Back pain is very common, but surgery is rarely necessary to relieve it. Most cases resolve on their own or with non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy, medications, and massage.
Doctors usually resort to surgery only if necessary to relieve chronic pain. Learn more about back pain, the general timeline when pursuing back surgery, and the dos and don’ts after surgery.
What Is Back Surgery?
Back surgery aims to ease prolonged pain in the back and spine. Back surgery involves making an incision or multiple incisions in the back for the purpose of removing, installing, or repairing something in the spine.
You should tell your doctor details about your back pain and medical history to get the best treatment. Many symptoms and conditions can cause back pain. That’s why you need a confirmed diagnosis to get the right treatment, depending on your specific needs.
A Timeline of Back Surgery
Qualifying for Surgery
If your doctor recommends back surgery and you decide to go with this option, it is not as simple as picking up a prescription from a pharmacist. A lot of preparation and testing are necessary. You will start out by getting tested and getting a physical exam to check if you qualify for surgery health-wise. You will likely need to get diagnostic testing done, such as blood work, to make sure you are healthy enough to undergo the procedure safely.
Preparing for Surgery
Once you are cleared for surgery, you will get instructions on how to prepare for the procedure during the weeks leading up to the procedure. For instance, you may be instructed to get on a special diet, do physical therapy, or stop taking certain medications.
All of these steps are intended to make the surgery process and recovery safe and smooth. Therefore, make sure to follow all of your surgeon’s instructions.
Day of Surgery
Your surgeon’s team will give you detailed instructions on what time to arrive at the surgery center or hospital, what documents and things to bring, what to wear, and how long you can expect to stay at the hospital. You will likely need to fast starting the night before the procedure.
After your procedure, you will be taken to a recovery room to wake up, then you will be transferred to a room where you will rest, be monitored, and may be asked to stay overnight, depending on the procedure being done, any complications that may have occurred during the procedure, and your overall health.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
After returning home, you will likely be given instructions to rest while the wounds heal. You will have regular appointments with your surgeon to check on your progress. Eventually, your surgeon will recommend you begin physical therapy. Generally, your doctor will suggest starting physical therapy within 1-3 months after surgery. Physical therapy is intended to improve mobility, strengthen your body, increase flexibility, and reduce pain. Your physical therapy duration will depend on how quickly you return to full mobility.
The Do’s and Don’ts After Back Surgery
Here are the dos and don’ts after back surgery:
Do Watch For Signs of Infection
After surgery, you have to be vigilant in preventing infection. This means cleaning the wound and changing the bandages as instructed, ensuring the wound area stays dry and clean at all times and ensuring you take prescribed antibiotics as directed.
If you notice any signs of infection, such as fever or discharge, redness, or swelling at the wound site, see your doctor immediately.
Do Follow Your Doctor’s Recovery Regimen
It is important to follow your doctor’s recovery regimen to avoid infection and heal well. Make sure to take it easy, don’t strain your back, don’t try to jump back into your routine too quickly, and take as much time as you need to rest and sleep. Take your pain medication as instructed.
Do Prepare Your Home
It will be challenging to move around due to mobility limitations, so prepare your home ahead of time. You may need to:
- Rearrange furniture to clear walkways
- Prepare easy-to-make meals
- Wear comfortable clothes
- Ensure essential items are within reach
- Prepare sleeping arrangements on the ground floor
- Have family or friends available to help you for the first couple of weeks
Don’t Perform Certain Back Motions
You should avoid certain motions, especially during the first few months, to prevent pressuring your back and causing injury. It’s best to avoid lifting items over 10 pounds following surgery. You should refrain from bending and twisting, as well. When in doubt about a certain activity or movement, it’s best not to do it until you talk to your doctor.
Don’t Overdo It
After the first few months of surgery, you may feel an increase in energy levels and mobility. However, you must not overdo it. Strenuous activities can stress the spine and slow down your recovery. Let the healing happen before you begin moving as normal.
If you are a smoker, it is best to avoid smoking or the intake of tobacco products after surgery. Smoking or using tobacco products may slow down recovery, especially if you had a fusion or graft.
Back Surgery in Rochester Hill, Bad Axe, and Lapeer, Michigan
If you experience prolonged back pain, check out the thoracic and lumbar spine treatments we offer at our clinic. You may call Ahlgren Spine at (248) 215-8080 to arrange a consultation with Dr. Bradley Ahlgren. You can also use our appointment request form to schedule a meeting with the best back pain doctor near you.
We look forward to relieving your pain and helping you get back to doing what you enjoy.