You take good care of yourself and exercise regularly, but then you fall skiing and tear your ACL. Often, to keep up that same level of activity, the ACL will need to be surgically repaired.
1. Move whatever you can, often and safely.
Start with moving the body parts that didn’t have surgery. If you had knee surgery, start with moving your arms, then hips, opposite knee, then ankles. You need to move the surgery site, but only when your surgeon says it is safe. Sit up and take deep breaths. Stand or walk when you are safe and breathe.Move whatever you can, whenever it is safe and don’t stop. The movement helps keep the blood pumping, the lymph draining, and the muscles contracting.
2. Call in the troops.
Don’t be shy about asking for help.
- Ask for friends to help take the dog for a walk.
- Ask family to prepare a few meals for you.
- Ask your doctor for a physical therapy referral to help you get moving safely sooner than later.
Don’t wait until you are struggling. Ask for help. Really. We are all here on this earth to help each other in times of need. Be gracious and say thank you a lot, but do not feel guilty. Remember what goes around comes around, and when it is your time to help another, you will be willing to do what you can.
3. Drink bone broth.
Yes, this is what your grandmother used to make when she made homemade chicken soup. Specifically, using long bones from beef allows for additional bone marrow, which is wonderful for healing as well as calcium from the bones that is readily available to absorb (so long as you get some vitamin D, see #5) for your body to use to help heal that fracture. The bone broth is easy to digest and soothing on the stomach especially after anesthesia.
4. Eat real food, including protein.
It is always best to eat real food whether you are having surgery or not. But for certain, the best way to get important vitamins and minerals that are bioavailable to assist in the healing process is from real food. That means foods that are as close to nature as they were intended. Whole food. Nutrient rich foods like salmon, broccoli, spinach, berries, etc. It is NOT food in packages. Those foods are often heavily refined and processed in a way that renders them nutrient deficient and in fact require your body’s stored nutrients to process them and you get nothing in return. Not to mention prepackaged food and drinks often include a host of things that hamper healing like sugar, trans fatty acids, and additives.
Specifically, in the case of an orthopedic surgery, it is important to include healthy protein. Protein is the only source of a complete amino acid profile that our body requires for structure (tissue, bone, teeth, skin), movement (muscles, ligaments, tendons), protection (skin, immune system), energy (glucose), transport (across cell membranes), communication (hormones and cell signaling), and regulation of fluid balance and pH. Every single one of those bodily processes has an important impact on your ability to heal from injury and especially surgery.
5. Get outside in the sun as soon as possible.
Vitamin D is converted from the cholesterol in your blood in the presence of full spectrum sunlight. Vitamin D is not only critical for calcium absorption, but it is also important for joint health, metabolic health and even your brain. Deficiency of vitamin D has been linked to osteopenia (bone loss), osteoporosis (severe bone loss resulting often in fracture), cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis and even cardiovascular disease.1,2
Early inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis of the knee and autoimmune diseases have also been linked to vitamin D deficiency.3-6 Although eating foods high in vitamin D like fatty saltwater fish is helpful, it is still important to get sun. As a safe rule spend time in the sun, but don’t burn. Three 8-minute stints is usually adequate. If you have had surgery, it is important to keep your wound or scar covered. This new skin is more sensitive to the sun’s rays and you don’t want to promote scar tissue formation. As an added bonus, sun exposure will also help with your circadian rhythm, which helps with sleep-wake cycles.
6. Sleep when you are tired.
Rest is critical for recovery and repair. Yet, when we are limited or recovering from surgery we are doing things that negatively impact our normal sleep cycle. Moving often and getting sunshine will help regulate the circadian rhythm. Watching endless TV and computer screen time is like looking at the sun and has effects on our sleep-wake cycle. So, go to sleep when it is dark. Move your body when it is day-time. Turn off screens 2 hours before bed. Don’t watch TV in bed. Make a schedule and a routine to optimize your rest.