Recovering from back surgery is a difficult ordeal for many patients. The actual surgery is done in a few hours, but the rehabilitation process might last for days, weeks or even months. There are so many different procedures being used to surgically treat various back pain conditions. The actual technique selected will determine the extent of tissue damage and recovery time that the patient must endure.
Surgical recovery must always be a top priority. The physical and mental traumas are substantial and it will take effort and courage to get better. Always be sure to understand exactly what will be required of you during the recovery process before undergoing any operation. Then, prepare yourself mind and body for what is to come and devote yourself to recuperating 100% once the procedure is finished.
This patient guide provides detailed tips for optimizing the recovery process following spinal surgery.
Traditional back surgery is usually a very invasive process. These operations involve large incisions in the back and extensive muscle dissection. All this damage to healthy tissue is very painful and takes a long time to fully heal. These surgeries are often called open procedures. The skin and muscles of the back are opened up to reach the spine, through large or even multiple incisions.
Modern minimally-invasive procedures have been steadily replacing many traditional open surgeries. If the same procedure can be done with less damage to healthy tissue, then the pain will be lessened and the recovery time decreased. Scar tissue will also be kept to a minimum.
Minimally-invasive procedures usually use the placement of hollow catheters, through a number of smaller incisions in the back, side or front. The surgical tools are inserted through these catheters and the procedure is viewed under fluoroscopy or using fiberoptics.
Minimally-invasive back surgery procedures have even advanced drastically. Often, the surgical tools consist of super thin catheters that are really just large hollow needles. The treatments used are often radio waves, heat or laser technologies. Surgeries preformed with these techniques are mostly done under local anesthetic and are undertaken as outpatient procedures.
For more information on individual procedures, and the conditions they treat, look on our page titled spine surgery.
It is a good idea to work out all the details of your surgery before you have the procedure. Make sure that you will have all the supplies you will need. Arrange time off from work far in advance. Save some extra money for your living expenses while you are out of work. This is especially true if you will be receiving little or no money from your employer or if you are self-employed.
Plan for nursing care in your home, if it is needed. Make certain that you will have enough help from your family and friends to assist you with the things you will require. This is especially important the first few days after the operation.
Consult with your doctor before the procedure to determine options for pain management. Will you require medication? What are the risks and side effects going to be? If you have limited help, you might want to speak to your local pharmacy about having your prescriptions and supplies delivered to you.
You might require modifications to your home while you are recovering from back surgery. You might need an extension on your toilet seat, since it might be too low for you. You will probably need some handrails installed in your bathroom and shower. It is likely that you will need a reach extender to pick up items which are too high or too low for you to comfortably access.
Make sure to have clothing that will be loose fitting and easy to get on and off. Slip-on shoes, velcro closures and sweat pants are good items to buy in advance.
Meet with your physical therapist to plan a list of activities that will help you recover and other physical activities to avoid. Get yourself in good shape prior to the surgery.
Good health will make your body better able to handle the trauma. If you have not done so already, stop smoking, stop drinking alcohol and stop using drugs. Try to get your weight into a healthy range for your height.
Be certain to have a positive state of mind the day of your procedure. Have confidence in your diagnosis and your surgeon. It is crucial to go into the procedure knowing that you will be on the road to a healthier back.
Do not fear the outcome of surgery. Be prepared for the recovery time and view it as a path to a better, pain-free life for yourself. Confidence that you are doing the right thing goes a long way towards setting the stage for ideal postoperative results.
Physical therapy is always important after back surgery. If you had a minor procedure, therapy will help you to regain movement and function quickly. If your had an extensive surgery, the therapist will be your guide on how to move during your recovery period.
Some procedures, such as spinal fusion, will require the patient to learn completely different rules governing their backs. These patients must learn their limitations, as well as ways around common problems they might experience after surgery.
Make sure to keep all the appointments with your therapists. Their programs will only work if you do what is required of you. If possible, have your caregivers attend therapy with you. This way they will learn how to better assist you with your back exercises. Recovery from back surgery is best done as a group effort. The more physical and emotional support you can get, the easier your recovery will be.
Preparation is the key to recovering from back surgery successfully. Make sure to do all the physical things to ensure a speedy recovery. Also, do not forget the power of having a positive state of mind prior to the surgery. The attitude you have going in will definitely influence your surgical results.
Back surgery can be very traumatic. Extensive procedures might completely change your life and ability to function. Remember that the procedure is a new start for you. It is a chance to finally become symptom-free.
Even if the surgical results limit your activity, at least your suffering will eventually have a chance to fade. If surgery is your only option, make it count. Do everything in your power to create the circumstances for a positive surgical result.