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Rest, move, breathe: The best ways to recover after lung cancer surgery

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. In some cases, the best treatment option is surgery to remove the affected parts of the lungs. Most people will remain in the hospital for two to seven days and then undergo a time of healing. Here are some tips to help with recovery from lung cancer surgery.

A good night’s sleep

Sleep can be challenging following lung cancer surgery due to pain. Some people are unable to sleep longer than three or four hours at a time. Try sleeping sitting up in a chair for a few days after surgery. When the pain is reduced, work on finding a comfortable position in bed. Avoid sleeping on your side since that can increase pain.

Feeling blue

It is normal to feel emotional following lung cancer surgery. Being unable to be as active as before and frustration with pain are very strong feelings. Try keeping a journal to express feelings or talk with a therapist to help deal with the strong emotions.

Do your breathing exercisesImage licensed by Shutterstock

Since breathing comes naturally, it can be challenging to work on improving breathing. However, it is important to complete exercises that strengthen the muscles used in breathing. Strengthening these muscles helps improve endurance so a return to regular activities can occur. Your doctor may advise you to use a spirometer which measure the air volume expelled by your lungs. This could help you keep track of your progress.

Stretching to a quicker recovery

Stretching can increase the flow of blood and oxygen to muscles, which can help the body to recover. Completing daily upper body stretching exercises will expand the chest area and increase lung capacity. The additional space allows the lungs and diaphragm to move freely for deeper breathing.

Take a walk

Even though it’s crucial to get lots of rest after surgery, your doctor will likely recommend some level of aerobic exercise every day to avoid deconditioning. Walking, even a short distance at first, can reduce the chance of blood clots and keep your heart healthy. Feeling short of breath is common, so start slow and increase a little each day.

Push those musclesImage licensed by Shutterstock

Staying in bed and cutting back on activities is a good idea following surgery, but it can cause muscle mass loss. As soon as possible, try adding strength training exercises to a daily routine. Strengthening muscles will make it easier to move and reduce fatigue.

Healing is just part of recovery

The human body does an amazing job of healing, but it takes more than healing to return to an active lifestyle. Regaining strength, balance and flexibility are all part of the recovery process. Knowing when and how hard to push yourself to exercise can be challenging. Choosing to recover in a short-term care facility is an ideal way to safely and effectively make the journey back to a healthy lifestyle. Glenview Terrace, the North Shore’s leader in post-hospital rehabilitation, has a comprehensive pulmonary program in place to assist guests with respiratory therapy up to seven days a week. Each guest will be assessed and provided with a customized program to help them return to an active lifestyle as safely and quickly as possible.

At Glenview Terrace, the focus is always to help get you back to the independent lifestyle you desire. Focusing on healthcare excellence and safety, Glenview Terrace provides the latest infection-control precautions, including routine COVID-19 testing and monitoring. Glenview Terrace is ranked among the top 1% of all Illinois post-hospital rehabilitation and nursing care centers by Newsweek. Glenview Terrace has also earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval certification for post-hospital and post-surgical care. For more information or to arrange a personalized virtual tour, visit or call 847-729-9090.