Recovering from Spine Surgery: What to Expect

One of the most important contributors to the success of any surgery is successful recovery. This holds true for any procedure on your vertebrae or spinal cord. The length of your recovery depends both on the type of procedure and the scope of the surgical changes.

Your success begins when you choose Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine for your care. Dr. Abhishiek Sharma and Dr. Erik Curtis are both experienced and distinguished neurosurgeons, familiar with both traditional and contemporary surgical techniques, including minimally invasive procedures that may substantially reduce your recovery time. While your doctor gives you specific care instructions for your recovery, today we discuss what you can expect with recovery from spine surgery in general.

Healing time

No matter what spine procedure you have, expect some downtime, allowing your body to repair damage to tissue around the surgical work that you had done. The length of this downtime could vary widely depending on how severe your condition is and the extent of the surgery needed to correct the problem.

For example, a herniated disk could require a basic discectomy, which has a comparatively short recovery time, especially when it’s possible to use minimally invasive surgical techniques. Minimally invasive procedures use special tools that require keyhole incisions, cuts through tissue that are about one-half of an inch. Damage to skin and muscle is small when compared to conventional techniques.

One of the primary differences comes from the use of special imaging equipment that allows your surgeon to navigate and operate using a monitor, rather than needing to open your back enough to see the surgical field. Often, recovery from surgery extends because of the healing time of tissue damage surrounding the target of the procedure, not the target itself.

Surgeries such as spinal fusion or laminectomy have a much longer recovery timeline. Bones take at least three to four months to heal adequately, and older patients may take even longer. Predicting recovery time before surgery takes place may be difficult.

Caring for your wound

Your time in the hospital varies by procedure, too. You might have outpatient surgery for small issues, or you could stay in the hospital for two to four days before returning home. Expect bandages on your incision for about a week. You’ll receive specific instructions about your situation. Have a caregiver check the area around the incision daily for signs of infection. An increase in redness or fluid leakage or feeling warm to the touch are reasons to contact us for follow-up instructions.

Keep your incision dry for up to seven days by avoiding baths or showers. After that, cover the incision with plastic to keep it dry, and don’t point water from a shower head at the area.

Activity timeline

You may have a back brace to help recovery. Wear this as directed by your surgeon. It’s typically important that you avoid bending at the waist during recovery. Instead, bend your knees and squat to lower yourself to sit or lift.

Don’t lift anything heavier than a jug of milk, and keep what you lift close to your body. Twisting at the hips is also off limits. If your job is light duty without regular lifting, you may return to work in about four to six weeks, but it’s up to your surgeon to clear you for this and other activity after post-surgical follow-up.

Every spine surgery has its own challenges and recovery timetable. Prepare to be patient and to follow your doctor’s instructions closely. You’re already in good hands with the team at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine. Contact the office today, by phone or online, to arrange your initial consultation. 

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