You may be wondering what to do after back surgery. Most people have tons of questions about the recovery process. The best way to answer these questions is through research and communication with your surgeon. Recovery is a long process, and the things patients must do to recover can vary from person to person. This is why you should frequently communicate with your surgeon to understand your specific procedure and what your recovery will be like.
Here are some things you can expect after back surgery.
Pain Management And Wound Care
Though it’s normal to experience some pain after surgery, your doctor will most likely prescribe pain medications to alleviate it. It’s best to take your medication as prescribed. You can always contact your doctor if you feel your pain medication isn’t enough or is causing unwanted side effects. Finding the right balance of pain relief takes some work, as not everyone has the same pain threshold or reaction to the same medications.
You will also need to keep the incision site clean. Keep the incision dry for the first several days. Do not soak in a bath, hot tub, or pool until the incision heals. Instead, take a quick shower or use a moist sponge to clean the incision site.
Most incisions heal within 10 to 14 days. Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions on incision care. Keep any appointments for suture checks or removal. You should also check the incision site regularly for signs of infection. If any of the following symptoms occur, you should contact your doctor immediately:
- Persistent or increasing pain
- Redness at the incision site
- Pus at the incision site
Rest is undoubtedly important during recovery — but so is exercise! Even though you need to be careful with your activities, there’s no need to stop moving. Not moving at all and staying on “rest mode” during the entire recovery period is one of the biggest mistakes people make after back surgery.
The longer you stay in bed or on the couch, the weaker and stiffer your bones become. Keep moving those joints to maintain flexibility, build strength, and relieve pain. Start exercising a few weeks after surgery, but don’t forget to consult your doctor before doing so.
Return To Regular Activities
Your doctor will recommend avoiding strenuous activities, bending, lifting, twisting, and driving after recovery. Chores that involve these movements, such as cooking and doing laundry, should also be avoided. As healing progresses, you can gradually increase your activity level.
Sitting And Sleeping
Sitting and sleeping is something you used to do without thinking, but after surgery, you need to be careful about doing them. Sitting places more stress on your back than you might expect, so it’s crucial to maintain your spinal curve. Avoiding soft chairs and couches where your hips are a lower height than your knees.
Getting in and out of bed might also be a problem. Instead of twisting your torso, remember to move your entire body instead. You could also use the “log roll” technique, where you roll into or out of bed — just like a log.
Within one to three months after your back surgery, your doctor will recommend that you start physical therapy. Your physical therapist will work on the best program and duration that fits your unique needs. Delaying or skipping physical therapy might interfere with your progress down the road.
Making specific changes to your lifestyle will ensure a speedy recovery. Also, it will help with your overall health. Some adjustments you might need to make include:
- Quit smoking. Any form of nicotine inhibits healing.
- Limit alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol can interfere with medications and increase inflammation in the body.
- Eat a healthy diet. Make sure to eat a well-balanced diet and stay hydrated. You should also eat foods that reduce inflammation, such as leafy greens, fatty fish, olive oil, etc.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts more strain on the back.
Adapting Your Home Environment
These items can help make your recovery at home safer and more comfortable:
- A “grabber” device
- Toilet and shower equipment (toilet riser, shower mat, etc.)
- A cane or walker
- A mini-fridge or cooler
- A recliner and extra cushions
- Pre-cooked food and meals for several weeks
- Slip-on shoes
Moreover, you might want to consider having someone to help you. Don’t just power through it if you need help for the simplest tasks — there are people who care about you and are willing to assist in your recovery. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a close friend or family member when you need it.
Back Surgery In Southeast Michigan
While you need to be patient and wait for your body to heal, there are many things you can do to ease the process of recovery. Positivity and preparation lead to a better and faster recovery, increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Here at Ahlgren Spine, our professional team offers comprehensive treatments geared towards helping patients attain optimal health. Dr. Bradley Ahlgren has many years of experience addressing spine conditions and orthopedic injuries. With Dr. Ahlgren and his team, you’ll be able to receive the compassionate care you need — from diagnosis to recovery.