Why You Need to Stop Googling Your Way Through Cosmetic Surgery Recovery

You’ve chosen a great procedure, the right cosmetic surgeon to help you get the results you want, and a top-notch facility where you know you’ll be in good hands. Yet when it comes to getting advice for your recovery—and reassurance that what you’re experiencing is normal—you’re relying on the internet.

If you’re guilty of “Dr. Googling” your way through your recovery, you are not alone. Many patients, and their at-home caregivers, seek information from a third-party (meaning, not their doctor) following a procedure to get quick answers and navigate what is often a new, and at times confusing, experience.

However, the internet is a perilous place for post-procedure guidance.

Most internet content is not reliable (or even factual)

Cosmetic surgery results and stories posted via social media entice us to pay attention and can be challenging to ignore. However, these represent the experiences of the individuals presented, which could be quite different from yours.

In some unfortunate situations, intentionally misleading information and photography is presented for marketing purposes. This sort of information is excellent to present for discussion with your surgeon your consultation; however, none should be used to guide your recovery and you should never try any products, treatments, or activities without clearing them with your surgeon.

Here is a brief list of cautions that I share with my patients, which often appear in online medical advice. You may choose to discuss these with your cosmetic surgeon:

  • Heat and ice can do harm. Ice diminishes swelling and thus improves circulation, but it also slows circulation. As cooled tissues warm, there can be some rebound swelling and injury. Although there are some very precise icing strategies that may be helpful, these are challenging to perform correctly, and I prefer my patients do not ice. Heat is just plain dangerous. Healing tissues usually have some diminished or absent sensation, which invites the potential for easy burns. Even if you are using a low-heat device, I believe strongly heat is not worth the risk.
  • Bed rest is dangerous. Your body generally heals best with regular long, slow walking. Walking improves lymphatic flow, decreases discomfort, supports bowel function, improves mood and reduces the risk of blood clots. Extended bed rest raises risk for blood clots and can impair healing.
  • “All-natural” is not always safe. Many patients would like to optimize their recovery with vitamins, herbs, and organ support complexes. Only a select few of these products are well-studied for concurrent use with other medications and after surgery. Most have complex interactions with medications, and many promote bleeding.

Even authoritatively written content is not individualized to you and your surgeon’s techniques

Procedure information you’ll find on my website, and that of most cosmetic surgeons, is often well-written and accurate, but it is meant to provide generalized information to help patients learn more about procedures they are interested in before meeting with me. It is not a substitute for direct advice and instructions from your surgeon.

Even studies or articles written by cosmetic surgeons themselves (such as the one you are now reading) should never be used in lieu of your own surgeon’s advice. For one thing, a surgeon is going to write from the point of view of their experience with the techniques and procedures they perform personally. Different surgeons may perform the same procedures using substantially different techniques—resulting in major differences in recovery guidance.

The best resource for advice and support after cosmetic surgery? Your cosmetic surgeon.

Considering the above, it isn’t only important that you seek out reliable, factual information about recovery for your results and peace-of-mind—your health literally depends on it. However, in my experience there are three major mental roadblocks that can prevent patients from contacting their surgeon with questions or concerns during recovery. Let’s tear those down now.

Roadblock #1: I don’t want to bother my surgeon or their staff

Take it from a cosmetic surgeon who cares very much about how my patients are doing after surgery: we’d rather hear from you than not. If you have picked a good, reputable surgeon, he or she will feel the exact same way.

Although most of the key dialogue and decision-making happens during your consultation, and most cosmetic surgery procedures are not complex for an experienced, qualified surgeon—in other words, surgical steps are clear and outcomes are predictable—how comfortable and efficient your recovery experience is going is really important to us.

Don’t worry about seeming “high maintenance” or bothering your surgery team. This is the part of the cosmetic surgery process for which your surgeon is the least immediately present, and open communication is welcome and encouraged.

Roadblock #2: I want to make sure I get all the information I need

Most cosmetic surgeons—informed by extensive cosmetic surgery training, study, and experience over the thousands of cosmetic procedures they’ve performed—have honed their post-operative instructions to best suit their patients’ needs and achieve optimal results. Trust these instructions.

If you have mastered your post-operative instructions as given, and you still want to do more to enhance your recovery, ask your surgeon for further advice—and be ready for them to suggest that you do nothing further or different. In the end, recovery simply takes time, and “hacks” to speed recovery that at first may seem smart can actually lead to harm.

Roadblock #3: I’m worried if my recovery is “normal” and whether my surgeon is correct.

It is not uncommon for a patient to feel that their recovery is not going as planned at some point, and many crave third-party validation for their feelings. Surgeons sometimes downplay patient recovery concerns in an attempt to be reassuring. This approach works well in most situations, but may at times come across as dismissive. If so, ask your surgeon to better address your concerns (or see another doctor if it comes down to it), as you will not find better answers on the internet.

Remember, your perception as a patient is going to be different from your surgeon’s: you’ve probably never been through this before, while your cosmetic surgeon and nurses care for patients recovering from surgery day after day, year after year. Again, it comes down to trusting your cosmetic surgeons’ expertise, and knowing they have your best interest in mind.

The body has an inherent ability to heal itself, and any effort to speed this process should be done through the patient-surgeon partnership. Therefore, the best cosmetic surgery recovery advice the internet can give you is this: talk with your cosmetic surgeon.

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