How IKEA Could Help You Survive Surgery Featured

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IKEA department store (via google) IKEA department store (via google)
IKEA changed my life. And as incomprehensible as it may seem, it has nothing to do with the wonderfully adjustable Bekant desk I work at, the Kivik chaise lounger I read on, or the Upphetta “Nordic” french press I brew my coffee with each morning.

IKEA changed my life because the store itself helped me recover from spine surgery. It gave me a place to ambulate. Huh?! No, no, not amputate...ambulate! For anyone heading towards surgery, spine or otherwise, as you discuss the details of recovery the term early ambulation will certainly surface.

Ambulation derives from the Latin term, ambulare (amble), and is the postoperative philosophy which has nurses rousing patients out of bed to engage in light activity such as standing and walking as soon as possible after surgery. As painful as it can be, studies noted in the Journal of Orthopaedic Nursing have shown that “Early ambulation is the most significant general nursing measure to prevent postoperative complications” (Lewis, Heitkemper, & Dirksen, 2004, p. 401).

No rest for the weary! That is the under-girding of this concept. The faster you start walking after surgery the greater the positive impact on your recovery. Walking stimulates circulation and the flow of oxygen throughout your body, strengthens muscles, prevents atrophy (muscle wasting), improves gastrointestinal...movement...(what a relief!), and vastly decreases the risk of blood clots. Dating back to WWII, post-operative patients were confined to bed rest for almost two weeks, only starting to walk and excercise on average 10-14 days after surgery. As part of a medical study, Dr. Canavarro, initiated a practice in 1946 to get patients moving within a day of surgery. His radical program noted a “definite reduction of all post operative complications” by approximately 50%! (Canavarro, 1946, p. 181).

In general, patients who move earlier heal faster, and better. And the correlation between walking and healing continues long after you've left the hospital. So how does IKEA enter into the conversation?

I recall sitting up for the first time after having neck surgery. It was within the first 24 hours and it was terrifying. My biggest fear was that my head would fall off - thankfully it stayed put. Within the first 36 hours I was slowly walking to the bathroom (even though I couldn't go yet), and finally I was doing increasingly vigorous laps around my hospital wing. We had traveled to Germany for my surgery and so after leaving the hospital, I eventually worked up the courage and stamina to walk around the small town where we were staying until I was cleared to fly home a month later.

We returned to Canada in mid December and I immediately hit my first major barrier to recovery. We were confronted by freezing cold, ice and blizzard conditions, otherwise known as; life in Winnipeg from November to March. Where was I going to walk? The hostile tundra outside my front door was out of the question. My wife and I brainstormed and came up with the idea of mall-walking, but I quickly encountered a secondary issue. Since my surgery I had developed quite an anxiety about being in large crowds due to my decreased range of motion and an inability to turn or move quickly. It was just too stressful walking in a bustling, crowded Christmas-season mall. I desperately needed a new idea. And that is when I stumbled upon IKEA and all of my winter problems melted away.


IKEA has one way traffic. For those who have never experienced it, IKEA stores are built with unidirectional flow in mind. Everyone starts at the same spot on the second floor and moves in one direction, progressing from one department to the next, which is coincidentally why you always end up buying four extra items by the time you reach the checkout – no complaints here, I stand by every IKEA purchase. I was able push myself and walk as many laps as I could without being jostled, surrounded or run down by impervious shoppers. Everyone follows the arrows painted on the floor – just like a hospital!

My second discovery is so plainly obvious that I can't believe it didn't come to mind sooner. There are couches, chairs and BEDS in all directions! Early on in recovery I often needed to sit down quite suddenly wherever I found myself, to power up before finishing a walk. In IKEA, if I was approaching a physical limit I could sit in style, instantly locating the closest lounger, chair or bed by the wayside to rest for a moment. The best part is, you don't even have to make up your bed when you're done. Ok, so maybe don't get that comfortable.

My third reason to head to IKEA along the road to recovery is that they serve great coffee. You probably knew that. What you may not know is that coffee is actually free in the 30 minutes before they officially open! No better way to start or finish a solid day of physiotherapy, recovery and possibly consumerism, than with a deliciously free cup of coffee.

My advice for you, whatever your situation, is don't stop walking after you are past the early stage of recovery! The long term effect that consistent walking has on your overall health is just as impressive. Check this great article for more information on the healthy outcomes produced by daily walking. In her book, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement, author Katy Bowman states,

“Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human.”
In my experience three years after surgery, daily walking is one of the best strategies to manage the remaining chronic pain and stiffness that I still struggle with. IKEA gave me a warm, uniquely safe and comfortable place to continue my post-operative program, slowly build up my stamina, take control of my recovery and walk towards better health. So please get out and ambulate! And if you find yourself looking for a solution on a bad weather day, try IKEA out – I can guarantee it will help you survive recovery, and you might just pick out a few new additions for your home while you're at it.

Skål! (cheers).

Read 2980 times Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 00:07
Ryan Dueck

Founder, Six Degrees Freedom (B.Kin). I survived a broken neck and an emergency trip across the world to get it fixed. Today I'm standing one inch taller, sporting a titanium spine and filled with gratitude! | Passionate to Live & Lead with Resilience | Speaks & Writes Sometimes | Health & Wellness Coach |


  • Comment Link Ken Penner Thursday, 26 January 2017 13:18 posted by Ken Penner

    Interesting post. What an innovative idea. And yes, IKEA does have great coffee.

  • Comment Link Vivianne Thursday, 26 January 2017 05:08 posted by Vivianne

    I completely agree! I was up and walking within 6 hours of my surgery in Germany. I go walking daily as part of my ongoing physiotherapy. Unfortunately our awful winter forces me to walk on a treadmill these days.

  • Comment Link Beverley Rogers Wednesday, 25 January 2017 23:15 posted by Beverley Rogers

    Great article Ryan! Glad you are still writing, been thinking about you.

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