Planning For Surgery: Consider The Recovery Process

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Thousands of people opt to have spine surgery for back pain each year. Back pain is common, affecting around 80% of Americans. Surgery can be an effective treatment option for the right candidate. Still, recovery from any surgery can take some time, and patients should know what to expect. To speed up the recovery process, following these 4 tips will help patients regain mobility after surgery.

1. Take physical therapy seriously

Physical therapy after spine surgery is critical to regaining mobility. A physical therapist will work with patients on exercises specifically designed for safe strength building. These exercises are tailored to the specific patient based on what procedure the patient had, the patient’s strength levels, and tissue conditions.

2. Practice at home

Patients who practice the prescribed exercises between physical therapy sessions are the most successful. Exercising at home is vital to decreasing pain and regaining flexibility. Proper physical activity is critical both to healing from the spine surgery and to preventing future complication or injury.

3. Relearn daily activities

Following surgery, some daily activities may need adjustments. For example, the way a person sits, sleeps, or stands after spine surgery can affect pain levels and recovery. After spine surgery, patients should avoid sitting with the hips below the knees. Always scoot to the edge of a seat and firmly plant the feet before standing up. During recovery, patients should sleep with proper pillow support with the head slightly elevated.

4. Plan for pain management

Recovering from any surgery can be painful. Having a proper pain management plan helps in the recovery journey. Patients should speak with the surgeon ahead of time to find out what pain management options are available. In some cases, minimally invasive spine surgery may be an option. This type of surgery is associated with fewer and smaller incisions and a shorter, less painful recovery. Many times, patients can recover from minimally invasive surgeries with minimal to no opioid use.

What to expect during recovery

After spine surgery, recovery goes in phases. At first, a patient may spend time with a physical therapist or in a rehabilitation facility to regain strength. The primary goal is to walk again: first on crutches or with a walker, then unassisted. Then, patients will incorporate daily activities such as driving, getting dressed, and climbing stairs. All the while, following a physical therapy plan, will help to improve recovery. Full recovery can take weeks to months. However, following the treatment plan carefully will help patients gain full mobility and strength more quickly.

Recovery is a journey

Recovering from spine surgery is a journey. Patients should know and understand the recovery plan. Following the plan closely can help people to improve and regain mobility more quickly. Speak with a spine surgeon to learn more about spine surgery options.

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Board Certified, Fellowship Trained Spine Surgeon

Dwight Tyndall, MD, FAAOS

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