Training after Abdominal Surgery

author : AMSSM
comments : 0

How to safely return to training after major surgery.

Member Question from tigrrruns:

"Just wondering if anyone has experience working out following surgery. (It was supposed to be quick and easy and laparoscopic, but turned into major intra abdominal surgery.)

I had the surgery about 6.5 weeks ago. I've just been cleared to go back to the gym - no lifting, no swimming, no running. Just walking on the treadmill and the stationary bike. I have no semblance of cardiovascular fitness left.

I know everybody is different -- nobody will give me a timeline but should I be back to normal soon? I'm getting a little restless."

Answer by Benjamin A. Hasan, MD
Member AMSSM

It is important that we focus on this as major surgery. The surgeon is certainly the expert at knowing which muscles were involved in the operation and how quickly they should heal.

He/she will certainly have an opinion about how quickly or slowly to advance your training and when it will be safe for you to add your swimming, running, and then lifting.

Having spent quite a bit of time taking care of post-operative patients, I can emphasize that your surgeon and their staff can give you updates on their recommendations either based on how you are progressing or based on the surgeon's follow-up visits with you as time goes on. You will heal, but most athletes feel the wait is longer than they want. It may be particularly helpful for you to talk directly to the surgeon's staff about making changes as time goes on. His/her staff are responsible for getting messages back to you in a timely fashion, and the surgeon should be in charge of these transitions in your training.

As healing becomes complete, you may want to see a Sports Medicine physician to help you make very specific changes and modifications in your limited work-out options. The Sports Medicine specialist can also run their recommendations by your surgeon to make sure all are on-board. Only the surgeon has seen the situation on the inside and outside and is in the best position for a final recommendation for activity.

Concerning specific activities, the surgeon wants to make sure that the surgical incision heals as strong as possible and does not come open soon after the procedure. The layers of muscles that may be healing can simply be painful until there is ample time for healing. Surgeons are experienced in making these calls based on your specific condition and their specific surgical procedure experience. It is not possible to predict how quickly or slowly you will heal from this point on, but your surgeon can guide you in this.

Again, the idea that this was major abdominal surgery suggests you should simply progress slowly. Most athletes find this frustrating and do feel restless. Alternate walking, stationary bike, gradually and slowly building up time and intensity. Find other, less intense, physical activities that will allow your fitness level to improve and eventually return to normal. The goal is to realistically return to where you were before the illness. Working specifically on the muscle strengthening that was lost may be needed. Advancing workouts more quickly than the surgeon has suggested can be painful.

Everybody is indeed different, and the time required to get back in the race depends on the details of the surgery you had. Use your surgeon as a guide for making steps in your return.

Many adults who become deconditioned due to injuries or illnesses are even more susceptible to sports injuries later because they do not regain their pre-operation or pre-illness strength. When all the soreness has finally healed, you can certainly get help from well-trained professional trainers to strengthen some of the muscles you may not realize are weak.

And again, with all of these issues, a Sports Medicine physician can add experience and guidance.

Sincerely,

Benjamin A. Hasan, MD
Family and Sports Medicine
Team Physician US Soccer Federation
Team Physician USA Triathlon
NCH Medical Group
Arlington Heights, IL

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date: February 29, 2016

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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