1. Sit and sleep in the right positions
After back surgery, most patients are not able to sit or lay in bed with the same comfort as usual. However, quality sleep aids the healing process. How a person sits and lays in bed will make a difference. Most patients are advised to sleep slightly elevated propped on a rolled blanket or extra pillow. Doctors also sometimes recommend placing a pillow under the knees for extra support.
Sitting can put a large amount of stress on the back, so doctors typically suggest avoiding long car rides when healing from surgery. Patients should also avoid any sitting positions where the knees are elevated higher than the hips. When standing up from a seated position, grab something steady and use arm strength for assistance, as necessary.
2. Take care of your incisions
Patients should keep the healing incisions safe from infection during the healing process. Bandages may fall off after 7-10 days, or the surgeon may allow the patient to remove the bandages. While the wound may feel sore or appear red, there should not be excessive drainage, swelling, or warmth. These could be signs of inflammation or the beginning of an infection.
Keep the incision dry for the first week after surgery. While showering, cover the wound with plastic and ask for help getting in and out of the shower. Additionally, smoking and tobacco slow the wound healing process, so avoiding all tobacco is critical.
3. Keep pain at bay
Healing from any surgery will likely bring some pain and discomfort. Pain management is an essential part of the recovery process. Patients should consult with the surgeon regarding what pain relief is best. In some cases, a surgeon will prescribe a pain reliever. Depending on the type of surgery, patients may need to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
People recovering from back surgery often benefit from hot and cold therapy, especially in the first 72 hours after surgery. Applying heat can help to increase blood flow and promote healing, while ice can help to ease inflammation. Heat or ice can be helpful to use after activity.
Follow your surgeon’s plan
The best recovery plan after back surgery is the one provided by the physician performing the procedure. While some general tips can help make a recovery smoother, each patient is different. For recommendations on how to best heal after back surgery, patients should speak with the spine surgeon or the prescribed physical therapist.