If there is one form of surgery which should only ever be considered as an absolute last resort, it would be back surgery. However in some cases, surgery becomes inevitable if there is to be any chance of reducing chronic back pain and regaining some quality of life. If you have a spinal disorder and have elected to undergo invasive surgery, there are some important things you should know about looking after your back following your procedure. To help prepare you for life after back surgery, here is some guidance to the essential elements of post-surgery spinal care.
Lifestyle After Back Surgery
After you’ve undergone your surgery, your doctor will advise you about post-surgical spinal care and will probably refer you for physical therapy to assist recovery. In addition to following your physician’s recommendations, there are certain habits which you should form to ensure the fullest and fastest recovery from your surgery. In any event, recovery from back surgery is a slow process, but by making the right lifestyle choices you can help to shorten your recovery time.
- Avoid sitting for long periods: Apart from being uncomfortable after back surgery, it’s hard to maintain a healthy posture when you spend prolonged periods in a seated position. Therefore it’s a good idea to get up and move around every half an hour or so.
- Limit alcohol intake: Keeping a positive state of mind is important when recovering from back surgery. Alcohol is a depressant so should be avoided as much as possible.
- Avoid Smoking: Nicotine slows down the ability of your body to heal after surgery and is known to contribute to back pain. If you are a smoker, quitting after surgery cannot be recommended strongly enough
- Maintain a healthy weight: The more you weigh, the more loading you place on your lower back. Try to achieve and maintain your optimum weight.
- Follow a nutritious diet: Getting the right nutrients into your body is doubly important when recovering from back surgery. Sticking to a well-balanced, nutritious diet will speed the healing process. You should also drink several glasses of water each day to maintain hydration.
The Importance of Being Active
You should commence a program of activity immediately following your surgery and gradually build up your activity levels from that point on. Remaining active is one of the most important factors in successful back surgery recovery. Immediately after your surgery, your activity should be limited to walking. This is a low load activity which should be suitable for you unless your physician says otherwise.
Obviously your walks will initially be limited to taking a few steps around the hospital ward, wearing supportive shoes which you will probably need some assistance to put on. Take these short walks several times a day. Over the next six weeks you should continue to walk a few times every day, gradually increasing the distance and walking pace. However you should try to avoid hills when walking and stick to flat, level surfaces.
After a couple of weeks, you can add swimming pool sessions to further enhance the healing process. Swimming is a great way to start building the strength in your muscles and improve spinal mobility without placing undue loads on your back.
Preventative Spinal Care for the Long Haul
At around three weeks after your back surgery, I strongly advise you to make an appointment with a physical therapist. The exercises you will have been given immediately following surgery will need to be upgraded to help you start safely returning to normal functional activity. Try to work with a physical therapist with an exercise-based practice, a Pilates studio for example.
Depending on the type of back surgery that you undergo, at some point from a few months to a year after your operation, the importance of starting a program of preventative care can’t be overstated. This is where a chiropractor can help you tremendously. Even successful back surgery can leave you with some pain for a long time after the procedure and a chiropractor can help to relieve that pain and prevent further spinal damage.
Chiropractic care will help you by relaxing your muscles and realigning any vertebrae which may have become misaligned during your recovery from surgery. You should continue with regular exercise and visits to your chiropractor for the rest of your life. This will go a long way to keeping you from needing more back surgery in the future.
If Chronic Pain Persists
If you are unfortunate enough to still suffer chronic back or neck pain one to two years after your procedure, especially if chiropractic care isn’t able to alleviate your discomfort, there are a number of conservative treatments which you can avail of as an alternative to undergoing revision surgery. One of these treatments is called non-surgical spinal decompression, which depending on the type of surgery you had, may be safely administered to provide long-term pain relief.
At OCWP, we can assess your eligibility for this treatment and if you are able to safely receive it, can begin a program which will begin to reduce your neck or lower back pain levels within a few sessions. You can find out more about non-surgical spinal decompression and other conservative spinal care treatments from OCWP by taking some time to browse our website.