The recovery period after orthopedic surgery plays a huge role in how successful your surgery will be in relieving pain, correcting your injury, and repairing your range of motion. Following your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions regarding rest, medication, and rehabilitation programs are crucial.
However, your habits before and after surgery also affect your recovery success. You may know that cigarette smoke seriously impedes your ability to heal after surgery, but why?
- Oxygen is vital for the body to perform all the processes necessary for healing. Cigarette smoke narrows our blood vessels, which makes it difficult for the large hemoglobin molecules that carry oxygen through our circulatory system to reach the bones and tissues that need to heal after your surgery.
- Besides oxygen, our blood contains all the necessary nutrients needed for our bones, skin, and other tissues to heal, making blood flow essential after orthopedic surgery. Cigarette smoke actually thickens blood and dilutes the much-needed oxygen and nutrients, slowing the healing process.
- Smoking also makes neutrophils, the cells that attack foreign bacteria in our bodies, less effective which increase your risk of infection after surgery.
- Chemicals in cigarette smoke also can cause more pain for smokers as it increases inflammation and affects our pain receptors. Smokers will also feel this pain for a more prolonged period since recovery time will be longer.
Fortunately, ceasing to smoke 4 to 6 weeks before your orthopedic surgery drastically reduces these risks. However, smoking again while you recover will increase these risks even more. Consult your orthopedic surgeon about best health habits to prepare for orthopedic surgery.