Hysterectomy recovery exercises can help you get back your strength, and fitness and also help you to avoid some common post hysterectomy side effects.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway explains some helpful hysterectomy recovery exercises and and safe exercise tips to help your return to exercise. Michelle is the author of Inside Out – the essential women’s guide to pelvic support.
Read on to learn how to promote your hysterectomy recovery:
- What is hysterectomy? Different types of hysterectomy
- Choosing your hysterectomy recovery exercises
- Core abdominal exercises to avoid after hysterectomy
- Hysterectomy recovery tips
- How long does hysterectomy recovery take?
- Does hysterectomy cause early menopause?
1. What is a Hysterectomy? (Quick definitions)
Hysterectomy surgery may be carried out in a number of ways and hysterectomy recovery depends on the hysterectomy procedure performed.
- Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus or womb and is usually performed by a gynecologist.
- Total hysterectomy (or complete hysterectomy), involves removal of the uterus and cervix—the narrow end of your uterus where it joins to the top of your vagina.
- Partial hysterectomy (or subtotal hysterectomy) involves the removal of the uterus and leaves the cervix.
What is a Vaginal Hysterectomy?
A vaginal hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus and cervix through a small cut or incision high inside the vagina. Vaginal hysterectomy is usually less painful and movement is easier than with abdominal hysterectomy as there is no abdominal incision.
What is a Total Abdominal Hysterectomy?
A total abdominal hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus and cervix. A total abdominal hysterectomy usually involves a bikini-line incision made horizontally across the pubic hair line and is usually not visible above briefs post operatively. Sometimes a vertical mid-line incision is used across the lower abdomen and this type of incision can make movement quite uncomfortable post operatively. Abdominal hysterectomy recovery can be a little more complex than after a vaginal hysterectomy owing to the abdominal incision.
2. Choosing Your Hysterectomy Recovery Exercises
Exercises for Early Hysterectomy Recovery
Women can promote recovery and avoid or minimize some of the potential side effects of a hysterectomy. Potential complications and side-effects of a hysterectomy managed or avoided through exercise include: lung problems, blood clots in leg veins (known as deep venous thrombosis or DVT) and even back, neck and hip pain and stiffness. Simple hysterectomy recovery exercises can be viewed now in our free online physiotherapy video to minimise hysterectomy side effects.
Exercise will also promote emotional well-being after hysterectomy. Sensible exercise can help to improve self-confidence, improve mood, and reduce stress. Planning the day to ensure a balance of regular gentle exercise and rest is a key to post hysterectomy emotional well being.
For more guidelines on general fitness hysterectomy recovery exercises refer to our Hysterectomy Post-operative Exercise Guidelines.
Strength Exercises After a Hysterectomy
Strength exercises commence when permitted by the treating surgeon. Inappropriate strength exercises and techniques during the first three months after hysterectomy may increase the likelihood of pelvic floor prolapse at a later stage. Strength exercises must be modified to those techniques, weights and exercises that are pelvic floor safe and therefore minimize the risk of internal injury. Avoid returning to unsupervised and unmodified gym-based strength exercises.
Refer to Inside Out for a complete program of pelvic floor safe strength exercises for women.
Pelvic Floor Exercise After a Hysterectomy
Pelvic floor exercises can help to increase the strength, thickness and support provided by the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles should be exercised to support the pelvic floor organs after hysterectomy surgery. Regular ongoing pelvic exercises help to optimize long-term support of internal organs, maintain bladder and bowel continence and minimize the risk of future pelvic prolapse.
Learn how to do Pelvic floor exercises after hysterectomy now in our online video. Pelvic floor exercises should be commenced post-hysterectomy only with the approval of the treating surgeon.
3. Core Abdominal Exercises After a Hysterectomy
Try to avoid intense core abdominal strength exercises during hysterectomy recovery. Traditional abdominal exercises including sit ups and abdominal curl exercises increase the downward pressure within the pelvis and the internal hysterectomy site. If intense abdominal exercises are performed during hysterectomy recovery, then the risk of internal strain will be increased. Upon returning to mainstream exercise classes including Pilates, Yoga and gym-based exercises, avoid or modify abdominal core strength exercises.
For simple hysterectomy recovery exercises for the abdominal muscles view our freeonline videos now for floor-based core abdominal exercises and for seated fitball core abdominal workout hysterectomy recovery exercises.
4. Hysterectomy Recovery Tips
You need to take the time to rest after your surgery to promote repair and allow your body to fully recover. Make sure you spend time every day for the first six weeks lying down flat, either on your back or on your side (unless for some medical reason you are unable to lie flat). You can increase your resting comfort by lying on your back with a support cushion placed under your knees. This position will take pressure off your internal wound and your low back. If you prefer to rest on your side, use a pillow against your body to support your lower abdomen, especially if you have had an abdominal hysterectomy. Try to balance daily rest and regular gentle exercise as part of your daily hysterectomy recovery routine.
Eat well and minimize post hysterectomy weight gain
Weight gain after hysterectomy is a frequently expressed concern. Women often lose weight immediately following surgery and during recovery only to find that they gain weight over the following weeks during their recovery at home. Post operative weight gain can increase fatigue and also increases the load on the pelvic floor. Unnecessary weight gain can usually be avoided through sensible diet to promote physical recovery and exercise to avoid physical debilitation. Refer to weight gain after hysterectomy for further details on how to avoid post hysterectomy weight gain.
Avoid heavy lifting after a hysterectomy
Lifting must be kept to a minimum to avoid strain and allow internal healing after a hysterectomy. Your gynecologist will usually tell you his/her limitations and guidelines for how much lifting is permitted postoperatively. The amount that can be lifted varies according to many factors including; type of hysterectomy procedure, preoperative strength and rate of overall recovery.
As a general rule, lifting is usually limited to 2.2–4.4 lb (1–2 kg) total weight for the first six weeks following surgery however once again be guided by your surgeon’s limitations for how much you are permitted to lift during recovery. Never lift weight that causes you to strain in both the short and long-term after hysterectomy surgery.
Lifting restrictions include lifting body weight; try to avoid lifting body weight using your arms. Get out of bed by rolling on to your side first, and try not to lift your body into a standing position using your arms. When lifting from sitting to standing use your legs, not your arms.
5. How Long does Hysterectomy Recovery Take?
Hysterectomy recovery time varies from woman to woman and is influenced by:
- Hysterectomy procedure (abdominal or vaginal)
- Preoperative fitness level
- Overall general health
- Post operative complications
- Age at the time of surgery.
Early post operative recovery usually takes 4-6 weeks depending on some of the factors already listed. After this time frame most women are returning to most of their previous daily activities however many women still don’t feel fully recovered after these first six weeks and often report feeling fatigued. Full internal wound healing usually takes place over the three months following hysterectomy.
6. Does a Hysterectomy Cause Early Menopause?
No, hysterectomy surgery does not cause an early menopause. Sometimes the surgeon will also remove one or both of ovaries and/or fallopian tubes at the same time as the hysterectomy. This is called an oophorectomy and when this surgery is performed before menopause has occurred, the woman will then undergo menopause following her surgery.
We welcome your comments about hysterecterectomy recovery exercises below
This expert article is by Michelle Kenway, Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. Michelle is the author of the internationally acclaimed exercise guide for women Inside Out – the essential women’s guide to pelvic support along with Dr Judith Goh Urogynaecologist.
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