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What Should I do About Post-Surgery Swelling?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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If you've recently undergone surgery, you may be experiencing post-surgery swelling. To minimize this normal side effects of going under the knife, you can utilize ice packs, make dietary changes, and wear compression garments. Before using any of these remedies, it is important to discuss them with your doctor, and notify your doctor if any abnormal swelling occurs.

When used properly, ice packs can be a good way to deal with post-surgery swelling. You can use a freezer pack meant for swelling, a bag of frozen vegetables, or even a frozen washcloth as an ice pack. Apply the pack to the swollen area two to four times a day for no longer than 30 minutes at a time. Typically doctors will prescribe painkiller drugs after surgery that can make the skin numb. This side effects of painkillers can make it difficult to feel the ice pack on your skin. In turn, this may make you more prone to frostbite. It is important, therefore, to limit the amount of time the pack is used.

Post-surgery swelling is caused by excess fluids building up in the body. Foods containing excessive amounts of sodium can cause your body to retain even more fluid, thus making the swelling worse. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins instead of processed and prepackaged foods can help to keep swelling at a minimum. Caffeine and alcohol can also cause your body to retain fluids; most doctors recommend abstaining from these ingredients for three weeks or longer after surgery. Drinking plenty of water, at least ten glasses a day, can also help to move fluids and toxins through the body, thereby reducing post-surgery swelling.

Compression garments are typically used to treat post-surgery swelling. There is a different garment for almost every type of surgery, most of which come in several different levels of tightness for each stage of recovery. These garments assist in flushing fluids and toxins out of the body instead of allowing them to sit at the surgical site. This helps to keep swelling at a minimum, and in many cases can help to speed up recovery time. Compression garments may be provided by your doctor or by prescription. You can also purchase them from many major medical supply companies as well as over the Internet.

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Discussion Comments
By zalieg — On Feb 18, 2012

My mother just had colon surgery for colon cancer. She is doing better, however she now has bad edema in her left arm, but nowhere else. What can be the cause and what would possibly help this? Thank you for any advice.

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