What to Know About the Period After Back Surgery

You have decided to pursue back surgery. After completing the recommended non-surgical, conservative procedures, you have done your homework, undergone diagnostic testing, talked with your insurance company, and have chosen a well-regarded, qualified surgeon who is available during the time frame you want or need and at a hospital that is convenient for you.  All that is left for you is to undergo surgery and begin your recovery.  But, what should you be prepared for in the hours, days, and weeks after your surgery?  Will you have to wear a brace?  When can you go back to work?  How much exercise should you undertake after the surgery? 

The answers to these questions will ultimately depend on what type of surgery you have, as minimally invasive surgeries like some discectomies will get you back to work faster than will a standard open surgery like a spinal fusion.  Your general level of health before the surgery and what type of work and physical activity you plan to do after the surgery will also play a role.  Your ability to return to a sedentary desk job will be much greater than the ability to return to physical labor and sports. 

In addition to considering how long you will be away from work and vigorous physical activities, it is important to remember that after spinal surgeries some pain relief may be necessary in the form of pain relievers (both prescription NSAIDs [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] and over-the-counter medication), physical therapy, and exercise regimens designed to strengthen the muscles in your back and maintain or increase spinal flexibility, and post-operative check-ups with your surgeon.

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