Recovery from spine surgery is a gradual process that comes in stages. To achieve the best outcome it is important for you to take an active role in your recovery.
Initial recovery will include recovering from the effects of surgery. Anesthesia and pain medications can cause drowsiness, sluggishness, and constipation. The incision site and surgical area will be tender and sore. Lack of sleep or poor sleep during the hospital stay and the first few post-operative days at home results in fatigue. It takes about two weeks for these short-term conditions to resolve and allow real recovery to begin.
If you are a smoker, now it is more important than ever for you to stop. Smoking negatively affects every organ of the body. When recovering from spine surgery, spinal fusion in particular, smoking restricts blood flow and nutrients essential to healing. Smoking interferes with the fusion process and increases your risk for failed fusion.
Increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet provides healthy fiber to help manage post-surgical constipation. Long-term, fruit and vegetables add vitamins and minerals to your diet essential to improve health and healing.
Lean meats provide protein to rebuild muscle. There are many resources for nutritional information, including your spine surgeon or general practitioner. Take advantage of nutritional resources to benefit your overall health and recovery.
The next three to six months should involve a rehabilitation (eg, physical therapy) program to build flexibility, strength, and endurance.
If you had a fusion surgery, evidence of fusion healing may be observed by periodic x-ray study. Your doctor closely follows this. If fusion has not occurred within six months, it is not likely to occur at all. Fusion is not always a guarantee of complete pain relief, and some patients achieve pain relief from decompression even when fusion does not occur.
Nerves that had been compressed and irritated by vertebrae or disc materials begin to heal and regenerate. Nerve healing may cause pain, tingling sensations, or numbness. These symptoms are temporary and can be relieved by medication your doctor recommends and physical therapy.
Complete recovery and rehabilitation may take up to a year, but steady progress, gradual pain relief, and a return to good health makes the process increasingly manageable. Below is an overview of some of the keys to a successful rehabilitation.
Your surgeon may refer you to a physical therapist who will teach you safe stretching and exercise techniques. A physical therapist can offer temporary pain-relieving therapies that may make exercises easier to perform. If you have not been referred for physical therapy, ask your doctor if he thinks it could benefit you.
Start and stick to a daily walking routine. It is an important part of your recovery. Walking increases circulation, which promotes healing. Walking not only strengthens leg muscles and burns calories, but it strengthens the core muscles of your abdomen and back. This can help prevent or minimize injury to other levels of the spine.
If you have dealt with pain for a long time, you may feel weak and easily tire when you first start walking. Start slowly by walking the hallways in your home and gradually build up your strength and endurance to longer walks outside.
Use a pedometer to track your distance walked and set realistic goals to keep you walking program interesting and satisfying. Pay attention to your body's signals, particularly fatigue and pain. Rest when necessary and don't push yourself to the point of risking re-injury.
If you are recovering from spinal surgery, it is important to discuss chiropractic care with your surgeon first. It is equally important for your chiropractor to fully understand the type of surgery you had. A chiropractic adjustment on a post-surgery spine can have very painful and damaging results.