Practical Tips for Recovering from an Appendectomy

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Originally published September, 30 2015. Updated October 24, 2019.

Two weeks ago I was forced to figure out some practical tips for recovering from an appendectomy that helped me get through my emergency appendectomy

Up until two and a half weeks ago, I had blissfully sailed through life never having had a surgery. Then with no planning (you know I love to plan and organize things), bam! I had an emergency appendectomy that was the most complicated my surgeon had seen all year.

man laying in hospital bed with doctor in background

Noone is ready for an appendectomy and since you only go through it once, you have no preparation. I hope you find these appendectomy recovery tips helpful.

Let me start by saying that I have no medical training. My tips worked for me, but always check with your doctor and nurse before trying anything new. These tips are in no way expert or medical advice. 

Frequently Asked Questions About My Appendectomy

How did your appendectomy affect your life?

I went through the worst appendectomy my surgeon had seen in a year, so my experience is more difficult than most appendectomies.

  • Within 6 hours after my surgery, I was walking myself (slowly and bent over) to the bathroom.
  • Within 24 hours, I was walking (slowly and hunched over) around my room for exercise.
  • By the second day, I was walking up and down the hospital halls (slowly and hunched over).
  • I came home after 5 days and was able to walk up and down the stairs in my home (slowly).
  • It took two months until I was able to walk entirely upright, comfortably and normally.
  • Now four years later, my life is entirely normal and has been since the two month after surgery point.

How will caring for myself after laparoscopic appendectomy occur?

I was in the hospital for five days after my appendectomy because of the complications of my surgery. By the second day, I could care for myself with help.

I could care for myself entirely by the time I was released to go home. I was sore and moved slowly, but I could care for myself with minimal difficulty.

My husband had a routine appendectomy and came home about 18 hours after his surgery. He was able to care for himself as soon as he came home. He was also sore and moved slowly, but he could care for himself.

Please discuss any concerns or limitations you have with your medical professional.

What to expect at home?

I found being at home much more comfortable than being in the hospital. I did find sleeping on the couch more comfortable for the first couple of days because the bed was just too soft to get in and out of easily.

Other than that, being at home was not any more difficult than being in the hospital. I was able to shower and walk up and down the stairs (slowly).

But be sure to express any concerns you have to your medical professional. And read my additional tips for recovery at home.

How long will I feel bad after appendix surgery?

Your medical professional should be consulted for your unique situation, but I did not use narcotics after the day of surgery. I used pain relievers for the first three to four days.

I felt sore and uncomfortable for a couple of weeks and felt entirely normal after about a month and a half (and remember, I had the worst appendicitis my surgeon had seen in over a year!).

My husband had a “normal” appendectomy and he felt pretty much back to normal after about two weeks.

Can you sleep on your side after an appendectomy?

Check with your medical professional, but I found sleeping on my side the most comfortable position after about week.

You can read more about my specific tips on sleeping after an appendectomy and how to get in and out of the bed in my personal tips below.

Can I live a normal life after an appendix removal?

Yes. My husband had a more “normal” appendectomy than I did and he was back to running within a week. It took me two months to be able to stand up and walk normally.

Your life should return to normal again within days or months depending on how complicated your appendectomy was.

Of course, always consult with your medical professional with any of your questions.

I worked as a patient advocate at a teaching hospital in a past life. I highly recommend this Medical Treatment Log to track any serious or long-term health issues. It is set up to help you manage the often overwhelming process and contains:

  • Inspirational Quotes throughout
  • Diagnosis Spread
  • Treatment Option Spreads
  • Treatment Plan Spreads
  • Pre-Surgery Checklist
  • Surgery Recap
  • Medical Information
  • Medical Team Information
  • Questions for Doctor Spreads
  • Medication Log
  • Medical Result Log
  • Expense/Insurance Log
  • Support Log
  • Appointment Logs for 40 appointments
  • Lined Notes Pages

How to Recover from an Appendectomy

I’m a problem-solver. It makes me feel complete to plan, organize and problem-solve. I shared my my gut-wrenching story with you a couple of weeks ago and even as I was laying in the hospital for five days (like an overturned turtle on my back), I was problem-solving better ways to work through my recovery and get myself home as soon as possible.

If you’re heading home soon, be sure to check out my Tips for Recovering from an Appendectomy at Home.

These 12 tips and tricks were practical ways I figured out how to best manage my recovery and feel as comfortable as I could after my surgery. 

Get Up and Out of Bed as Soon as You’re Allowed

It’s going to hurt. A lot. But if the medical staff tells you it’s okay, then you need to do it. The nurse will help you until you’re steady enough to do it on you own.

Getting out of bed to use the restroom will do wonders for your attitude and getting out of bed is your first step to being able to go home.

Take your time and work on getting yourself up and out of bed on your own. Honestly, what else do you have to do?

Use Your Right Knee to Help You Sit Up

I found that I could bend my right knee up towards by body, grab it with my right hand and pull myself up while pushing up at the same time with my left arm.

This was the easiest and least painful way for me to get up and out of the bed. Using my right arm to pull against my right knee gave me the leverage I needed to sit up on my own.

How to Get Rid of the Trough in the Hospital Bed

When you raise the head of the hospital bed, it creates a trough where your behind is sitting. If you’ve had abdominal surgery, it’s incredibly difficult to get up and out of that trough when you need to get out of bed.

If you’ve ever been stuck in a hospital bed after surgery, you know what that stinkin’ trough in the bed is.

It was three long days of painfully struggling out of that trough before I finally asked the nurse out how to get rid of that impossible trough in the bed. It’s really simple once you know what to do.

  • First raise the head of your bed part way.
  • Then lower the foot of the bed.
  • Raise the head of the bed some more and then lower the foot of the bed.
  • Continue in this way until you’re sitting up and then end by lowering the foot of the bed.
  • This should result in you sitting up on a flat bed rather than sitting in a trough and that makes getting out of bed so very much easier.

Walk as Much as You Can

Once your nurse or doctor tells you to start walking – do it. It’s going to hurt and wipe you out, but do it.

  • Walking will help you get rid of that gas rolling through your abdomen (and causing so much discomfort).
  • Walking will help get your bowels moving (a mile stone towards going home).
  • Walking will exhaust you and help you sleep better (we all know how valuable good sleep is in a hospital).
  • Walking will give you something to do (really, what else do you have to do?). I asked my nurse for a path to walk and a goal for how often I should walk that path.
  • Walking also gives your kids and loved ones something to do with you in the hospital. 

Wearing the Hospital Gown

It took me two days to figure out that you need to pull the gown up so that you don’t sit on it when you sit down. It doesn’t seem very modest, but if you sit on the gown you’ll end up choking yourself when you scoot back in the bed (ask me how I know).

By my second day in the hospital I was flirting with the idea of wearing my own clothes, but realized that it made much more sense for me to wear that cumbersome (and hideous) hospital gown.

You can get a fresh gown that someone else launders as often as you need. Any stains won’t occur on your own clothes. The gown is easier to put on and remove with your IV.  

When you start walking, ask your family or nurse to check your back before you go traipsing through the halls of the hospital sharing more than you meant to with strangers (ask me how I know).

I also found that wrapping a lightweight blanket over my shoulders for my walks helped keep me warm, covered my backside and maintained my dignity. 

Ask for Postpartum Underwear

I woke up from my surgery naked as a jaybird under that hospital gown. While that makes sense after surgery, it made me uncomfortable.

Walking around in that gown (that flaps open with a mind of its own) required underwear to maintain my dignity.

I didn’t have underwear at home that would comfortably fit on my bloated abdomen or incisions.

When I mentioned this to the nurse, she immediately brought me postpartum underwear that perfectly addressed my abdominal issues (and covered my issues! Thank goodness, since I walked around one time not knowing that the back of the gown was open!). 

Sleeping Position After an Appendectomy

How to sleep after an appendectomy? is one of the top questions I’m asked.

We all know that sleep is critical to the healing process, but finding a comfortable sleeping position was difficult after my surgery.

I found that sleeping with my legs bent at the knee took the pressure off my abdomen and was the most comfortable position for me.

The next question I’m asked is “Can  I sleep on my side after an appendectomy?” Always check with your nurse or doctor, but I found that I slept on my back for the first 7-9 days.

After that, I did prefer to sleep on my left side with my legs bent a bit and a pillow between my knees. You can read more about it Tips for Recovering from an Appendectomy at Home.

Pamper Your Lower Back

By the third day my lower back was aching as much as my abdomen was hurting. I’d been walking and moving hunched over and that had strained my lower back.

Be purposeful in taking care of your back because you have enough pain to deal with in your abdomen. Ask a family member to whip up these easy-to-make DIY Rice Heat Packs to ease back pain. 

Ask for a Recliner

I found that sitting and sleeping in a recliner helped immensely. It was able to get up and out of the recliner much more easily when I needed to get up.

The recliner also supported my lower back better than the soft bed. I spent days three and four in the recliner and that was enough to relieve much of the pain in my back.

Talk with Your Nurse

You need to let your nurse know what is challenging or painful for you so that she or he can help you.

The first three days I spent in the hospital I was so cold that my teeth were always chattering.

I finally mentioned it to the nurse and she brought me two gloriously heated blankets. Those heated blankets kept me warm so my body could use energy to heal rather than shiver.

doctor with arms crossed holding stethoscope
Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

I was almost in tears on my third night in the hospital (and that’s not like me). I couldn’t get enough sleep because I had to get up to go to the bathroom every 45 minutes to empty my bladder.

I finally said something to my nurse. She was able to reduce the amount of IV fluids I was receiving at night so that it didn’t go through me so quickly (I think the IV fluid standard is for a 6’5″ 350 lb. man not a much smaller woman) so that I was able to sleep for several hours.

When my lower back began bothering me, I mentioned it to my nurse and she immediately brought me a glorious (yes, just as glorious as the heated blankets) heating pad.

A small pump runs warm water through the heating pad. The sound of the pump was like listening to a rain storm and made it much easier to sleep. The warmth of the heating pad relaxed my sore back muscles and also seemed to relax my abdomen so that I was able to sleep flat on my back in the bed for the first time in four nights.

Simply mentioning my challenges to my nurse resulted in solutions that I didn’t even know existed. So during your recovery from an appendectomy, be sure you talk with your nurse so that you can get the help you need to feel better and heal more quickly.

post surgery breathing exercises device

Use This Thingy

I don’t know what it’s called, but use it when your nurse gives it to you. Ask your nurse how often you should be using it and then be conscientious about making it happen.

It will help prevent you from developing pneumonia and I actually felt better when I used it consistently. Again, what else do you really have to do when you’re sitting there in the hospital?

Dealing with a Drainage Tube and Bulb

Because of the complexity of my appendectomy surgery, I woke up with a drain tube and bulb coming out of my abdomen and it remained in for five days.

If it isn’t already, ask your nurse to pin the bulb to the inside of your gown.

The first several times I got up, the bulb just hung down from my abdomen. Once the anesthesia began to wear off, that pressure was physically (and psychologically) uncomfortable. My nurse simply pinned the bulb to the inside of my gown so that it didn’t pull on my abdomen. 

When you bathe or change your gown, pin the bulb to the band of your underwear. This helps support it until you can repin it to your gown.

If you notice the bulb is mostly full, let your nurse know. You want that bulb and drain to remove extra fluids (for medical reasons and) because that pressure will be uncomfortable.

Check out my Tips for Recovering from an Appendectomy at Home and my recommended items you’ll need at home. 

Shopping List for Being More Comfortable at Home

  1. Waterproof Pad
  2. Pillow for your knees for sleeping
  3. High-cut Cotton Panties for Women
  4. Comfortable Stretchy Pants and Loose Cotton Shirts
  5. Read Tips for Recovering from an Appendectomy at Home for an explanation why I think each of those items is important.

These 12 practical tips for recovering for an appendectomy made my recovery just a bit easier and more dignified. Recovering from having surgery is tough enough, anything that can make it easier can make a huge difference.

More Helpful Ideas:

  • DIY Heat Packs – These heat packs hold heat and can help relieve pain.
  • How Long to Keep Documents – While you’re sitting around unable to do much, why not tackle decluttering all that paper and those documents that have been accumulating?

Be sure to check out my Tips for Recovering from an Appendectomy at Home. 

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33 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness Susan, I was in agony just reading about your ordeal. I hope now that you have had a few weeks to rest that you are doing much better. Extra big (and super gentle) hugs, Holly

    1. Thanks so much, Holly. I am doing a better, just not as quickly as I’d like (impatient mama here). I appreciate the hugs and support.

      1. I found this post really helpful. I just had an emergency surgery and needed help with recovery. Thanks

  2. Never fun to have emergency surgery! It really reminds us how amazing our bodies are that they work so well (most all of the time). I am glad that you are feeling better.

  3. So sorry you had to deal with all of this. I don’t think anyone really thinks of all of the crazy issues that can come up after surgery. You really do have to go through it to learn how to deal with them. I am thankful you shared these tips since I will be going through surgery soon too. I had to chuckle each time you said “ask me how I know”! Hope you are well on the way to recovery.

  4. I wish I found this on Tuesday! But since it’s Friday and I’m out of the hospital, I won’t complain. Definitely things I will implement at home though….pain is pain no matter where you are. Thank you and I’m glad someone else brought their good attitude out of this painful journey. Hey, we’re repaired, resilient, and alive so no more horror stories! I doubt any surgery is pleasant…..thank God we were only blessed with one appendix ????????????????????

    1. I have thought that so many times, Nikki (thank goodness we only ever have to go through an appendectomy once!). I’m so happy to hear that you’re at home. You’ll feel much better in the comfort of your own place. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to heal. It was about two months until I could walk 100% normally again. But good news – I’m now 4 1/2 months past my surgery and feeling 100% myself again. You’ll get there, too, just give yourself the permission to take the time you need. Take care.

  5. This post really helped me after my open appendectomy. I really struggled with comfortable sleeping positions because I am a ‘stomach sleeper’. The stetchy pants and underwear tips are life! I am now 5 weeks post- op and beginning to feel and walk normally.
    Thank You!

    1. I’m so glad that the tips helped, Dalia, and that you’re starting to reach the “walking normally” stage! Warning – I have found that I’m now still at big fan of stretchy pants even though I no longer need them for my incision. 🙂

  6. I just had emergency surgery for my appendix bursting and I am on my first day home after 1 day stay in hospital and I am finding it hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in Any ideas would help and can I use a heating pad on my stomach to help ease the pain and pressure?

    1. I’m glad you’re home, Tiffany – that’s good news. It means you’re doing well enough to go home. Sleeping can be tough. I shared my tips for recovering at home in another post (https://organized31.com/tips-for-recovering-from-an-appendectomy-at-home/). I found it easiest to sleep on my back with a pillow under my right knee. I also found sleeping on firmer mattress and even on the couch was more comfortable than in my own bed. You should check with your doctor’s office, but I found that a heating pad on my back worked well. The heat radiated to my abdomen without having the heat directly on my sensitive incisions. Despite the difficulty, moving and walking a bit will help with the pressure (to keep the gas from building up and putting pressure on your abdomen). Be sure to check with your doctor about anything that concerns you and take care.

  7. This is my first day home after my appendectomy. I too have a constantly bubbling gut from trapped gas, and I’m walking around hunched over like an old woman. It was very reassuring to read you your blog post and see that these things are normal. This was my first surgery so I have no idea what to expect and I really appreciate your info.

    1. I’m glad the information helps, Ashley. Like you, I’d never had surgery before either. We can’t know what we don’t know. Let me stress, though, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor’s office if you have any questions! Wishing you a quick recovery.

  8. Hey Susan! Thanks so much! Despite appendectomy being a very common surgery, there is not that much information you can get on the internet. Mine was very complicated, it had burst and started rotting away due to the hospital misdiagnosing me the first few times I went in. I’m home and much better now but cannot wait to be able to sleep on my side – which is why I’m here in the first place. I’ll defo be trying out the bent legs and pillow inbetween tonight! Sending hugs!

    1. Oh, Kris! I’m so glad that you’re home now recovering. And, yes, sleeping on your side is a joy you take for granted until you can’t do it. I hope these tips help you as much as they did me. Take care and wishing you fast healing.

  9. Thanks for the great tips. I am now going the same journey as you, only in a foreign country during COVID. I had not thought of many of these, and will use most(especially pinning the bag to the gown: brilliant)!!

    1. Oh, wow, D! You decided to order the jumbo complicated version of an appendectomy. I hope these tips help and that you heal quickly. Take care and be safe!

  10. Hi Susan,
    Great well needed advice, I’m home the same day as op because of the covid situation with not a lot to go on.
    Really helping, time to try the sofa downstairs.
    Tony

    1. Oh, wow, Tony! Being home is obviously much safer in this time, but it will be a bit of a challenge. Be sure to call your doctor and ask questions – don’t hesitate (I used to be a patient advocate, so I do mean it). Take care of yourself. Wishing you quick healing.

      1. I just had an appendectomy that was found incidentally. It was still an emergency and After one night I had a morning surgery and due to Covid allowed to leave 6 hours later. As soon as I left the hospital I stopped the narcotic that made me nauseous. Tylenol & Motrin worked fine, but ice packs in the incisions really made the difference and have gotten me through the last two weeks. I too couch surfed and learned how to roll out of bed on the side without incisions. My back is often painful too and a heating pad was a must for me. Holding pillows on my incision as I walked around a big help, as having extras to put under my knees or between my legs depending on the moment. I also found miralax a help to keeping me regular. I would like to hear advice about how quickly people got back to household chores like laundry, making beds etc.

        1. Thanks for sharing your tips, Martha! I was able to do everything again by 8 weeks and started doing simple things after about two weeks. But since it took me the 8 weeks to be able to stand up straight normally, that really limited what I could do. Check with your medical care provider and listen to your body – it will tell you when to stop.

  11. I also just finally had a very complicated appendectomy myself. I had an active appendicitis for 2 months before we could finally safely take it out. It started with just an inflamed appendix which spread to colon and made colon inflamed. So they could not operate on me so they had to cool everthing off with antibiotics for 5 days in hospital then 10 days at home. Then my surgery was scheduled for the following week but it came back right after I got off meds and I had 5 abscesses on my colon to go along with it one was 17cm. They had me in hospital for a week put a jp switch in to drain the larger abscess. After a week I went home still with the tubing in me for another week and another week of antibiotics. A week later they took tubing out but extended antibiotics another 10 days. I then had a colonoscopy which came back good, and pre opp testing that came back with no problems. 5 days later they wanted to do one final ct scan before suregery and my appendix was inflamed again and a new abscess on my colon. So I went 7 days on meds and they finally successfully removed my appendix and drained my abscess this morning. Now I’m home it hurts a lot especially to move and it’s not comfortable laying down. Best position I can find is sitting in chair and sitting all the way back in it or reclyner.

    1. Oh, no, Paul! That sounds like quite the journey. I also found sitting in a recliner helpful, but found that my back ended up hurting as much as my abdomen. A heating pad helped with the back pain and actually helped with the abdomen pain, too. Wishing you quick and uneventful healing.

  12. Crazily i just now found your site after my emergency appendectomy, it was my first surgery and you literally hit every nail on the head that i actually ended up dealing with. Im 6 days post op and my drainage tube just cameout and i”m feeling worlds better, but honestly days 2-4 were just complete misery due to me overcompensating by using my back muscles(and the crappy hospital bed). Wish i would have stumbled upon this a few nights ago!!!

  13. Susan,

    Thank you for taking time to share this. I’m writing this from my hospital bed, 48 hours after an emergency appendectomy and 4.5 months pregnant.

    It’s really challenging to look beyond the pain, in my case baby discomfort and surgery recovery but walked to the bathroom unassisted twice this morning already, celebrating little milestones. Still can’t walk but we’ll get there. The gas in my stomach adds to the pain but your tips will come in handy!

    Bless you for sharing!

    1. Oh, wow, LL, you’ve got a whole lot going on! The gas pain is rough. Moving and walking does help it dissipate, but it is very uncomfortable – I remember! Take care of yourself and your little one. I’ve got you both in my prayers.

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