8 Things You Should Do Before Your Spinal Decompression Surgery

As your spinal decompression surgery gets closer, it’ll probably be at the forefront of your mind. You may feel a little anxious, but that’s perfectly normal. To help settle your nerves — and set yourself up for a successful recovery — there are a few things you can do to prepare for your spinal decompression surgery in the weeks leading up to your procedure.

Spinal decompression surgery can relieve nerve pressure and alleviate associated pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling. If spinal surgery is the best way for you to get relief from your symptoms, then you’ll benefit from making the extra effort to prepare yourself and your home for your surgery and recovery.

1. Eat a healthy diet.

In the days or weeks leading up to your surgery, you should try to incorporate vitamin- and mineral-rich foods into your diet. This includes foods like whole grains, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Healthy foods like these can help reduce inflammation after your procedure and improve your odds of a healthy recovery. On the flip side, you should try to stay away from processed foods and red meats, which can have the opposite effect.

Pro tip: Post-surgery pain relievers can often cause constipation. Ask your doctor if you’ll need to take a fiber supplement or stool softener after your procedure to help keep your bowel movements regular.

2. Get fit before your surgery.

When you’re suffering from back pain, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. However, regular exercise in the weeks leading up to your surgery may help speed up your recovery. Even something simple as upping the number of steps you take each day to 5,000 or 10,000 can help your body prepare for your spinal decompression surgery. Just make sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. They can help make sure you don’t accidentally worsen your back injury before your procedure.

3. Quit smoking.

One of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for a successful recovery is to quit smoking at least a few weeks, if possible, before your surgery. It’s a big ask, but well worth it. Smoking before your surgery can increase your risk for post-surgery heart attacks, blood clots, pneumonia, and death. It can also interfere with your body’s ability to heal after your surgery. If you need help quitting, your doctor should be able to provide you with resources. You can also find free tools and tips at SmokeFree.gov.

4. Ask your doctor which medications you should avoid.

Two weeks before your surgery, you may need to stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and similar medications that can make it difficult for your blood to clot. This includes ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve). 

You should make sure your doctor is aware of all medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins, and herbal supplements you’re currently taking. They’ll be able to tell you if any will interfere with your surgery or recovery. Ask them about which medications you should still take on the day of your surgery.

5. Set realistic expectations.

Overall, results from spinal decompression surgery are generally positive. However, there are limits to how much your surgery will be able to help your condition. Spinal decompression procedures can take pressure off of compressed nerves and provide relief for pain and other symptoms. Unfortunately, they do not address the conditions that caused the issue in the first place, such as arthritis, repetitive motions, heavy lifting, or poor posture. 

As you prepare for your spinal decompression surgery, talk with your doctor about what you can expect during your recovery. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to increase your chances of a healthy recovery and lower the risk of the pain coming back.

6. Prepare your home for your recovery.

After your spinal surgery, your mobility will be limited, which may make it difficult to get around your house. Your doctor will be able to give you an idea of what you’ll be capable of in the days following your surgery. You can use that information to prepare your home and make sure you’ll be able to access everything you need. To do this, you can:

  • Prepare a space to sleep on the ground floor of your home, if your bedroom is upstairs.
  • Put all the food you need at waist level, so you don’t have to bend down or reach up to grab anything.
  • Make several healthy meals in the days before your surgery. That way, you don’t have to cook too much at the beginning of your recovery.
  • Stock your freezer with easy-to-make foods.
  • Buy any durable medical equipment you may need during your recovery, such as a toilet seat riser, folding walker, or back brace. (Ask your doctor about this beforehand to avoid spending money on anything you won’t need.)

7. Reach out to your support system.

Recovery from spinal decompression surgery is an ongoing process that may take weeks or months. Don’t be shy about letting people know you may need help during that time. By talking with your loved ones before your procedure, you can help set realistic expectations of what they can expect from you during your recovery. 

After your surgery, you may need help with things like cooking, picking up prescriptions, and cleaning. Having these conversations before your surgery will help ensure you get the support you need during your recovery.

Pro tip: If you have children or pets, you’ll probably need to make extra arrangements to help you take care of them while you’re healing from your spinal surgery.

8. Learn as much as you can about your surgery.

The key to preparing for any surgery is making sure you have a clear idea of what to expect beforehand. Ask what your different options are for your procedure — such as open vs. laparoscopic surgery and inpatient vs. outpatient care. Then, make sure you know how these options will affect your experience and your payment responsibility. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion!

Prepare for your spinal decompression surgery with New Choice Health

If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, the Care Coordinators at New Choice Health’s Spine Surgery Assist program can help. Reach out today to learn about qualified surgeons in your area, cash pay discounts, and financing options for your spinal decompression surgery.

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Pensacola, FL 32502