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Post-surgery exercise: Pain and Gain

JOINT BASE ANDREWS Md. -- Whether it's due to an emergency, or to correct a problem, surgery by nature
interferes with exercise habits. The problem is this: exercise is a key
ingredient of pre-surgery preparation, and post-surgery recovery. So how can
one combine surgery and exercise? The answer, of course, is very carefully,
with the involvement of your health care providers.

The first medical truth is this: the better shape you're in going into
surgery, the quicker your recovery after surgery. If you are looking toward
a surgical procedure in a few months, do exercises tailored to getting your
body as strong as possible for the surgery and for the recovery afterwards.
In all cases, be sure to involve your health care provider and physical
therapists as required, so you are working together on your overall body
health.

Hernias are a fairly common example of injuries requiring surgery. Hernias
occur when an internal organ bulges through a weakened spot in muscle or
inter-muscular tissue, usually in the lower abdomen or groin area. They
usually occur when someone lifts an aggressive amount of weight, or when a
person twists or turns in an abrupt way. In almost all cases, the only
option, other than dealing with the pain, is to have surgery to repair the
muscle and to put the internal organ back where it belongs.

When your doctor clears you for exercise after hernia surgery, walking will
slowly allow your body to adjust back to your normal activity level, and it
can be a good aerobic exercise too. Exercise is critical for recovery, and
walking is the best medicine for the body to recover and gain endurance
right away. Do light walking daily, increasing the distance and speed over
the next 2-3 weeks.

Weightlifting can severely aggravate hernia surgery sites. Consider that
it's this type of action that may have caused the hernia in the first place,
and let your body heal.

Even though it's a good idea to avoid weightlifting, your doctor and your
physical therapist can work with you to develop good exercises for core
straightening, since this is typically where hernias occur. Appropriate
abdominal exercises can help you recover faster and more effectively, when
done in the appropriate way.

For example, you can stand on fours, inhaling (sucking in the gut) and
curving their back upwards, as if there is a string pulling your belly
button up in the air. Then exhale and curve and drop the back slowly
downward, with your head and chest up high and your back side tilted up in
the air. Repeating this exercise 10 times, for each of three sets, will
help with recovery, and it is a non-impactful way to get back into your
exercise routine.

Hernia surgery is fairly common, and it does not mean the end of your
healthy workouts. Pay attention to your body, as well as your health care
professionals' advice. Take it easy for a few weeks, and you'll be back up
to speed within a couple of months.

Sabine Martinez is a fitness and operations specialist at the West Fitness Center here.