After any surgery, you’re going to need some time to recover. This starts with a recovery period in the hospital and, once you’re home, rehabilitation.
In this article, we discuss the recovery process after spinal surgery and the things you can do to help it go as smoothly as possible.
Pain Management and Medication
Pain and stiffness are commonplace after any spinal surgery. You’re going to receive a pain management plan and medication from your doctor post-surgery.
It’s important to carry out these instructions to assist in your return to activity. Pain medication reduces discomfort and makes movement easier post-op. Moving and returning to gentle activity is also an important step on the journey to normality.
Decreasing Hip/Back Strain
During the recovery period, you need to take extra care to reduce the stress on the spine. This means making sure that the spine and hips are well-aligned when sitting, standing and lying down.
You’ll also want to reduce the amount of time you spend static. Too much time in one position may immobilise the spine, weaken the muscles.
Gentle Exercise and Activity
You should aim for gentle movement once you’ve returned home from the hospital, in-line with your doctor’s post-op instructions.
Take gentle walks during your recovery period and change positions often. Increased safe physical activity can improve recovery.
Graded exercise which involves gradually increasing physical activity is a gentle approach to exercise and helps ensure that you’re working at an appropriate level for your recovery. It can help improve recovery outcomes and allows you to rehabilitate the muscles around the spine, reducing re-injury and back-pain risks.
The Importance of Posture
The way you sit or stand can change the load and strain placed on your back. Pay attention to these positions – they play a role in pain relief and overall recovery.
Upright posture is important when sitting or standing. Slumping or hunching (especially while seated) can place undue pressure on the lower back and hips, “deactivating” important muscles that stabilise the spine. Proper posture reinforces good habits and may reduce pain/stiffness.
Sitting aids and adjusted seating may be helpful during the recovery period. A lower back support can be added to most chairs and helps you achieve this upright posture.
You can also find general support garments for posture – especially for the lower back. These may provide some benefits for hip/back posture. Remember, however, that they won’t accelerate recovery or replace proper movement/posture.
Sleeping and Rest
Sleeping posture is something that easily goes unnoticed. After all, you’re not awake!
Sleeping in a contorted, twisted position may be problematic during recovery. Too much rotation in the spine or tilt in the hips will contribute to pain and stiffness.
Sleeping supports are available with similar aims to chair supports: they reduce pressure on the pelvis and lower back. These lumbar supports may reduce pain and stiffness in the area, aiding in muscular control and recovery of the spine.
Be careful when rolling over because you can easily rotate the spine or hips independently. This twisting can be a problem during the early days of recovery from spinal surgery, exacerbating symptoms. Try to turn your whole body together.
Where to get further help if symptoms worsen
Many people don’t pay enough attention to their recovery but physiotherapy and active pain management can be extremely beneficial. So be gentle with yourself during these early days, focus on your recovery and don’t hesitate to contact us if you’re struggling. The body is complex, so we provide a thorough whole-body examination prior to treatment recommendations.
It’s important to note that spinal surgery is suitable and ideal for a very small percentage of patients. At The Brisbane Spine Clinic, we often see patients who have gotten worse after surgery because the true cause of their back pain and sciatica wasn’t localised in the lower back.
If your symptoms continue, don’t improve, or even get worse, it’s time to seek further help.
*Please note, this blog is general in nature and we do recommend talking to your general practitioner who may then refer you to The Brisbane Spine Clinic.