14 Tips for Surgery Recovery

Surgery can be pretty taxing on your body, both emotionally and physically.

In addition to following your doctor’s orders after your gender-affirming surgery, you’ll want to surround yourself with loved ones and comfort to keep spirits high and let your body focus simply on healing. Here are 14 simple things you can prep in advance to help make your recovery as smooth as possible.

1. Smoothies

A loss of appetite is typical during post-op recovery. This can make it difficult to take the prescribed pain medication. Store bought smoothies are convenient when you’re unable to cook or don’t have an appetite for solid food. It’s an easy way to make sure you have enough food in your stomach to take the prescribed pain killers. Additionally, it’s also beneficial if you’re relying on yourself to cook during recovery.

2. Music Playlist

Compile a list of your favorite songs for recovery. Music can be very healing. It helps your mind drift away from the physical pain you’re feeling and promotes happy feelings. Research shows that music triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a part of your brain that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations. Many studies have also been done on the effect that music has on post-surgical pain, showing that pain was significantly less in those that listened to music right before, during, and/or after surgery.

3. Movie/TV Show List

Make a list of your favorite books, movies, tv shows, podcasts, games, etc. Nash found that making a list beforehand helped him through ‘surgery fog’ when it became difficult to make a decision on entertainment. Having the list readily available took the ‘work’ out of it and made it easier to relax- and ultimately focus on recovery.

There’s nothing more comforting to us than laughing at the antics of Dwight and Jim from The Office. When the pain is getting to you or you start to feel antsy on Day 7 of being stuck in the house, a funny, light-hearted show can make all the difference. Here’s what I saw when recovering: The Office (9 seasons!), Parks and RecAnchormanThe 40 Year Old VirginBridesmaids, and Knocked Up.

4. Visualizations

Visualizations and guided imagery assist in “creating a new state of mind”. Our bodies react the same to situations with no differentiation between if we are experiencing it or imagining that we are experiencing it. Visualizations positively affect your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, brain waves, temperature and even hormone balance. They can be a tremendous benefit post surgery. There are some great resources online that will guide you through this exercise.

5. Pillows/Body Pillows

Many trans surgeries require you to be in an upright position or at a 45-degree angle, as though you are sitting in a recliner. If you already own a recliner, great! If not, pillows help to manipulate your body into different positions allowing you to find that comfortable spot.

6. Shower Curtain and Puppy Pee Pads

Some surgeries come with the potential of leakage or drainage as you heal. It happens! Waterproof mattress covers can be expensive, so another option is to buy an inexpensive shower curtain. Place the shower curtain on top of your mattress or couch, then line the top of the curtain with the puppy wee wee pads. Now, your mattress and couch are saved from stains and expensive cleaning costs!

7. Straws

After surgery, bending and stretching can be difficult or even painful, and it’s often something your doctor will advise you not to do. That makes something like picking up a glass and drinking a pretty tough task. Bendy straws are a game-changer, and it takes away the stress of having to move around when the last thing you feel up to doing is moving!

8. Headphones and an eye mask

Headphones (and even earplugs!) can be helpful when your body or mind is feeling extra sensitive and unable to handle the noise around you. The headphones are both for you AND the sanity of your caret taker. Your sleep schedule will probably be sporadic, at best, and the headphones will come in handy when you’re wanting to doze off at 3 pm or when you’re up at 2 am unable to sleep. Maybe you have roommates who are trying to cook and banging the pots a little too loudly. Maybe your parents are getting ready for work and your dad is yelling to your mom to find his missing tie. Maybe your partner is trying to watch television and you are dozing off. Pop them on, listen to some music or stream a show, and zone out.

9. Baby Wipes

If you’re having a surgery that requires a bowel cleanse (like Magnesium Citrate), it can be pretty uncomfortable to continuously use toilet paper. There will also be days that you can’t shower following surgery, and baby wipes can help you clean up a little during the no-shower phase.

10. Zip-Up Hoodie, Button-Down Shirt, Sweatpants

Zip-ups and button-downs are great for top surgery and breast augmentation surgery since they are easy to put on and don’t require you to raise your arms – something you won’t be able to do for some time following surgery! For general comfort and coziness, sweatpants are awesome for any surgery, period.

11. Lip Balm

For post-op chapped lips (thanks, anesthesia!) you’ll want to pick up a nice chap stick or lip balm.

12. Warm Blankets

A must-have, even if it’s summer! Anesthesia affects your nerves and can cause you to fluctuate between very hot and very cold. Have them handy just in case so you’re as comfortable as possible.

13. Medical Supplies

Neosporin. Large bandages for the nips- I found I wanted extra large because I was paranoid I would the adhesive would be partially on the nipple. I had surgical pads recommended to me, I bought them and never used them. Bendy straws- NO LIFTING YOUR ARMS. Ice packs.

14. Slippers/slide ons

Bending over/tying shoes is a no go, especially with lower surgery. Even pulling up your own pants post op will be a challenge. Shoes like Birkenstocks or other shoes/slippers that you can easily slide your feet into are incredibly helpful.

Other tips:

If you’re traveling and staying away from home- game consoles, pictures of home/pets/loved ones.

Do you have tips you’d like to share? Comment below!

Nash Azarian