For many people who have decided to have surgery to address a chronic back injury, the actual operation is the easy part; it’s the recovery that can be a challenge. Having to take it easy, adjust your diet and exercise routine, take time away from work and other responsibilities, and being patient as your body gets stronger is not easy. Neither is the unknown of how long your recovery may take.
“If you’re scheduled for surgery, one of your main questions is likely to be “How long before I can get back to my regular life?” As you might expect, the answer depends in part on what type of operation you’re having and how healthy you are going in,” said the Washington Post. “But much of it also depends on you.”
Recovering from back surgery requires a commitment, but following a few tips can make that recovery faster and easier.
1. Listen To Your Doctor
This seems like a no-brainer, but behavioral studies have shown that patients don’t always heed doctors’ advice when it comes to following all of the recommended recovery tips after back surgery. Even if you’re feeling great, it’s important to do as your doctor advises. Being too active, too soon, lifting too much, or driving before you are cleared can slow your recovery, or cause a re-injury or dangerous complication.
2. Check Incisions
Self-inspection is important to make sure everything is healing correctly. While you can’t be expected to look at your body the same way your doctor does, you should have been given some idea of warning signs, like these from WebMD:
- “Fever, especially if it lasts for more than a day or is higher than 101.2 F
- Pain that gets worse over time
- Pain when you pee
- Nausea and vomiting that don’t go away
- Racing heartbeat”
Taking precautions like washing hands carefully and not touching your incision, applying any prescribed topical medications on schedule, and bathing (or not) as advised are keys to a successful recovery after back surgery.
3. Watch Your Diet
Your post-surgery body is not going to be the same as your pre-surgery body. That’s probably a great thing as it relates to getting rid of your back pain. But your stomach might not be so happy for a period of time. Your bowels may be impacted by the surgery and/or the medications you are taking post-op. Eating and drinking right can help you to move things along and recover faster.
“Some foods have been found to help our bodies to recuperate after daily functions and give our bodies the right nutrients to help us heal and get back to our fully functional selves,” said The Daily Meal.
Your doctor should advise you of food and beverages of any dietary restrictions, but, in general, it’s recommended to stay away from sports drinks that can contain a lot of sodium and high-sugar foods that can be hard on the body and affect blood sugar levels.
WebMD also recommends these tips to make sure you’re well-prepared at home before surgery: “Make sure you’re well supplied with the right food before you get back home. Since you may feel tired during your recovery, prepare some meals before your operation and put them in the freezer.”
4. Watch For Signs Of Throat Irritation
Paying attention to your throat might not be the first thing that comes to mind if you’ve had minimally invasive surgery, but difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, can be a complication of anterior neck surgery. If dysphagia occurs, making further dietary changes can help. Eating soft and pureed foods makes it easier to swallow post operatively. Consuming more solid foods, as well as swallowing liquids, can be more difficult initially.
This condition typically resolves itself in a few days up to a week; if you’re still experiencing pain during swallowing and cannot advance your diet during that time, it’s important to call your doctor.
5. Take Your Meds
Whether your doctor prescribes a prescription pain killer or over-the-counter meds, it’s important to follow the protocol. Letting pain get the best of you can hinder your recovery and may also become mentally debilitating.
“Don’t tough out pain,” said the Washington Post. “Doing so may set back your recovery,” making rehabilitation take longer and limiting range of motion.
6. Don’t Do Too Much, Too Soon
While you may be sore after surgery, you may also feel hopeful for a pain-free life—more hopeful than you’ve been for some time. That may lead you to overdo it, which can cause you to reinjure yourself or stall your recovery. It’s important to stick to the rehab schedule your doctor gives you so you don’t end up doing more damage to your back.
Go The Minimally Invasive Route
Advancements in minimally invasive surgical procedures have changed the game for those who suffer from chronic back pain. Long surgeries and recoveries associated with traditional procedures can now be a thing of the past. Minimally invasive back surgery cuts back on the length of the operation, the size of the incision, the time spent in the hospital, and the time spent recovering. Many minimally invasive surgical procedures can also be done on an outpatient basis with complete recovery in a few weeks.