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The Effects of Surgery

Loss of Muscle Mass, Increased Body Fat and What This Means for You

The human body is an incredibly resilient structure. At any given time we are creating new components, breaking old ones down and revamping ourselves for the challenges ahead.

Unfortunately, there is times when our body cannot do the necessary maintenance and repair that it needs. This is when a medical professional and even surgery may be required. Surgery can be performed anywhere in the body for a multitude of reasons. What we will focus on today is the general impact surgery can have on the body and some of the things we can do to prepare our body for the challenges of surgery.

Surgery whether it is emergent or elective requires a period of rest, known as the post-operative period. Surgery can range from procedures like open-heart surgery to repair of torn ligaments, or fractured bones, each coming with its specific post-operative requirements. During the rest period patients are often required to refrain from heavy lifting, over-exerting themselves, or even bearing weight on a particular body part. This rest time is an important part of the recovery but it does come at a cost. Prolonged sedentary periods have been shown to reduce muscle mass and increase percent body fat.

Many people have heard the phrase “muscles have memory”. This is a very true statement. Our muscles rebuild, repair, growing bigger and stronger the more we use them. Take for example a person who has shoulder surgery. Often they are casted or placed in a sling for several weeks as the body heals. The muscles of the arm eventually become weak and fatigue easily due to the underuse. This is why most patients are often prescribed several weeks of physical therapy after surgery to help them regain strength and return to their normal abilities and function.

In addition to the loss of muscle mass and muscle strength, prolonged periods of rest often lead to increase retained body fat. When our caloric consumption greatly exceeds the amount of calories burned our body stores the excess fat. This excess fat is often stored in places like our abdomen, chest, and thigh area. Not only is this excess fat not healthy for our appearance but the excess fat and excess weight places greater stress on our heart, lungs and joints.

It is important to work with your doctor after any procedure to develop a safe and effective treatment plan that will allow you to properly heal, yet combat weight gain, muscle fatigue and reduced exercise endurance. Healing requires so many factors; why not give yourself every best possible chance at success!