Tired of dealing with back pain and ready to make it stop? Thinking about the surgery itself is a huge part of preparing for it. But the post-surgical period is equally important. Knowing the do’s and don’ts will help you feel secure while recovering from back surgery.
Do: Give yourself a break
Even if you’re having minimally invasive surgery, which dramatically shortens the recovery time since there is less time under anesthesia, less tissue and muscle damage, and less stress on the body, your body will still need some time to heal. You’re probably a busy person. Work, kids, a spouse, a house, friends, volunteering—it all takes time and commitment. Maybe this is the first time in a long time that’s you’ve been able to take a breath. Enjoy it.
The healing process may be difficult, depending on the type of back surgery you’re having, but the process of taking time for you doesn’t have to be. Sink into it. Be selfish. Put yourself first. It might be the first time you ever have (hopefully it’s not the last).
Don’t: No Bending, lifting or twisting! This means don’t drive, climb stairs, work out, or have sex…until you’re told that you can
You may feel great right after surgery. If you have had a minimally invasive procedure to help back pain, you may even walk right out of the office a few hours later. But that doesn’t mean you’re cleared to resume your normal life right that very moment. It can be tempting to push yourself when you feel good, but doing too much, too soon, could land you right back on your back.
Do: Follow your doctor’s physical therapy orders
Beyond taking your time before resuming your daily activities, you also want to make sure you heed your doctor’s orders as it relates to physical therapy. It’s in your best interest to follow their orders—if you want to heal and not reinjure your back or continue to suffer through chronic back pain, that is.
And, you also want to make sure you do any assigned home exercises as well. “Research suggests that as few as 35 percent of physical therapy patients adhere to their at-home regimens,” said US News.
Don’t: Mess with your meds
Whether your doctor prescribes prescription medication or an over-the-counter pain killer, follow the plan. If you feel like you need more medication, or want to wean yourself off the meds, talk to your doctor first. Upping the dosage could be dangerous and even life-threatening, while taking less could hinder your recovery because of the increased pain you may have to endure.
Do: Communicate with your doctor
Having post-surgical symptoms you’re unsure of? Pain not going away like you expected it would? Talk to your doctor.
“After your surgery, it’s important that you communicate openly with your doctors and nurses about what you’re feeling while you recover,” said WebMD. “If you have pain— whether it’s at the site of the incision or elsewhere in your body—tell your doctors and nurses. They will be better able to keep you comfortable if you are very descriptive about where and how much it hurts.”
Don’t: Ignore dangerous complications
Minimally invasive surgery has a lower incidence of complications as compared to open surgery, however it’s important for every patient to be aware of what to look for so they know how to act quickly if need be. Make sure you are inspecting your incision carefully throughout your recovery period to make sure there aren’t any signs of infection, like yellow or green discharge, excessive redness and/or heat around the incision, or extensive bleeding. Any of these symptoms warrants an immediate call to your doctor.
- A fever, especially if it’s over 101 degrees, could indicate an infection and could also be dangerous. Increasing pain, pain during urination, pronounced nausea with or without vomiting, and a quickening heartbeat are other signs that could be dangerous and should prompt you to call your doctor.
- If you’ve had minimally invasive anterior neck surgery, it’s also important to pay attention to your throat during your recovery. A complication called dysphagia can make it difficult to swallow. Your doctor will most likely prescribe a diet of soft and pureed foods initially, progressing to a broader diet as the condition resolves itself—typically in a few days to a week.
- A serious red flag is bladder incontinence and swelling in your legs. These are danger signs and you should immediately call a doctor or go to the nearest emergency room.
Do: Go the Minimally Invasive route
Advancements in minimally invasive surgical techniques have changed the game for those who suffer from chronic back pain. Long surgeries and recoveries associated with traditional, open surgical procedures are 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.
For more information and to find a leading back doctor, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments for chronic back pain, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.