What to expect when you’re recovering
After a successful minimally invasive spine surgery, you should be up and walking around within the first 24 hours. A physical therapist will work with you to sit up, roll over in bed, and eventually walk with a walker.
You may notice some swelling after minimally invasive spine surgery. This will diminish over the first couple of days and be minimal compared to what you might experience after traditional back surgery.
Your doctor will have you use an intermittent pneumatic compression device or have you wear compression leggings, called a TED hose. These are used to help prevent blood clots while you’re immobile.
Even though you might feel much less pain than you did before your surgery, it’s important not to rush your recovery. Remember, even if you look and feel better, your body is still healing on the inside.
Minimally invasive back surgery recovery tips
By opting for minimally invasive spine surgery over traditional surgery, you’re already setting yourself up for a better recovery. But there are other things you can do to ensure the best outcome possible after surgery.
Here are five things you can do before minimally invasive spine surgery to ensure a smoother recovery:
Lose weight: If you are overweight, orthopedic doctors recommend exercise (if possible) and a healthy diet to shed some excess pounds before surgery. This will reduce the stress on your spine before, during, and after your minimally invasive spine surgery recovery.
Stop smoking: Smoking leads to faster degeneration of your spine (which increases your back pain). So if you do smoke, consider quitting to ease your suffering and improve your overall health.
Eat right and drink plenty of water: Proper nutrients enhance your immune system and speed up the healing process. Foods rich in antioxidants and high in protein help your body mend muscle and avoid infection. Sugary foods and processed carbohydrates increase inflammation, so you’ll want to avoid those.
Get your home ready: After surgery, you won’t have the strength to make big changes to your home, so get it ready in the weeks leading up to your procedure. To prepare for a smooth recovery at home, you should:
- Clear away clutter, area rugs, or other items that might get in your way when you’re walking or cause you to trip and fall.
- Put items that you frequently use within easy reach.
- Get a chair with armrests and a firm seat you can get in and out of easily.
- Make sure your bed is not too low to the ground or too high so that you can get in and out of it easily.
- Invest in a toilet seat extension or handrail to help you get on and off the toilet.
- Install a non-slip mat in your shower or tub.
Find a caregiver: Arrange for a dependable person you’re comfortable with to help you at home for about four to six weeks after surgery.
As you recover from surgery, your caregiver may need to help you:
- Get into and out of chairs and your bed
- Grocery shop for you and even prepare meals
- Help you bathe and groom yourself
- Do household chores, like cleaning and laundry
The success of your surgery can depend significantly on how willing you are to follow your doctor’s orders and put in the effort it takes to recover quickly and safely.
Here are five things you should do after minimally invasive spine surgery:
Work with a physical therapist on the right exercise plan for you: A physical therapist can create a safe exercise plan for you that includes a combination of strengthening, stretching and low-impact aerobic activity. Exercise helps decrease back pain, increase circulation and enhance your mood after surgery.
Get walking (safely): Your primary source of exercise after minimally invasive spine surgery will be walking. It reduces pain and aids in the recovery process by preventing potential muscle atrophy and blood clots. Expect to be up and out of bed the day after your surgery and every day while in the hospital.
Talk to your physical therapist about how much walking is safe as you recover, and walk as much as possible. Don’t walk anywhere with uneven ground that could cause you to stumble or fall.
Be careful while bathing and grooming: Do not submerge or wash your incision for two weeks after surgery. Opt to clean the rest of your body with a washcloth rather than sitting in a bath or shower.
During your first post-surgery appointment, your spine doctor will inspect your incision, assess its healing progress and give you further instructions for care and cleaning.
Follow your mobility instructions: Your physical therapist will teach you how to turn over in bed, sit up and sit down. Be sure to continue following these directions when you return home.
For added support, expect to wear a customized back brace. Avoid moving your body in ways that can cause additional damage. No BLTs (bending, lifting, twisting or squatting) during recovery.
Keep a close eye on your incision: Sometimes, a patient’s body can have trouble healing at the incision site. During recovery from minimally invasive spine surgery, check the area around your incision for any sign of discoloration, aggravation, or inflammation.
If you can’t see your incision, have your caregiver (or another loved one) inspect it for you and call your doctor right away if something doesn’t look or feel right.