By Elizabeth McLarney, MD

In my almost 20 years of being an orthopaedic surgeon, I have learned many things. There are a few things that I would like to share with you.

Elizabeth McLarney, MD
Elizabeth McLarney, MD

Motion is life. Orthopaedic surgeons say this because we know if we don’t keep the soft tissues around a joint moving after surgery or an injury that the joint will become stiff and lose range of motion. This can be extrapolated to a larger meaning. We know that if people stay active, they stay healthier. Exercise should occur for at least 30 minutes to one hour per day. This should be every day. This exercise should include aerobic exercise (like walking, biking, swimming, hiking) and strengthening exercises. If people do not exercise then they have a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and early death.

Wear your seatbelt. Seatbelt usage is much higher than it used to be. I am not even sure if the car I grew up in had seatbelts. Now there are alarms that remind you to put your seatbelt on while in the car. Fatalities from car accidents are down as a result from seat belt usage. There are still horrible stories of injuries and deaths from individuals not wearing their seatbelts. Do it as a favor for those who love you. Remember most accidents happen very close to home.

Don’t smoke cigarettes. In case you haven’t heard, cigarettes can cause cancer. Cigarettes also can cause other health risks. They can cause lung diseases that make it difficult to breathe. They can cause such damage to your lungs that you have to use extra oxygen just to breathe. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. You might wonder why I list not smoking in an article on orthopaedics. It is because it affects my patients in orthopaedics as well. It takes a broken bone three times longer to heal if someone smokes. Healing incisions after surgery have a higher risk of becoming infected or opening up if a patient smokes. People who smoke get more wrinkles. If none of this convinces you not to smoke, your family is also at a higher risk of dying prematurely due to exposure to second hand smoke.

Moderation. Easy to say, sometimes hard to do. This applies to eating and activities. I often see people who go out to their yard on a nice day and rake their entire yard in one day and present with shoulder pain. Try to rotate your tasks and do one task for an hour or less and switch to another activity that uses different muscles. This also applies to aerobic exercise. Cross training with different forms of aerobic exercise helps prevent overuse injuries. Eating in moderation can help combat weight gain and improve fitness by eating a wide variety of food in different food groups.

Follow your doctor’s instructions. If the doctor tells you to elevate your leg after you break your ankle, then it is a good idea to do it. If you are instructed not to put weight on your leg after surgery, then it is a good idea to follow instructions. I highly doubt that there is any doctor that gives instructions just to hear themselves talk. In order to have the best results while recovering after an injury or surgery, follow the instructions given to you by your doctor. If you don’t understand the instructions or why they are being given, make sure you ask.

Elizabeth McLarney, MD is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at BMH Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, a department of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. She can be reached at 802-251-8611.