Laughing Post Operatively: is it OK?

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By Florence Ditlow

Your surgical patient could have an easier time discharging the effects of anesthesia and post op immobility. You taught her to get those lungs INFLATED. Maybe there is an incentive spirometer. “Cough, do yer leg exercises, walk and breathe dear!”

I’ve been there, seen the sluggishness, pain and phlegm; I’ve seen the bored look from the eyes of the medicated ones, those who’d held their tongues when they are thinking “get the hell away.”

Instead of coughing, I employed laughing as an alveoli expander. Click To Tweet

I would have the patient hold the pillow over the diaphragm and ask her to smile. Then a silent “ha” is employed for the breathing effort and then repeat while placing your supportive hand on the thoracic spine.

Next ask your patient to laugh out the sound “Heh!” Repeat, alternating with breathing deeply, exhaling longer.  As you use laughing as an option to coughing you’ll:

  • Enhance oxygen intake
  • Stimulate the heart and lungs
  • Relax muscles throughout the body
  • Trigger the release of endorphins- natural opiates
  • Ease digestion/soothe stomach aches
  • Relieve pain
  • Balance blood pressure
  • Improve mental functions such as alertness, memory, creativity

According to Dr. Kathryn Puckett who heads Mind Body Medicine at Cancer Centers of America, laughter therapy may also help to:

  • Improve overall attitude
  • Reduce stress/tension
  • Promote relaxation
  • Improve sleep
  • Enhance quality of life
  • Strengthen social bonds and relationships
  • Produce a general sense of well-being

A friend who was a patient performed the cough using a whoopee cushion, and said when the cushion sounded, nearby patients couldn’t stop laughing; some said just the sight of the whoopee cushion produced laughs and a welcome distraction from their recoveries.

So to you at the bedside, I salute you and believe, when a nurse eases pain through humor, the benefits could result in speedier healing and a shorter hospital stay.

If you’ve seen humor as a health ally, feel free to share your experiences here!

Florence Ditlow, Author of The Bakery Girls retired from nursing profession to write books as well as discover new ways to share humor. She lives in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. She also is currently amusing herself by concocting herbal medicine and teas.

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