Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise because it is a low impact, high-intensity workout that puts limited stress on the body. However, if you plan on swimming after surgery, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure your body is able to heal properly.
The thought of surgery can be scary, but doing research to understand the risk and how to be prepared for post-surgery swimming is important. In this blog post we’re sharing when it’s safe to swim after surgery, the types of surgeries you may have and the recommended time to avoid a swim after surgery, lastly how to mentally prepare yourself to swim after surgery.
Can you Go Swimming with an Open Wound?
If you have just had surgery and still have an open wound going in the water is not a good idea. This doesn’t matter if it’s in a pool or the open ocean, you still run the risk of infection. You need to keep your open wound dry and the only way to do that is onshore.
How Long After Surgery Can you Submerge in Water?
- Your surgeon, family doctor, physiotherapist or medical team has confirmed it is safe for you to do so
- Your wound has completely healed; ask your surgeon how long your wound will take to heal
- Your wound does not cause you any pain
Typically, after your stitches have been removed or dissolved and the wound has completely healed, it will again be safe to swim at the beach or in the pool. Again, it is not recommended to swim with an open wound.
Usually, stitches are removed within seven to 10 days after surgery. However, this is dependent on the location and size of the wound. Swimming should be avoided for a longer period of time if you have a pre-existing condition that can increase the risk of infection or delay healing.
You should also avoid swimming if you are wearing a cast or have an externally fixated device until your doctor has confirmed that it is safe to go back in the water.
How Do you Cover a Wound for Swimming?
You can cover a wound for swimming by using waterproof plasters and bandages to cover wounds. This will help to protect them while you swim so that they can heal completely. However, remember to clean the wound before you apply the plaster of bandage. Otherwise, you risk bacteria being trapped underneath which can lead to an infection.
Types of Surgeries – Is it Safe to Swim After Surgery?
Depending on the type of surgery you had, you may need to avoid swimming even after the wound has completely healed. Below are some recommended waiting times after various surgeries. Keep in mind: you should always check with a healthcare professional before swimming:
- C-Section – While every woman is different, doctors generally recommend waiting six weeks after delivery before swimming. If you plan to swim after your surgery, wait until bleeding has stopped and the scar has healed. Some women are cleared to swim at six weeks, while others may have to wait a longer period.
- Cornea transplant – It is recommended to wait four weeks before swimming after a cornea transplant. After being cleared by your doctor, wear goggles to protect your eye from an impact injury and avoid diving.
- Hip replacement– Doctors recommend waiting between eight to 12 weeks before swimming. It is advised that after hip surgery you avoid the breaststroke, which can place pressure on the hip compared to other strokes.
- Heart bypass – It is recommended that you wait three months before swimming after a heart bypass surgery.
- Cataract surgery– Doctors say you may be able to swim while wearing goggles two weeks after cataract surgery and four weeks without goggles.
- Appendectomy (for appendicitis) – It is recommended to wait around 10 to 14 days or once the wound has fully healed.
Understanding when it is safe to swim after surgery speed up your recovery time. Also, be sure to keep incisions clean and avoid exposure to unsanitary water to prevent secondary infections and additional scarring.
Mentally Prepare to Swim After Surgery
Be Patient – There’s no doubt about it, swimmers are tough! But it’s important to be patient when figuring out if you should swim after surgery. Even if you’re keen on getting back in the pool, your health is most important. Don’t jump the gun, make sure you are in a great place not only physically, but also mentally. Your body needs time to rest after surgery, be patient and give it enough time to heal. If you don’t you could risk another injury that could keep you out of the pool for even longer.
Stay Positive – There are going to be good days during recovery and there are going to be bad days. Try to stay positive and you’ll be more motivated to get through the tough days. Surgery may set you back, but if you stick to a recovery plan then you’ll be able to swim after surgery in no time.
Small Victories are Important – Perhaps your swimming isn’t as strong as it used to be, and you’re worried about how it will be to swim after surgery. Try to focus on small victories, every time you get closer to doing something in the pool that you could do before the surgery make sure to reward yourself. This will give you more positive reinforcement to keep going even when the road to recovery is long.
Talk About It – The thought of taking a swim after surgery can be intimidating. The best way to get over your fear is to talk about it with either your instructor, coach, rehab trainer or anybody else you trust. They’ll be able to understand your feelings and coach you through these feelings. You’ll gain more confidence and be comfortable when it’s time to swim after surgery.
Rehab – Being able to swim after surgery may require you to do rehab after. If it does then make sure to take the rehab seriously. The road to recovery means holding yourself accountable. It may take some time to become as strong of a swimmer as you were, but rehab is going to help you get there faster. Your rehab trainer has likely worked with other swimmers with similar injuries and is specially trained to help with recovery. Don’t take their advice with a grain of salt, they are experts and are there to help you.