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Life After Spine Surgery — What You Can Expect

Back pain is so common it accounts for over 83 million lost days at work, according to data compiled by researchers from Georgetown University. Not only does chronic back pain limit your ability to work, but it can also make it harder to enjoy your favorite activities. 

At Spine Group Beverly Hills, we understand how unmanaged back pain can affect all aspects of your life. As a skilled orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. John Regan can provide several different types of spine surgery so you can finally get the relief you deserve. 

Spinal surgery is a big commitment, and that’s why we’ve created this guide to help you understand life after spine surgery.

First, what type of surgery do you need?

All spine surgeries are designed with one purpose: to help you feel better. How they help you feel better depends on what specific symptoms you’re experiencing and what type of surgery you need. 

Understanding what type of surgery you need is key to understanding what your recovery might look like. Examples of common spine surgeries include:

It’s also important to note that some surgeries may be performed as a minimally-invasive procedure.

What to expect immediately after surgery 

Once you know which type of surgery is best for your needs, your next question is likely, “How long does it take to heal?” This answer depends on the type of surgery you have.

According to the experts at Mayo Clinic, a spinal fusion may require up to six months for your bones to fully heal. On the other hand, a minimally-invasive procedure may require 12 weeks downtime.  

The recovery process starts as you wake up after your surgery. Immediately, post-op, you can expect:

Your length of stay also varies depending on what type of surgery you need. Rest is critical during this time, but you’ll also start to work on physical therapy exercises. It may seem counterintuitive to start physical therapy right away, but physical therapy can help you heal more efficiently while improving your range of motion.

When you’re preparing for surgery, don’t hesitate to ask about the specific timelines for your procedure.

What to expect when you’re at home

Once you’re home, your mission of healing continues. The most important thing to do is to continue to follow all your post-op instructions and keep the incision clean and dry. You’ll receive specific instructions, including when to come back for suture removal.

You may need help getting around at first, and that’s okay. You may also need to use a walker or a cane, so be sure to prep your house before leaving for surgery.

Common symptoms after surgery include:

Prioritizing self-care can go a long way on your healing journey, especially when dealing with post-op symptoms.

Getting enough sleep

Getting quality sleep, for instance, can help your wounds (incisions site) heal, help muscles recover and help restore your energy levels.

Eating good post-op meals

You might experience constipation after surgery, and while no one likes to talk about it, there are many good tips for preventing it. 

Eating fiber can help combat constipation. Drinking enough water is important for this reason, too. Another good nutrient to focus on is protein. Protein can help your body heal, so don’t skimp on this macronutrient. Include lean protein sources like fish or chicken.

Moving around at home

Once you’re home, moving is a great way to help combat those early post-op symptoms. While you won't be running a marathon, you can get up and walk around (even with a walker) throughout the day.

What to expect when it comes to pain

If you’re considering spine surgery, you’re likely suffering from chronic back pain. While the goal is to manage or eliminate chronic pain, you’ll likely experience a little bit of discomfort post-op. It’s normal to experience pain or tenderness after any surgery, and the same is true for spine surgery. 

However, you can reduce your discomfort by:

Is spine surgery right for you?

Spine surgery isn’t right for everyone, but if you’re in constant pain and conservative treatments just aren’t enough, we’ll be happy to explore all of your options with you. 

Visit our website and schedule an appointment at our Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, California office today.

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