What can you expect during your recovery from spinal decompression surgery?

Spinal decompression surgery is a procedure that relieves pain, weakness, and other symptoms caused by compression of the spinal cord or the nerves branching out of it. Many spinal surgeries are minimally invasive. This means that you have a few small incisions that must heal after the procedure instead of one big one. These smaller incisions can help you heal faster after surgery and decrease your risk of complications. However, it doesn’t mean that you won’t need to take special precautions to care for your health during your spinal decompression surgery recovery.

How you approach your recovery can determine how quickly you heal. It can also impact how successful your surgery is at relieving the pain and other symptoms caused by the compressed nerves in your spine. Keep reading to learn what you should do after your back surgery to set yourself up for a healthy recovery. 

What happens immediately after your spinal decompression surgery?

After your surgery, you’ll be moved to a recovery room. There, your medical team will monitor you as your anesthesia wears off. If your procedure is performed at an outpatient surgery center, you’ll go home later that day. If it is performed in a hospital, your surgeon may keep you there for one to four days. During this time, your medical team will monitor your recovery.

The incisions from your spinal decompression surgery will be closed with stitches or staples. After your procedure, they will be covered with a sterile dressing to protect them as they heal. If your surgeon uses dissolvable stitches, you won’t have to go back to get them removed. If they use staples or non-dissolvable stitches, you’ll need to go back in five to ten days to have them removed.

During your spinal decompression surgery recovery, if you notice your wound becoming warm, opening up, getting more red or swollen, or draining extra fluid, you should call your surgeon.

When it’s time for you to go home after your surgery, you will not be able to drive yourself. So, before your surgery, you should make arrangements to have someone ready to pick you up when you’re discharged. Your surgeon will probably advise you to recline your car seat on the way home. 

Before you leave the hospital or surgery center, your surgeon will give you a list of guidelines to follow during your recovery. These will include limitations on your physical activity. Following these guidelines is one of the most important ways you ca n help yourself heal faster during your recovery.

When will you start feeling pain relief after your surgery?

Right after your procedure, you’ll probably feel some pain in the area near your surgical incisions. You’ll be given pain medication to help you manage your discomfort as you heal. Even though you’ll be dealing with pain from the surgery, you should quickly notice some relief in any leg or arm pain that was caused by the pinched nerve in your back.

After spinal decompression surgery, most patients see the fastest rate of pain relief in the first six weeks after their procedure. Any feelings of tingling or prickling should steadily decline in the three months after your surgery. If you were experiencing numbness in your arms or legs before your procedure, that should slowly go away over the next year.

The pain from the surgery itself should be gone within six weeks. You can expect your energy levels to return to normal around that time too. However, this does not mean that your spine is finished healing. Depending on your specific situation, that can take anywhere from three months to a year.

How long will it take for your activity levels to return to normal?

In the days right after your spinal decompression surgery, your focus will be on rest and recovery. However, you should still make sure to get up and walk for a little bit each day. This can help speed up the healing process. As you start to get stronger, you can increase your activity level by little bits each day. Your surgeon or physical therapist may give you specific exercises to do during spinal decompression surgery recovery. These can help strengthen your back as you heal and keep your muscles from getting stiff or sore.

To avoid injuring yourself, listen to your surgeon’s recommendations and try not to push yourself too hard. Other guidelines you may follow during your recovery include:

  • Do not drive for at least two weeks after your surgery.
  • Don’t ride in a car for longer than 30 minutes at a time for the first two to four weeks.
  • Avoid bending at the waist or lifting your arms above your head.
  • Don’t sit or stand in one position for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Staying active can help reduce your back pain while you heal.
  • Don’t start any heavy household chores, such as laundry or vacuuming, before your doctor says you’re ready.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, such as jogging, biking, or swimming, until your surgeon says it is okay.

Depending on your job, you may be able to return to work as soon four to six weeks after your surgery. However, if your surgery was more severe — or your job is labor-intensive — you may need to stay home for up to six months while you heal. Your surgeon should be able to let you know how long you’ll need to be off work before you schedule your procedure.

What can you do to ensure a healthy and fast spinal decompression surgery recovery?

In addition to following your surgeon’s recommendations for walking, physical therapy, and other activities after your surgery, there are a few more things you can do to help you avoid complications during your recovery.

First, you can prepare your house for your recovery before you go in for your surgery. This can include putting foods and other important items at waist level, so you don’t need to bend or reach up to get the things you need. It may also include setting up a place to sleep on the first floor if your bedroom is upstairs.

Then, during your recovery, you can help yourself heal by eating healthy foods, quitting smoking, and reaching out to loved ones for help when you need it.

Making the decision to get spinal decompression surgery can be the first step to finally finding relief from your compressed nerve pain. If the high cost of medical care in the U.S. has you second-guessing whether you should seek the help you need, New Choice Health is here to help. Our Spine Surgery Patient Assist program can help you find financing options and cash pay discounts with some of the top surgeons in the country. Fill out this quick form to request more information today.

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