Recovering from back surgery can be a delicate procedure for some individuals. This of course depends on the type of surgery performed, the age of the patient, and the patient’s overall health condition before surgery.
With those conditions in mind, patients can still make their journey back to full health a positive experience with physical therapy and simple proactive exercises at home.
Back Surgery Recovery Time
Recovery time varies depending on the type of back surgery performed. Spinal fusion is the most delicate, as it usually takes between four to six months, but recovery can last up to a year for older patients. Other forms of back surgery include discectomy and laminectomy. Recovery times for these surgeries usually last from six to eight weeks, but can go as high as 12 weeks to fully recover.
After back surgery, pain and soreness around the area are to be expected; patients will usually suffer from some sort of discomfort immediately after waking up. Additionally, patients will be connected to several tubes after the procedure. These tubes include:
- An IV tube on your arm providing antibiotics and delivering fluids to stay hydrated
- A tube connected to your back to drain any fluid coming from the wound
- A catheter, which is a thin tube connected to your bladder, so you don’t have to get up and use the restroom
- A pain pump, which will administer pain medication as needed
While rest after surgery is important, you will typically begin light physical therapy 24 hours after your surgery. Doctors want you to start walking around as soon as possible in order to speed up your recovery process, while also reducing the risk of possible blood clots in your legs.
Since your back will still be in delicate shape, a back brace might be useful as it can give you plenty of support as you recover. Some braces are simple enough that you can put it on and take it off on your own, but for others you might need the help of another person. Make sure to learn how to put it on and take it off efficiently for when you are fully discharged from the hospital.
As you start to regain movement and body strength, your physiotherapist will develop a treatment plan for you with some simple exercises to do at home to speed up your recovery.
Recovery At Home
Most patients will usually be discharged from the hospital after 4 days and begin their transition back home. It is extremely important that patients follow the exercise treatment plan developed by their physiotherapist in order to quicken recovery. Avoid sitting for long periods of time, as this can increase muscle stiffness and soreness. Try getting up and going for a walk every 30-45 minutes to stay constantly active.
While you’ll want to stay active and follow your exercise plan, make sure to ease into and gradually increase your daily exercise; do not overdo it. Do not lift heavy objects or perform awkward or sudden twisting movements, and remember to keep using your back brace.
Constant uninterrupted sleep is another part of the healing process when recovering from back surgery. It is recommended to place a pillow under your head and knees for people who sleep on their back and a pillow under the head and between the knees for people who like sleeping on their side. These accommodations will bring support to your back and help the recovery process.
As far as personal hygiene is concerned, you may need to avoid taking a shower for a couple of days to keep the wound area dry. Consult with your doctor for when it is safe to shower. Once you are able to shower, you might want to invest in a shower chair, stool, or guard rail to prevent fall damage and make your injury even worse. Another bathroom accessory worth looking into is a raised toilet seat, which will alleviate any strain on your back and make sitting and getting off the toilet much easier.
Keep a constant eye on your wound and check for signs of infection. Non-dissolvable stitches will be removed within one to two weeks. Ask your doctor when your stitches will be removed and whether this will be performed in your own home or provider’s office. If dissolvable stitches were used, then you will not have to worry about this process as they don’t need to be removed.
Finally, if narcotic painkillers are prescribed by your doctor, take them as needed only. People usually use these for several weeks after the procedure, but doctors typically recommend to stop using them after three months. Avoid taking nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen as these can slow down your healing process.
Back Surgery Recovery at South Coast Post Acute
Rehabilitation at South Coast Post Acute ensures the highest standard of care to each patient as we provide exceptional quality service by highly trained medical professionals. Our services give you the opportunity to regain your highest level of functionality and get you back home in the fastest time possible. Contact us today and learn why we’re the recovery center of choice in Southern California.