How to help yourself recover from an operation

After an operation, you may feel like all you want to do is go home and rest. But there are many different things you can do which can help your recovery, while you are in hospital and when you get home. Here are some ways you can help yourself recover after having an operation. 

Preventing infection

Make sure you understand any instructions from the doctor or nurse on how to look after your wound, if you have one. 

Make sure you wash your hands with soap and warm water and dry them thoroughly. This is especially important after using the toilet and before preparing food. Make use of alcohol-based rubs if they are available. 

You may be given antibiotics after an operation to help prevent infection. It’s important that you only take antibiotics if they have been prescribed to you, and that you continue to take the whole course as recommended by the doctor or pharmacist. 

Getting moving

Depending on what type of operation you’ve had, you may have been encouraged by your doctor or physiotherapist to get moving. While instinct may be to head to bed and lay down, if your specialist or physio has sent you home with exercises, it’s a good idea to do them as they can pay a really important role in your recovery and getting you back on your feet. 

Make sure you know which exercises you need to do, and how to do them safely. Ask for written instructions from the hospital or the physiotherapist, if possible. If you’re worried about doing them on your own, ask for support from a friend or family member.

Preventing falls

You may be drowsy from medication, or if you’ve had an operation on your legs, hips or knees, you might be a bit unsteady on your feet. So it’s important to take extra care as you’re moving around your home to help reduce the risk of falls. Take a little extra time when you stand up, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feed dizzy, light headed or unwell. 

At night, make sure you turn on the light before you get out of bed, so that you can see where you are going, to help prevent you from tripping or falling over anything that might be on the floor. 

Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is important for your overall wellbeing, but it’s especially important after an operation because it can help your body with healing, and also help fight infection. 

Some people may have trouble sleeping after an operation, so try to avoid drinking coffee or other drinks containing caffeine after lunchtime, and finish eating around 3 hours before you plan to go to sleep. 

If you’re having difficulty sleeping, try a relaxation activity like reading or listening to music, and make sure you take any pain medications as instructed. If sleep disturbance persists, see your doctor. 

older lady in hospital

Take your medication

Taking your medication as directed can play an important role in your recovery. If you have to take them at specific times, try to set a number of alarms during the day, to help you remember. 

An app like MedAdviser can help you keep all the information about your medicines together. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family or friends if you find it difficult to get to the pharmacy. 

Preventing blood clots

After certain procedures, you may be given medication to help prevent blood clots. Many surgical procedures, and long periods of inactivity, can increase the risk of blood clots forming, particularly in the legs. These can break off and travel into the lungs which can cause a blockage known as a pulmonary embolism. 

Medicines to help prevent blood clots may be given as an injection under the skin, but if you’ve been discharged home, they’re more likely to be in the form of a tablet. You may also be given compression stockings or a device that squeezes the muscles of the legs intermittently. 

Depending on the type of operation you have had (eg. hip or knee replacement), it is possible you’ll need to take an anticlotting medicine for a month or more after your surgery. It’s important to follow the instructions of your doctor or your pharmacist, and take these for as long as you are instructed to. Don’t forget, if you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor. 


Make sure you eat balanced meals, because healthy eating is important for overall health and recovery. If you need to ask for help with the shopping or cooking, don’t be afraid to. 

It’s a good idea to pre-prepare before your procedure, so your fridge and freezer are full of easy-to-eat nutritious meals so that you won’t have to cook while you’re recovering. 

If you’re not feeling well, or you have any concerns, contact your doctor. 
Back to top