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General Advice

Create Your Surgery Symphony: 7 Tips to Master the Pre-Op Playlist

A How-to Guide
By Heather Campbell
Updated: May 15, 2024
Conductor ready set recover
Symphony conductor


You've assembled an A-team of medical professionals who are dialed into the surgical side of things. They're ready to deliver a virtuoso performance in the operating room. But how do you harmonize with this medical orchestra and prep for the big show?

Surgery can still be intimidating. Your surgeon knows what they are doing, but do you know what you're supposed to be doing? When things can feel totally out of your control, there is actually a lot you can do so you don’t feel paralyzed by fear. If you prepare (and there is a lot to prepare!) you can alleviate stress and increase your chances of a successful outcome with the goal of getting back to your normal routine.

Fear not! You've got a starring role in this production, and with a little rehearsal, you'll be ready for your surgical debut. Here's a seven-step guide to show you how to prepare for surgery and ensure you're on-point for your performance.

1. Master the Score

Sheet music
Sheet music

Knowledge is power, and the more you know about your surgery, the better prepared you'll be. Be inquisitive. Ask your surgeon for details about the procedure, recovery, and potential risks. Don't just settle for a CliffNotes version of the story; you deserve the complete narrative.

Ask about the specifics of the surgery itself. How long will it take? Will you be under local or general anesthesia? What are the potential complications, and how can you recognize them? Get granular with the details, and don't be afraid to ask questions that may seem obvious. They may be the conductor, and conductors can be intimidating, but you've got an equally important role so don't be afraid to speak up.

Also, when discussing the recovery process, be sure you have a clear understanding of what "normal" means. This might not align with your preconceived notions, so having a candid conversation can help alleviate any surprises. Discuss the appearance of the surgical site post-op and any potential long-term effects on your body.

2. Set the Stage


After surgery, your energy should be focused on recovery, not managing your home. Get your home in order before the curtain rises. Walk through your living space and consider any potential accessibility issues. Will you need crutches or a wheelchair? Are items on high shelves going to be a problem?

Enlist help from friends, family, or home health care workers for tasks like cooking, cleaning, and transportation. In addition to taking care of practical home matters, be sure any immediate post-surgery tasks are in order. This might include paying bills, organizing important documents, and setting up a budget for your post-surgery expenses. Ready Set Recover has some great tools to help with getting assistance from friends and family.

3. Fine-Tune Your Instrument

Fine tuning
Fine tuning

Your body is your instrument and it's about to undergo a major tune-up. Prepare for the physical demands of surgery by following a healthy diet, exercising to build strength and stamina and stop smoking. Be sure to consult with your doctor for specific guidelines tailored to your unique needs.

a. Eat healthy foods

Your body needs more energy before undergoing surgery. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can help you maintain a healthy weight and build up strength, and improve muscle health. On the flip side, try to stop drinking alcohol and stop eating processed foods, at least for the time being.

b. Exercise

Incorporate moderate exercise into your daily routine, gradually increasing your activity level in the weeks prior to your surgery. This will help you build up your stamina, which can be especially helpful during recovery.

c. If you smoke or use nicotine products, stop

Cigarettes and other nicotine products, including chewing tobacco, increase the risks of serious complications so if possible, quit smoking, vaping or using dip.

It's also important to address any existing health issues before surgery. Work with your doctor and surgical team to manage conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, and discuss any concerns you have about your overall health.

4. Harmonize with Your Stress Levels


Stress is the dissonant chord of the surgical symphony. Keep it in check with relaxation techniques, support from loved ones, and open communication with your doctor. You want a smooth, harmonious melody, not a cacophony of anxiety.

Consider practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. These methods can help lower your stress levels and place you in a more positive mindset before surgery. (Ready Set Recover can help with this as well.)

Lean on your support system. Share your concerns and fears with your friends and family, and don't hesitate to ask for their help when needed. They can provide emotional support and practical assistance during your recovery. Learn more about how to reduce anxiety before surgery.

5. Adhere to the Conductor's Instructions

Your surgical team will provide pre-surgery instructions that are key to your performance. Follow them religiously, and once again if something is unclear or you have questions, ask your care team. This is a collaborative masterpiece, after all.

Common pre-surgery instructions may include fasting for a set period of time before surgery to ensure an empty stomach and reduce the risk of complications. Your surgeon may also instruct you to take or avoid specific medications prior to the procedure. Follow the doctor's instructions carefully and disclose any medications you're currently taking or other medical conditions.

If you're unsure about any of the pre-surgery instructions don't wait for a clear explanation. It's better to ask questions now than to face problems later due to misunderstandings. It happens more often than you think and may result in unnecessary complications and hospital readmissions.

6. Anticipate the Post-Op Crescendo


Knowing what to expect after surgery will help you manage anxiety and set the stage for a successful recovery. Prepare for common post-op symptoms like pain, swelling, bruising, and fatigue. Your surgeon will tell you how to manage these issues as you heal.

Pain management is essential to your recovery. Work with your care team to develop a pain management plan, which may include pain medicine such as prescription medications, over-the-counter medications such like aspirin, or alternative therapies like acupuncture or massage.

Swelling and bruising are common post-surgery symptoms. Your surgeon may recommend applying ice to the affected area or taking over-the-counter pain medication to help reduce swelling. Compression garments may also be suggested to aid in managing swelling and promoting circulation.

Fatigue is also a natural part of the recovery process. It's important to rest, and allow your body the time it needs to heal. Establish a comfortable sleeping environment and listen to your body's cues. If you're feeling tired, don't push yourself too hard.

7. Adapt to Your New Rhythm


Depending on the kind of surgery you're having, you may need to make temporary lifestyle changes after your procedure. For example, if you're having weight loss surgery, you'll be asked to follow a specific nutrition and exercise plan to help you shed pounds.

Start implementing these adjustments before your surgery to give yourself time to acclimate. This will make the transition easier and help you achieve better results. Allow yourself time to discover things that help and triggers that make it more difficult. Discuss them with your medical team to see if they have any suggestions or resources. Working on it proactively allows you the opportunity to come up with solutions before the challenges lead to complications during recovery.

In some cases, surgery may lead to long-term lifestyle changes. Be prepared to adapt to these changes and work closely with your medical team to ensure the best possible outcome. They can provide guidance and support to help you navigate this new chapter in your life.


By following these Seven Tips for Surgery, you'll be in sync with your surgical team and ready for a successful performance. Remember, communication and preparation are the keys to harmonizing with your surgical symphony. Take an active role, and give yourself the best chance at a smooth recovery.

As you embark on this surgical journey, remember that you're not alone. You have a dedicated team of professionals and loved ones supporting you every step of the way. By taking the time to prepare for your surgery and following these tips, you'll be well on your way with your recovery.

And one more thing...

Standing Ovation
Standing Ovation

Lastly, this is not a dress rehearsal. This is your opening night. So do your best to focus on what you need to do to get a standing ovation. (We'll stop with the musical analogies now...). If you need help preparing for surgery, Ready Set Recover can certainly help you hit all the right notes (Ok, last one - we couldn't help ourselves).

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