Let’s be realistic here for a moment…. After surgery your surgeon with advise that you do not participate in any contact sport for around 8-12 weeks. Your surgeon will most likely say you can resume non-contact sports and exercise as soon as you are ready.
I have spoken to many people who have had jaw surgery and I do not know anyone that was able to participate in any kind of sport for the first 4 weeks post-surgery. You may be lucky and be recovered within a few weeks, but for most people this is not the case.
After jaw surgery there are many aspects that you need to bear in mind when planning the amount of time off you will require from work and school. It is also important to be realistic and not to plan too much too soon after your jaw surgery. Regardless of what the surgeons have told you, hardly anyone is recovered within two weeks. It is imperative that you do not partake in any heavy or contact sports for the first 8-12 weeks. It is also important that if you have had a bone graft or have any external wounds that you do not get them wet. All in all, that means no weights, no heavy sweaty cardio and no outside sport when it is likely to rain.
After surgery many people experience swelling, numbness and (sometimes) a vast amount of pain. There may also be complications caused by the surgery and your ability to breathe easily. This could mean nose bleeds, mucus build up in the nasal cavity or just general swelling around the top jaw, nose and cheeks. This makes exercise difficult.
You may also have existing or new issues relating to TMJ pain and/or posture. Many patients say their jaw joints hurt a lot after surgery and any exercise can cause pressure around the jaw joints.
Further to this, your body will be under immense stress due to the surgery itself and the dramatic change in diet. You will be losing weight and trying your hardest to maintain a nutritious and high calorie liquid or soft food diet.
Separately these issues may or may not affect your ability to participate in exercise, but after surgery the combination of these aspects can leave you feeling exhausted, weak, tired and dizzy. I would suggest asking a friend or family member to accompany you when exercising. At least for the first few weeks, while you get back on your feet and get back to some normality.
Before surgery I was in immense pain. I have TMJ issues and Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia. This meant that I experienced excoriating shooting and stabbing pain 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I was unable to exercise at all. The pain took over my life. I went from being a very energetic person who loved to ride my bike along the river Thames, go to the gym weekly, swimming, dancing to doing Pilates in my home living room, to a zombie, navigating between my day job and a full-time university honours degree. I was on Baclofen, Ibruprofen, Cocodomol 30/500mg 8x daily and Amitriptyline 30-70mg. Even so, before the surgery I was still quite strong, able to walk, stand and get through a day’s work.
When I woke up after surgery I was rigid from my eye socket down to my chest. I could hardly move my head, neck, shoulders or arms. The surgeon had no idea what had happened or why I was in so much pain. The medication continued to roll on and on and I was discharge 2 days after surgery.
After surgery I was unable to walk or stand for any period of time and would often faint or feel dizzy on the high dose of pain relief. My head also felt like it weighed a tonne and I needed to constantly support my head and neck. My face would swell up and burn if I did constantly use ice packs. After a few weeks I was starting to feel a little better so tried my hardest to go for a 5 or 10 minute walk each day or use my exercise bike on the easiest setting.
The combination of the anaesthetic, lack of food, pain, swelling, broken bones, external scars and sedative pain relief meant that I wasn’t fit for much and walked around like a zombie for a good 2 months after surgery.
Picture of me post surgery – Working on balance. As you can see my shoulders were still completely turned in.
Is exercise good?
Exercise after jaw surgery is supposed to be really beneficial for reducing the level of swelling. It is also important to maintain good muscle tone as your body adjusts to the change in diet and your inactivity. However, even after a short walk my face would often burn up and turn bright red. I was so exhausted that I would need to have a sleep after any exercise. I lost around 12 lbs and 6 lbs of that was in the first week after surgery. The muscle wastage happened so quickly.
When I had my titanium, plates removed I attempted to go swimming 6 weeks after surgery. I only managed 50 metres and I had to stop. My face turned bright red and started to go hot and swell up. I was worried but went home to rest. After a couple of days my face recovered and the swelling decreased. After discussing this matter with my friend, he suggested that it could be due to the opening of the face and the rupturing of the capillaries, arteries or veins during my surgery. He suggested that I should stick to a lighter form of exercise for the time being.
The final note I would like to highlight would be that your jaw bones take 8-12 weeks to fully heal and even after this point the bones may be very weak. It is important to be conscious of the sports you are participating in and ensure you do not hit or put too much pressure on your face or jaws.
Do not push your body too hard, too fast. Ease back into exercise and your normal routine slowly. Do not participate in any contact sports for at least 8-12 weeks and only go back to it once you and your surgeon are happy for you to do so. No point going through all that pain and suffering just to set yourself back to square one.
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Recommended blog post: http://www.jawandface.co.uk/faq-orthognathic-surgery-2/