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What to Expect After Spinal Fusion Surgery

What to Expect After Spinal Fusion Surgery

If your back pain isn’t responding to conservative treatments, a spinal fusion can help you find the relief you need from spinal pain. Spinal fusion is a surgical intervention that treats herniated discs, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, and even vertebrae fractures. 

Dr. John Regan and our expert team at Spine Group Beverly Hills perform minimally invasive spinal fusions at our offices in Beverley Hills and Santa Monica, California. In this blog, Dr. Regan highlights what to expect immediately after surgery and in the weeks and months following your spinal fusion.

What is spinal fusion surgery? 

During a spinal fusion surgery, Dr. Regan uses screws or rods to fuse two of your vertebrae together, resulting in a more stabilized spine. When you’re considering spinal fusion, one of your main concerns may be how much surgery may hurt. Our minimally invasive surgical techniques tend to cause less bleeding, less post-op pain, and speedier recoveries.

Still, any surgery is likely to cause some degree of discomfort. It’s important to remember that spinal fusion is designed to take away your spinal pain. In other words, if you’re suffering from chronic back pain, focusing on the end goal of spinal pain relief can get you through your early recovery days.

You can reduce any discomfort throughout your recovery by:

It can take up to six months for your bones to fully heal after spinal fusion, but your recovery journey starts immediately after your surgery. 

What to expect 1-4 days after surgery

When you are discharged, you receive instructions for incision site care as well as any prescriptions you may need. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions about your at-home recovery.

One of the advantages of minimally invasive spinal fusion is that your hospital stay is much shorter, but that doesn’t mean your recovery at home is any less important. 

During your first few days at home, you should:

Once you return home, you may still experience pain, swelling, and fatigue. Pain medication can also contribute to nausea and constipation. Following your post-op instructions can help reduce these symptoms.

What to expect 2-4 weeks after surgery

In the first few weeks after surgery, our focus is helping your body continue to heal and getting you moving again. That’s why we recommend the following care tips for your recovery. 

Aim for gentle movement

While you may not feel like getting up and being active, it’s important to move around slowly and carefully after your surgery. Walking around your house can help the healing process, reduce your risk of blood clots, and help combat post-op constipation. 

You may need help getting around initially, and that’s okay. Assistive devices, such as a cane, can be handy. Avoid long car rides and strenuous activities until Dr. Regan gives you the green light.

Follow a healthy diet

Post-op isn’t the time to diet. In fact, loading up your plate with nutrient-dense foods can help your body recover. Not only that, but eating fiber-rich foods and drinking plenty of water can also help you avoid post-op constipation. 

Protein, vitamin D, and calcium are especially beneficial nutrients after spinal fusion. Vitamin D and calcium are well-known for promoting bone health, so be sure to include dark leafy greens, fortified dairy food, full-fat Greek yogurt, salmon, and sardines into your diet. Even a chocolate pudding can be a tasty way to sneak in more calcium!

Get enough sleep 

Believe it or not, getting enough quality sleep helps you heal after surgery. Getting enough sleep gives your body a chance to heal your incision site, restore your energy levels, and help your muscles recover. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. 

What to expect 2-6 months after surgery

A month or two after your surgery, your back should be well on its way to healing. However, the next few months are pivotal to ensure a full recovery. You should continue to sleep well, eat well, and keep moving. 

We may add an outpatient physical therapy program to help you safely and gradually increase your activity levels. After about 3 months, we may recommend a graduated exercise program to strengthen your back with exercises you can do at home.

Spinal fusion isn’t right for everyone, but if you’re struggling with back pain, you might consider spinal fusion when conservative options just aren’t working. To learn more about spinal fusions, schedule an appointment at our Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, California office today.

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