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How much can you lift with a stoma?

Keeping active is an important part of life for us all. When you have a stoma there are many different questions you may have about what you can and can’t do, especially when it comes to lifting. This is very dependent on whether you are recently recovering from surgery and whether you have done much lifting prior to surgery. Our abdominal muscle strength can vary from person to person depending on how active we were.

Why is it important to be careful about how much we lift?

After abdominal surgery such as stoma formation, the muscles are not as strong as they were before surgery. Re-building this core strength (abdominal muscle) is important, but bear in mind it takes three months for the muscles to become strong again. Lifting heavy objects when your body is not ready can cause a parastomal hernia and put any wounds you may have after surgery, at risk.

Following surgery

The advice can vary depending on the surgeon and the type of surgery you have had, so it is a good idea to clarify this before you go home. You may find your questions vary, depending on how active you were prior to surgery and what you would like to achieve, once you are home. Exercise is always encouraged and walking is a form of exercise which is beneficial to everyone for your physical and psychological well-being. This can be started immediately and built up slowly.

First 6 weeks following stoma surgery:

  • Start by taking things slowly.
  • Try to lift light items only such as half-filled kettle, light dusting, washing up or easy household jobs where you are NOT stretching, bending or lifting.
  • Walking is good for the body and mind, slowly increase the length of time each day but be mindful of your limitations
  • Even coughing and sneezing can put pressure on your abdomen and therefore it is advisable to support your stoma with a cushion if this happens.
  • AVOID housework such as vacuuming, carrying shopping, reaching up to high positioned shelves or moving furniture

 After 6- 12 weeks following stoma surgery:

  • Start to implement some light gardening, ironing, hanging out some easy washing, making sure that you don’t overstretch.
  • Look at introducing some light exercises to help strengthen your core muscles
  • AVOID any heavy lifting.

If your job involves lifting, speak to your stoma care nurse for guidance and the use of a support garment to protect your abdomen from developing a parastomal hernia. 

Further down the line:

Once you have received the go ahead from your surgeon, at around 12 weeks following surgery, you can begin more intensive forms of exercise training if you so wish. Get your body into shape by starting with yoga and pilates first and then build up the exercise from there. If you are thinking about more intensive exercise such as weight lifting for example, it might be a good idea to join a gym where you can be guided through safe forms of exercise by a coach who has experience in rehabilitation programmes following surgery.

If you are doing some lifting, remember to stand with your feet apart, bend your knees, keep your back straight, engage/tighten your tummy muscles and keep the object you are lifting close to you so you are not stretching. It’s also important to ensure that you maintain good posture as this helps you to engage and strengthen your core core muscles.

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