What To Expect From Back Pain Surgery And The Subsequent Recovery

If the non-invasive treatment of your back pain fails to give you adequate relief, your doctor may recommend surgery. Recovering from most back surgery takes several months, depending on the extent of the repair. Here is what you can expect to experience during your recovery and the cautions you'll need to take during that time.

Surgical Procedures for Lower Back Pain

Depending on the cause of the back pain, some of the procedures that your back surgeon may perform include:

  • removal of abnormal bone growths on vertebrae that irritate the nerves leaving the spine
  • removal of part of a vertebrae to make more room for irritated nerves
  • removal of all or part of one of the cartilage discs cushioning the bones in the spine

If one of these discs is completely removed, the surgeon will pack bone chips in its place to fuse the two adjoining vertebrae together. They will also place metal rods on one or both sides of the spine next to the space to stabilize the spine while the vertebrae fuse.

Before Leaving the Hospital

You'll receive a number of instructions before you leave the hospital. These are to prevent you from putting stress on your back as it heals. These will include:

  • the amount of walking you can do each day
  • the amount of time you can spend sitting each day
  • the amount of weight you can lift
  • the limits to the movements you can do with your back

You'll also be shown the proper way to get out of bed and a chair so as not to put stress on the area of your back where the surgery was done.

The First Weeks After Surgery

You'll spend the first weeks at home resting your back so the bones and soft tissues will heal. You will be able to do a limited amount of your daily activities so you don't stress your lower back. During this time, you could re-injure your back, even to the point of requiring additional surgery. Once your doctor is satisfied with your level of healing progress, you'll move into the next stage of recovery - physical therapy.

Range of Motion Therapy

Your back will feel stiff because of the disuse for several weeks. The first step in physical therapy is to slowly stretch out the muscles in your lower back to regain the normal range of motion there. The physical therapist will have you do exercises to loosen up the back muscles. Your therapist will show you how to pace yourself so you don't put excess stress on your back.

This phase of your recovery will take several weeks. The physical therapist will measure your progress at each session. Your back will begin to feel more limber as you continue to exercise. When you've reached nearly the normal amount of range of motion, you'll begin working on strengthening the back muscles.

Muscle Strengthening

With the muscles in your back more limber, the therapist will have you begin exercises to build up the muscles. Strong back muscles help support the spine and prevent future injury. You'll work with resistance machines in the clinic as well as do exercises at home. You'll begin walking more and will be able to resume some of your daily activities.

During this time, you could still injure your back, so strict observance of your level of activity is important. It will take weeks to strengthen the muscles to the point they were before the injury. If you are active in sports or other physical activities, your doctor will have you spend several more weeks working on the back muscles to meet the demand of those activities.

For more information, contact The Advanced Spine Center or a similar location.