Laparoscopic Surgery & Gas Pain
Happy New Year! Wow, here we are in 2020, I hope you've had some down time over the holidays, or if you have been working that you have a break planned in the near future.
Firstly, sending lots of love to anyone who has been affected by the fires directly or indirectly. And thank you to everyone who has been supporting those affected in whatever way you can.
This blog is a very specific one. As some of you know I had some keyhole surgery just before Christmas, it was for a kidney issue I was born with and the surgery all went well but there was one thing I wasn't prepared for - pain from the CO2 gas.
When you have keyhole (laparoscopic) abdominal surgery the abdominal cavity is inflated with CO2 so the surgeon can see what they are doing. You wake up with a very bloated abdomen from the residual gas. I was warned about this and that it could be painful but it was a lot more painful than I had expected (and includes shoulder pain) and lasted a lot longer than I expected so I wanted to share what I learned along the way and what helped me incase it might help you or someone you know in the future :)
Please note that I'm only sharing what helped me, it might not be appropriate for you depending on your type of surgery (especially not for intestinal surgery), other medications you might be on or other medical conditions you have so please check with the relevant health professionals to help you work out what is best for you.
Activated Charcoal I didn't discover this until a couple of weeks after the surgery but it really helped with the gas pain. Activated charcoal can absorb a lot of the gas that has worked it's way into the intestines. It seemed to help with the gas that was still in the abdominal cavity too - this may be due to an increased clearance rate through the intestines which meant the tissue could absorb more. I took mine first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. You can take it any time of day but it's recommended to have it 1 hour before food/medications/supplements or 2 hours after so the stomach is fairly empty and also so it doesn't stop you absorbing medications or supplements. I used a powder so it didn't have any dodgy excipients but there are tablets and capsules available too. The powder is just added to water, it is flavourless, but it does have a slightly gritty mouthfeel but this didn't bother me. Follow the instructions on the product you buy as you need to have plenty of water with it. Bowel movements do turn a very dark grey. If you have too much it can cause constipation but I didn't experience this at all.
Magnesium Powder Due to the ongoing pain, my whole abdomen felt tense and it was hard to properly relax it so I decided to try magnesium powder. I took it at the therapeutic dose recommended on the product and it did really help. It also helps to relax the smooth muscle of the intestines to keep everything moving through so I felt it prevented constipation from the charcoal too.
Walking & Yoga Stretches The advice given in hospital is to get up as soon as possible and walk as much as possible to help move the gas. There were two issues with this for me.
Firstly, in hospital, because of the bloating, pain and the fact that the abdominal muscles had been cut through (albeit small keyhole cuts), I couldn't work out how to sit up, let alone get up and walk!! I couldn't even lift my head without using my hand because I couldn't switch on my abdominals and when I did try my upper abdominals and diaphragm would go into a painful spasm. What I would do differently is ask for a physio sooner to show me best the techniques to get upright. I would also ask sooner if it is ok to push through the pain and move or am I going to do any damage as I felt unsure about this at the time.
On the night following surgery, I made the mistake of rolling on my side to try and get more comfortable. It felt ok at first but an hour later I woke with intense pain, worse than before which was probably due to the gas settling in one side. After that, I stayed on my back when in bed. Ask for a towel to put under your lower back if you are getting a sore back from the hospital bed.
The best position I found for the muscle spasms was on hands and knees for a few minutes. Just being in that position completely stopped the spasms and once I started using it, the frequency of spasms reduced to nothing quite quickly.
Once I was at home, the second issue I had with walking was that it got the gas moving but faster than my body was able to eliminate it. Therefore I ended up with more pain again. I started a combination of yoga poses to help eliminate gas and I did them every 2-3 hours which really helped. I did a combination of the 2 videos below. Post- surgery be very gentle and listen to your body in terms of how far to push the positions. Do not do the headstand recommended in one video! Focus on deep breathing during the poses. Once again, check with your physiotherapist if you are unsure if these are ok for you.
So those are my 3 main tips - Activated Charcoal, Magnesium powder and yoga poses every 2-3 hours. I was late starting all of these, if I had known about them I would have started them in hospital - the charcoal and magnesium as soon as I was given the all clear to eat and drink and the yoga as soon as I could move.
I hope this helps and please feel free to quiz me more if you have any questions.