Hysterectomy is the surgical procedure performed to remove a woman's uterus. The type of hysterectomy and the method used to remove the uterus depend on the woman's medical history and the reason for the procedure.
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Post-hysterectomy exercise you're allowed during recovery depends on the type of procedure performed and your doctor's recommendations. For most patients, moderate exercise with a few restrictions is appropriate.
Overview of Hysterectomy Procedures
A total hysterectomy removes the entire uterus and the cervix. Removal of only the upper portion of the uterus is called a partial hysterectomy. A radical hysterectomy removes the whole uterus, the upper portion of the vagina and the tissue around the cervix.
The hysterectomy procedure your doctor chooses to perform may be abdominal, vaginal or laparoscopic. Each procedure involves making incisions and removing the uterus through them.
The medical conditions that can result in hysterectomy include fibroids, cancer of the uterus or other reproductive organs, endometriosis and abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Recovery After Surgery
Women usually remain in the hospital for at least one or two days after a hysterectomy. Women who undergo the procedure because of cancer sometimes stay in the hospital for a longer period. The MedlinePlus website recommends that you get a lot of rest after the surgery and that you abstain from tub baths, sexual intercourse and lifting heavy objects for six to eight weeks.
The recovery period for abdominal hysterectomy is four to six weeks. Recovery for vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy requires three to four weeks. Limited exercise during your recovery period may be appropriate, with your doctor's approval.
Read more: How to Recover After a Hysterectomy
Moderate exercise can help speed your recovery process after hysterectomy, including strengthening the muscles in your back and stomach, alleviating pain and discomfort and improving weight management.
However, MedlinePlus recommends that you not jog, lift weights over 10 pounds, perform situps or engage in any activity that causes you to strain or breathe deeply. You should also avoid heavy housework or strenuous post-hysterectomy exercise until you've fully recovered or your doctor gives approval.
As soon as you feel able, you may exercise by taking short walks and making slow and gradual increases in your level of activity. Perform Kegel exercises early on in your post-hysterectomy workout to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by tightening your vaginal muscles as if you're trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for five seconds, relax and repeat the exercise.
Strengthen your stomach muscles by getting on your hands and knees and tightening your stomach muscles as you exhale slowly, hold the position for five seconds, relax the contraction and repeat.
Stretch your upper back and shoulders by lying on a bed and raising your hands above your head with your palms facing upward. Press downward into the bed with your arms. Hold the position for five to 10 seconds, relax the stretch and repeat.
The head situp requires you to lie down with your knees bent and your arms crossed over your stomach. Use your hands to gently pull your abdominal muscles together and raise your head and point your chin toward your chest. Hold the position for three to five seconds and slowly return your head to the starting position. Relax and repeat the movement.
Tips and Warnings
Talk to your doctor before performing any exercises. Take precautions during exercise to protect your incision. Avoid any vigorous or strenuous exercise that might weaken your stitches or reopen your incision.
Perform your doctor-approved exercises every day, repeat each exercise 10 times and breathe during the exercises. Holding your breath during exercise can force your heart to work harder and raise your blood pressure.