One of the most unnerving aspects of facing spine surgery is not knowing what to expect. The prospect of going under the knife for any type of surgery provokes anxiety, but there’s something about back surgery that makes it even more frightening. The more that you know ahead of time, the better you are able to prepare for the experience, as well as for the recovery period once you get home. Here are the things that our Bergen County practice wants you to know so you’ll feel more in control and confident.
- Don’t Be a Martyr – No matter how skilled your surgeon is, you’re likely to have some pain after you’ve had back surgery. You will be provided with pain medication throughout the surgery and immediately afterwards to help you deal with the post operative period, and you should let yourself use them. When you opt out of pain medication you actually interfere with the body’s healing process. Also, don’t try to stretch out the time between medications. It is harder to alleviate pain once it has returned than to keep it at bay completely, so take your pain medication on the schedule provided.
- Ice and Heat Can Help – Most patients who undergo back surgery have already been on pain medications prior to surgery. Though this may have provided much-needed relief, it may create a drug tolerance that makes it harder to control pain. If this happens to you, using ice and heat can make a very big difference. Ice should be used in the first 48 to 72 hours after surgery, while heat should be only be used at a later point because it can increase swelling and pain if used too soon. The exception to this rule is if you are having tension or pain in areas outside of the surgical site. In this case, heat packs can provide welcome relief.
- Get as Much Sleep As You Can – Sleep is a tremendous aid to the body’s healing process, so don’t let anybody tell you that you need to get out of bed. Find the position that is most comfortable. Most patients prefer sleeping on their side with a pillow between their knees, though others find sleeping on their back with their head and shoulders slightly elevated and a pillow behind their knees brings the most relief and relaxation.
- Move as Much as Your Doctor Advises – There’s a fine line between overdoing it and not doing enough. Our Bergen County spine practice provides our patients with guidance regarding rehabilitation, including exercise, stretching, and restrictions. Doing too much can cause a great deal of damage, but not moving can also work against the recovery process and contribute to prolonged pain. Remember that exercise produces endorphins, and these can both eliminate pain and improve your mood.