56 Things to Do While Recovering from Surgery

56 Things to Do While Recovering from Surgery

things to do while recovering from surgery

About to undergo surgery? With a little planning, you can make the most of your recovery period. Here is a list compiled from our Spine-health.com Message Board to help get you started. This list was written specifically for people having back surgery, but many of these suggestions apply to most types of surgery.



Pure entertainment

  1. Download music (legally) from the Internet; fill up your iPod from iTunes, or join Spotify and Pandora to discover thousands of free new tunes.
  2. Randomly explore the Internet. See what the rest of the world is searching for, using Google Trends.
  3. Play single player games. There's an amazing variety of them now available – here’s a great list. This will help develop thinking skills, pattern recognition, etc.
  4. Read (or listen to) the classics: To Kill a Mocking Bird, A Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, The Old Man and the Sea, The Great Gatsby, The Call of the Wild, War and Peace... These books are almost always available from your library, and often on sale at the large book stores. Invest in a tablet reader such as the Nook, an eReader, or a Kindle to have access to almost any book in the world.
  5. Download free books from Google Books online.
  6. Listen to books on CD or your iPod. Sometimes it's easier to listen to a book than to read, very relaxing.
  7. Ask your kids to read to you.
  8. Play classic board games with your kids – Monopoly, Scrabble…
  9. Subscribe to Netflix or Hulu to watch a season of a TV series that you had always wanted to see. Entourage is hilarious. Lost is engrossing. 24 is suspenseful. Or watch an old series, like Cheers or The Dick Van Dyke Show.
  10. Do crossword puzzles or Sudoku puzzles or print up some kakuro, which are number versions of crossword puzzles.
  11. Play the guitar (or learn to), or ask someone to play an instrument or sing for you.
  12. Watch old movies. This is great if you are feeling fuzzy from the pain medications – the classic old movies are slow-moving, so it's easy to follow the plot.
  13. Are you on a budget? Rent movies from the library instead of from the video store – it's usually a fraction of the price and you can keep the movie for a week.
  14. Enjoy Xbox or Nintendo, Gameboy, Sony PSP, or any handheld electronic games. Try some of the hot new games on your iPhone or iPad like Angry Birds or Minecraft. See Digital Trends for a complete updated list of the highest rated games.
  15. Some like the handheld game of Simon – it's not too difficult, so it’s good if the pain medications are affecting your concentration.
  16. Read the entire Harry Potter series (no these books are not just for kids, the stories and characters are riveting!)
  17. If you prefer, read the original magical book series, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
  18. For the women - give yourself a manicure, a facial, look through magazines to find a new hair style you'd like to try.
  19. Read the entire New York Times – that will take at least a half a day!
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Emotional Care

  1. Sit out on your deck or porch for awhile each day and get some fresh air.
  2. Get free therapy online and make friends with other people who are in similar situations on the Spine-health.com Discussion Forum: "...finding this site and spending time here was a great help during recuperation - both in regard to having something to do but also for learning and understanding about our surgeries and recovery, and also being able to help and assist others here - that's why I am still active here 7 months after surgery."
  3. Start a blog – an online diary that allows you to chronicle your recovery and automatically notifies your network of friends and family each time you update it.
  4. E-mail a loved one who is having difficulty empathizing with your condition and invite him or her to view the Message Board so they can see what you and others in your condition have to go through.
  5. Instant chat with others who are laid up in similar situations in an online Chat Room.
  6. Read and comment on blogs that deal with recovery from surgery.
  7. Connect with an old friend with whom you've lost touch. Try sending him or her a card or letter via old fashioned mail. Or, find him or her on Facebook and reconnect.
  8. Learn to meditate and practice, practice, practice. Meditation is great for reducing stress and producing an overall feeling of calm and well -being, all of which contributes to healing.

Productive Time

  1. Take this time to put all those old pictures in an album, or to turn your digital prints into real photos. Consider learning how to scrap book or create online photo albums of all your digital prints with Shutterfly.com, Snapfish.com, or any other online photo service.
  2. Plan ahead for your next vacation - research and plan it online.
  3. Become an expert on a specific subject – rent documentaries, read books, and use Google Scholar to do free online research on a certain subject. Ancient Greece? Bird watching? History of golf? Research and learn all about whatever interests you.
  4. Sort out the pile of mail, bills, catalogues etc.,that has been piling up on kitchen counter since before your surgery.
  5. Put your financials online with Quickbooks or a similar financial management program.
  6. Make some gifts the old fashioned way – knit or crochet a baby blanket for someone who's expecting a baby soon, needlepoint something to decorate the baby's nursery, or make advance holiday gifts.
  7. Learn the almost-lost art of lace making.
  8. Learn to write left handed (or right handed, if you're a lefty) to exercise a new part of your brain.
  9. Inventory all the stuff you want to get rid of around the house and garage, and sell it on eBay or Craigslist.
  10. Get started on that novel you've always wanted to write.
  11. Make a Honey-do (or handyman) list for all those odd jobs that need to get done around the house.
  12. Help build the online encyclopedia Wikipedia by editing or starting any topic where you have expertise.
  13. Learn origami and create beautiful origami gift boxes or figures.
  14. Learn calligraphy and make your handwritten notes gorgeous! This is especially valuable if you have horrible handwriting like mine…
  15. Create a list of recipes that are easy to prepare that you can make once you're up and around but still recovering. Keep track of them online with Pinterest.

Feeling Better by Doing Good

  1. Every day write a short thank you (or love note) to the person who is caring for you and put it in the same place for them to find each day.
  2. Write thank you notes to everyone in the hospital who was helpful to you.
  3. Pray in your own way.
  4. E-mail thank you notes to all the websites you found especially helpful (hint, hint!)... makes all the hard work worth it!
  5. Read online verses from the Bible about healing and related topics.
  6. Anytime you reach out to help someone else in need, you will feel less lonely and less depressed. Volunteer with an organization that allows you to call and talk to people who are lonely (such as people in nursing homes or people confined to their house).
  7. If you don't yet have a cause that you're passionate about, research one online (start here) and make a plan to start donating your time and energy to something you care about once you can get around.
  8. Be an excellent host or hostess – send out invitations to your friends and family, schedule visits, greet your visitors enthusiastically even when you're in pain, and encourage them to talk about themselves and their lives. It will go a long way to help take your mind off your situation, and will make it a pleasant visit all around.

Getting mobile again

  1. If you can't walk much yet, have someone drive you to Wal-Mart or Target and ride one of the rascal scooters.
  2. Just walk, walk, walk. Try to gradually work up to 10,000 steps a day.
  3. Wear a pedometer to encourage you to walk whenever possible.
  4. Get comfortable shoes for walking that are easy to get on and off. Crocs are a favorite – they're lightweight, slip on so you don't have to bend over to get them on or off, and have some traction to help avoid slipping.
  5. Walk on a treadmill and set a progressive goal (e.g. go for 2 minutes longer each day) that is OK'd by your doctor. Chart your progress each day so you have a visual confirmation of how far you've come!
  6. Sign up for a water therapy - it's very gentle on your back, as the water supports you while you exercise and prevents any jarring motion.

Of course, check with your doctor first before doing any of the above. Many of these ideas do require a laptop and Internet access. If you don't have a laptop, you can buy an inexpensive one (starting at $600) or try to borrow one from a friend or family member. Wireless Internet access is a good idea so you can access the Internet from your bed, a recliner, or wherever you're most comfortable.

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