Returning to work after surgery

How quickly you return to work following surgery depends on a number of things:

  • How you heal
  • How you respond to surgery
  • The type of job you do

Your occupational health service will advise you on this, or your GP can give you advice. Ultimately, it's your decision when you want to go back, and you do not need your GP's permission to return. There is also no insurance risk to your employer if you choose to do so.

Work can be part of your recovery

Everyone needs time off to recover after an operation, but too much of it can stand in the way of you getting back to normal. In fact, by staying off for too long, people can become isolated and depressed. Getting back to your normal work routine sooner rather than later can actually help you to recover more quickly.

People whose work involves a lot of heavy lifting, standing up or walking for long periods of time will not be able to return to work as quickly as those who have jobs which are less demanding physically, such as office-based work.

Things that will help you to recover more quickly

Eat healthily: Eating a healthy diet will help to ensure that your body has all the nutrients it needs to heal.

Stop smoking: By not smoking, even if it's just for the time that you're recovering, you immediately start to improve your circulation and your breathing, not to mention a whole list of other benefits to the heart and lungs.

Family and friends can give you two important things:

  • Practical help with the tasks you might be temporarily unable to do while you recover, such as driving, the weekly shop, or lifting heavier items.
  • Keeping cheerful: the novelty soon wears off being home alone all day, and it's easy to feel isolated by this. Having company can help you to worry less.

If you live alone or do not have family or friends close by, organise support in advance or have family or friends come to stay with you for the first few days after surgery if possible.

It's important not to let anxiety set in, as it can become a problem in itself which stands in the way of you getting back to your normal routine.

Keep a routine: Get up at your normal time in the morning, get dressed, move about the house. If you get tired, you can rest later.

Build up gradually: Have a go at doing some of the things you'd normally do, but build up gradually. When you’re building up your activities, you may feel more tired than normal. If so, stop, and rest until your strength returns. If you feel severe pain, stop immediately and consult your GP or call NHS 111 (just dial 111 from any phone).

Don’t sleep in. You can always rest later. Staying in bed can cause depression.

Expert guidance

The Royal College of Surgeons (England) provides specific guidance on recovering from a range of operations and likely timescales for return to work.

For more on preparing for and recovering from various gynaecological operations, see the patient information leaflets from the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Contact details:

Address: Ground Floor, South Wing, St Pancras Hospital, 4 St Pancras Way, London NW1 0PE
Phone: 020 3317 3350
Fax: 020 3317 3360

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