101 degrees sustained for 24 hours

Please contact your surgeon immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Blood clots can form after surgery. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are a specific type of blood clot that can form in your legs after surgery. Early ambulation is an important part of your successful recovery and is critical in the prevention of the formation of DVTs. Getting up and moving as soon as you are able will help promote blood circulation by contracting the muscles in your legs, in turn squeezing the blood back into circulation. A DVT is a potentially serious condition.

Prevention of DVT:

  • Compression stockings
  • Low dose aspirin or prescription blood thinners
  • Encouraged early and regular ambulation

Signs & Symptoms of DVT:

  • Calf pain or tenderness
  • Calf swelling
  • Reddened or discolored area on the calf or lower leg
  • Localized area on the calf or lower leg that is warm to the touch

Please contact your surgeon immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Blood clots can form after surgery. A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a specific type of blood clot that forms in one or more of the arteries in the lungs. Coughing, deep breathing and physical activity such as walking after surgery will help promote blood circulation, will help eliminate fluid from accumulating in your lungs and ultimately help prevent the formation of PE postoperatively. A PE is a serious condition.

Prevention of PE:

  • Incentive Spirometer
  • Compression stockings
  • Low dose aspirin or prescription blood thinners
  • Encouraged early and regular ambulation

Signs & Symptoms of PE:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

Please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Inflammatory Phase

Blood clotting begins, and the scar appears to be red and inflamed. This phase only lasts for a few days up to six days.

Proliferation Phase

New tissue is formed during this phase by oxygen-rich red blood cells that come to the site to create new tissue.  The incision will look and feel “raised” from normal skin. Typically, this phase lasts for several weeks. During this time, your incision will be bruised, swollen and red. There may be some drainage, warmth, and numbess over the incision.

Maturation Phase

This is the last phase in wound healing and can last months. This is where a scar forms. As the wound becomes smaller, scar tissue forms. Nerves heal, feeling returns to the incision site, and the scar becomes even more textured like regular skin. Swelling will go down around the two-week mark, along with bruising and redness. Eventually your purple scar will become white. Surgery incisions normally take six to eight weeks to heal.

  • Elderly Patient
  • Diabetic
  • Obesity
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Vascular Disease
  • Immunosuppression
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Stay hydrated – A good goal is eight glasses of water per day
  • Eat nutritious foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals which help tissue growth and repair
  • Massage the scar tissue:
    • helps decrease scar tissue build-up
    • helps collagen fiber formation
    • helps decrease swelling and fluid absorption
    • helps promote nerve healing and decreases numbness
  • Do not begin massaging until the wound is healed at least two weeks after surgery
  • After the first month, vitamin E can be used on the scar to promote healing


At  Orthopedic Surgery Center of Green Bay and Orthopedic Surgery Center of the Fox Valley, we have highly experienced physical therapists who work closely with your surgeon to help you on your road to recovery.

Benefits of physical therapy:

  • Expedite recovery through building muscle and increased blood flow
  • Reduce or eliminate pain when healing
  • Improve ongoing mobility and functionality
  • Prevent or recover from a sports injury
  • Improve your overall balance
  • Manage age-related mobility restrictions

Check with your insurance provider to see what therapy site is covered under your plan and the number of sessions allotted per calendar year.