Through extensive research and experience, I’ve been able to develop techniques that reduce patients’ downtime after rhinoplasty at my practice in Chicago, and help them heal as quickly as possible. Still, recovery after this surgery can be temporarily uncomfortable, as is expected with nearly any surgical procedure.
Patients can expect to feel tired and sore for at least a few days, along with some of these more specific symptoms. It’s important to be prepared before going in for surgery, so patients know what to expect and are not alarmed by the side effects they experience. Here are a few of the most important things to think about when planning for your recovery.
Expect pressure in the nasal area: During the first 5 to 7 days after the procedure, patients are going to feel inevitable discomfort in the nasal area. This will include a feeling of pressure against the nasal tissues and sinuses, much like the feeling of a head cold, and it’s most comfortable to breathe through the mouth. To manage discomfort, over-the-counter pain relievers are sufficient; the pressure will abate by the end of the first week of recovery. I suggest patients’ medicine cabinets are well-stocked a few days before surgery, so pain medication is available when needed.
Sleep upright: To reduce swelling and expedite the healing process, patients should sleep with their head elevated for the first 5 days after surgery. This can be as simple as placing a cushion underneath the mattress at the head of the bed. Sitting completely upright is not necessary.
Make sure you have enough pillows to keep this elevated position throughout the night. If you usually sleep beside a partner or pets, it may be best to set up a separate area to sleep during the first week after surgery to reduce the risk of bumping your nose as you rest.
Apply ice: Patients should alternate keeping an ice pack on and off of the nose for the first 8 hours after surgery. Ice is a tried-and-true method of reducing swelling and infection, numbing pain and discomfort, and speeding up the body’s natural healing processes.
To maintain a steady supply, we recommend purchasing some gel ice packs ahead of time and placing them in the freezer the night before the procedure. You’ll find them in the health and wellness sections of major stores, pharmacies, and online sites. A low cost alternative is two bags of frozen peas, which you can rotate in and out of the freezer, exchanging every 15 to 20 minutes. Bags of ice cubes work well too, though they do pose the risk of melting quickly, so make sure there are enough available to last for 8 hours.
Hold off on workouts: Patients should avoid working out or performing strenuous exercise for at least 1 week after their procedure, depending on the extent of the surgery. After the first week, it’s alright to slowly ease back into an exercise routine, avoiding any pressure on the face or lowering the head below the hips for long periods of time. Contact sports should be avoided for at least 6 weeks after surgery.
This is not to say that patients should remain sedentary as they heal. I encourage my patients to go for easy walks around their neighborhood as they feel comfortable. However, patients should always consult with their surgeon before resuming more strenuous physical activities.
Manage seasonal allergies: If patients typically experience seasonal allergies, they should proactively prepare by starting an allergy medication routine at least a week before surgery. This will begin to reduce any swelling of the nasal passages and manage allergy symptoms during recovery. It’s very important to make us aware of any medications you take, especially nasal sprays, to make sure nothing conflicts with the operative and postoperative medications or the healing process.
Watch for oozing or bleeding: Patients should experience very little discharge or blood coming from the nose, after the first few hours. If extensive bleeding occurs, especially after the first or second day after surgery, patients should immediately contact their surgeon.
Good preparation for rhinoplasty surgery makes for a smoother healing process—and it helps ensure the best possible result. (Review my patient photo gallery for inspiration.) I can’t emphasize enough how much more relaxed patients are when they know exactly what to expect before, during, and after their surgery.
While I take great strides to ensure my patients are thoroughly educated about the procedure and feel confident before they come in for surgery, it is always wise to read my related blog posts and ask me any questions beforehand.