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How long after a spinal surgery before I can return to athletics?

Surgery Recovery

Near the top of the list of questions from almost every spinal surgery patient is how long they will have to wait following surgery before they can resume their normal activities. When those normal activities include athletics – golf and tennis, bowling and the like, pastimes that put tremendous strain on the back – the answer becomes more complex. The factors influencing the time before they can get back in the game include the level of the patient’s physical condition and health. Just because one engages in strenuous physical activity doesn’t mean he or she is in good physical condition or healthy. Recovery times are faster for surgery patients in good physical shape because their bodies heal faster. Of course the operation itself will play a large role in deciding when you’ll be back on the tennis courts, golf course, taking a job or engaging in a simple walk. The post-operative physical therapy program also plays a large role. But the type of back surgery is the primary factor affecting the time required to get back into sports action.

Athletics

In some cases the surgical treatment chosen for a given spinal condition will affect not only the time needed to get back on the playing field, but the degree to which you will ever be able to recover your old form. Take the stabilization procedure following spinal decompression surgery, for example. Spinal decompression is performed to relieve pressure on nerves within or emanating from the spine caused by conditions including spinal stenosisspondylolisthesis, and other degenerative changes, or as a result of spinal cord traumaSpinal fusion back surgery has been the primary stabilization procedure. But the fused vertebrae lose their independent motion following stabilization, and often patients are restricted from physical activity for up to 6 months while waiting for the biological fusion process to complete. However, today the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion. The TOPS System, a surgical implant, stabilizes the spine while preserving each vertebra’s independent motion – and good news is that there are no restrictions on your physical activity after surgery. That’s going to ensure better performance whenever it’s time to get back in the game.

Taking Vitamins Before Surgery

Vitamins

Spinal surgery is stressful on the body. Anyone who is having spine surgery needs to prepare his or her body for the surgery and recovery period by getting in shape, getting the proper amount of rest, and following other healthy habits. Taking vitamins are among the steps that physicians often recommend to help the body heal and recover from surgery as quickly as possible.

Back surgery patients should begin taking vitamins as far as a year in advance of surgery, if possible. A well-rounded multivitamin and mineral supplement with B12, vitamin E, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are what your body needs to heal. Whole food vitamin and mineral supplements are often recommended because they are made from food rather than synthetic vitamins, and thus are easier for the body to utilize.

Vitamin C is another important vitamin to have on your pre- and post-surgery vitamin list. Vitamin C promotes healing and helps the body defend against illness, which can greatly interfere with surgical recovery. Vitamin A is another important healing vitamin. It protects cells and helps build new tissue, a vital part of surgical recovery.

Some types of vitamins, minerals and supplements should be avoided, as they can contribute to complications such as excessive bleeding. You should have a discussion with your spine surgeon about what vitamins you should and shouldn’t take as part of your early surgical planning.

Just as choosing the right vitamins can help speed recovery, so can choosing the right surgical procedure with the best outcomes. For example, spinal stenosis, slipped disc, spinal cord injury and a host of other spinal problems are often treated with spinal decompression surgery to relieve symptoms of nerve compression. In the past, spinal fusion back surgery was routinely performed in conjunction with spinal decompression to stabilize the spine, though fusion eliminates the natural, independent motion of the fused vertebrae. But today the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System, an advanced implant device, offers a surgical alternative that has been proven in clinical studies around the world to provide better outcomes than spinal fusion. So by all means take vitamins to speed your recuperation from surgery, but also make sure you are aware of your treatment options, and choose procedures that provide the best and quickest paths to complete recovery.

Should I stop taking medications before spinal surgery?

Medication

You have a pinched nerve, slipped disc, a spinal cord injury, or other back problem that has not responded to conservative treatments, and you have reached the decision to have spinal surgery. You and your back surgeon will discuss many aspects of your pre- and post-operative treatment, and the subject of the medications that you are currently taking – and whether you should continue their use – is high on the list of topics.

Usually patients are advised to continue use of prescription medications such as those for controlling blood pressure, even on the day of surgery – provided the medications are taken with just a small sip of water. However, use of blood thinners, aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and diabetic and herbal medications should be discontinued prior to surgery. Your surgeon and staff will ask for a complete list of all medications you are taking, and it’s important to provide accurate answers.

One of the goals of post-operative care is effective pain management, and that requires patients to be free and weaned from any narcotic pain medications and muscle relaxants before the back surgery is performed. Fortunately, the open back surgery procedures of just a few years ago have in many cases been replaced by less invasive surgical procedures performed to relieve common back problems such as spinal stenosis, or symptoms of sciatica. These minimally invasive procedures cause little damage to collateral tissue, and therefore produce less pain and require less palliative medication, further speeding recovery. Other recent advances provide improved post-operative outcomes. For example, patients can now choose the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System instead of spinal fusion back surgery after a spinal decompressionprocedure. The TOPS System provides better clinical outcomes than spinal fusion, and preserves the full range of the individual vertebrae. Spinal fusion eliminates the independent motion of fused vertebrae, and has been shown to promote deterioration of adjacent vertebrae.

The procedure selected to treat your back problem is also a critical part of the discussions you will have with your orthopedic surgeon. Be sure to discuss all your surgical options, including advanced, proven procedures that can provide the best outcomes for your spinal condition.

Preparing for Spinal Surgery

Preparation for Surgery

Whether for a slipped disc caused by the normal aging process, or to treat a traumatic spinal cord injury, spinal surgery is never undertaken lightly. When selected as the preferred treatment option, it’s an indication of the severity of the problem being addressed. Back surgery is performed with the expectation that it offers a reasonable expectation of a meaningful improvement in one’s medical condition, and those improvements include reduction of pain and restoration of movement. So there’s actually much to look forward to when preparing for a back surgery operation! Here are things any patient can do to ensure the surgery and recovery goes as smoothly as possible:

Get in the best shape you can – mentally and physically. Exercise and eat a healthy diet. Lose weight, as extra weight puts mechanical stresses on the back and can complicate back surgery and recovery.  Lose weight sensibly!  If you smoke, now is the time to quit! If you won’t quit, you will have to stop prior to surgery, due to the many serious health risks the results of smoking can cause for surgical patients. Talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking. Be very thorough – even herbal supplements can impact recovery or interact with other medication prescribed for surgery.

Also, prepare for surgery by learning as much as you can about all facets of your spinal condition, and its treatment. For example, the last few years have seen dramatic advances in spinal procedures that can  provide dramatically improved clinical outcomes. The TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System, often used in the treatment of spinal stenosisspondylolisthesis, and other back problems that can cause a pinched nerve, is one such advanced procedure. TOPS is an implant system approved for use as an alternative to spinal fusion back surgery following a spinal decompression procedure. The TOPS System preserves the independent flexion and bending of the individual vertebrae following spinal decompression therapy, unlike fusion spine surgery, which eliminates this independent motion and can contribute to deterioration of adjacent vertebrae. The TOPS System has also been shown in clinical studies conducted around the globe to provide better short- and long-term outcomes than spinal fusion.

Make sure you learn all you can about your condition, and understand all your surgical options, thoroughly discuss your treatment with your physician, and you’ll be well prepared for your back surgery!

What is Neural Claudication?

Neurologic Claudication

Recently we addressed the topic of claudication, pain typically felt in the legs as a result of vascular, or blood vessel problems, or back problems such as spinal stenosis that can result in pinched nerves in the lower back. Neurogenic claudication is a common symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar, or lower portion of the spine. Neurogenic refers to the problem’s genesis in the nerves, and claudication, Latin for limp, refers to the painful weakness or cramping the patient feels in his or her legs. Neurogenic claudication can be bilateral (in both legs) or unilateral (in one leg).  The pain may be triggered by walking or prolonged standing, and is typically alleviated by changing position or flexion of the waist, not simply by resting, as happens with vascular claudication.  In severe cases, the pain may be persistent. Bone spurs, bulging discs and herniated discs can also cause neurogenic claudication.

Conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medications and injections may be sufficient to relieve neurogenic claudication, but surgery may be recommended in moderate to severe cases that don’t respond to conservative protocols. Spinal decompression surgery is typically performed to remove portions of the vertebrae impinging on a nerve. This pinched nerve is the source of the pain, weakness and cramping of neurogenic claudication. Following the spinal decompression treatment, a secondary operation is performed to stabilize the spine in the area where vertebral material was removed. In the past, spinal fusion back surgery was the sole available surgical stabilization procedure performed with spinal decompression. However, spine fusion surgery eliminates the natural independent motion of the fused vertebrae, and can contribute to deterioration of adjacent vertebrae. Now the TOPS (Total Posterior Solution) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion that preserves the full range of natural motion of each vertebrae. If you experience pain that interferes with your quality of life, seek qualified medical help. Today’s advanced procedures provide excellent outcomes. Get the facts about all your treatment options.

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

spinal stenosis exercises

Spinal stenosis – one of the most common spinal conditions – is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. (“Stenosis” refers to a narrowing, or constriction.) As the spinal canal progressively narrows over time, it puts pressure on the nerves branching out from the spine, causing pain, tingling, and numbness in the extremities. The condition can occur in the lower, or lumbar region of the spine – lumbar spinal stenosis, which is the most common form – or in the neck, or cervical region of the spine – cervical spinal stenosis.

The majority of cases of spinal stenosis develop for unknown reasons, but the causes of spinal stenosis can be traced to several components of spinal anatomy, including the intervertebral discs, the facet joints that connect the vertebrae to each other, and the spinal cord. The narrowing of the spinal canal may result from abnormal bone growth and/or tissue growth, or due to a hereditary disorder. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle including exercise, good nutrition and maintaining proper weight can help prevent spinal stenosis.

Options for treatment of spinal stenosis include spinal stenosis exercises, physical therapy that can relieve pressure on the spinal cord, and medication to reduce pain and inflammation. In extreme cases, surgery for spinal stenosis may be recommended. The surgery removes potions of the vertebrae that are impinging on the roots of nerves emanating from the spine. Following this spinal decompression procedure, spinal fusion back surgery has traditionally been performed to stabilize the spine. Unfortunately, this stabilization procedure eliminates the independent motion of the fused vertebrae, and can contribute to the deterioration of adjacent vertebrae. Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion that maintains the spine’s full range of motion, and that has been proven in clinical studies conducted worldwide to provide superior outcomes than spinal fusion following spinal decompression surgery. So patients seeking surgical relief for an abnormal narrowing of the spine now have access to a wider range of treatment options than ever.

What is Spinal Decompression?

Spinal Decompression

It may sound like something only a deep sea diver needs to be concerned about, but spinal decompression is an important topic for many people suffering from debilitating back pain. Spinal decompression refers to the process of relieving pressure on one or more pinched, or impinged nerves in the spinal column. The pressure on such nerves can cause pain, restrict mobility, and result in a host of other physical problems that can manifest in almost any part of the body. A host of spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis, disc degeneration, bulging, herniated or slipped discs, and facet syndrome can put pressure on nerves emanating from the spinal column.

Spinal decompression can be performed both surgically and non surgically. Non-surgical spinal decompression utilizes mechanical, computer controlled traction devices to reduce the pressure placed on nerves in specific portions of the spine. Inversion therapy, in which patients hang upside down, is another from of non-surgical spinal decompression.

For patients who do not respond to non-invasive methods, spinal decompression surgery can achieve dramatic improvements. In this surgical procedure, portions of the bone or tissue of the spine that impinge of a nerve are cut away, relieving the pressure. Historically, a spinal fusion procedure was performed in conjunction with spinal decompression surgery, in order to stabilize the spine at the point where the decompression procedure was performed. But spinal fusion, in which two vertebrae are fused to enhance spinal stability, eliminates the independent motion of the fused vertebrae, and may accelerate degeneration of adjacent vertebrae. Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion for patients undergoing spinal decompression back surgery. Unlike spinal fusion, TOPS preserves the full range of the spine’s natural motion, and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world.

If you’re a patient whose pinched spinal nerve is not responding to non-invasive decompression methods, make sure you discuss all your surgical options with your physicians.

What is Lumbar Spinal Decompression?

Spinal Stenosis

Imagine if the branches of a tree were just as big at the top as they are at the bottom, and that sometimes, heavy loads were placed on the ends of the very highest branches. Think of the stress that would put on the lower portion of the tree trunk. Well, that’s analogous to the situation we humans experience with our spinal columns. Our spinal column is like the trunk of a tree, but we’re just as big at the top of our trunks as at the bottom. The stress this puts on our lower backs – also called the lumbar region of the spine – is exacerbated by the cumulative affect of a lifetime of lifting and twisting in combination with degenerative changes of the spine that occur as a result of aging. So it’s not surprising that the majority of back problems that bring patients to spinal specialists are centered in the lower, or lumbar region of the spine.

These stresses, along with our genetic makeup, disease or injury, can result in a host of spinal disorders such as bulging or herniated discs, slipped disc and spinal stenosis. These disorders, in turn, can result in unnatural pressure being put on nerves that emanate from the spinal column, potentially causing pain, restricted mobility, and other symptoms of pinched nerves. We talked about the problem of pinched spinal nerve and spinal decompression in general in a previous blog. As we noted, spinal decompression is a means of easing pressure on impinged spinal nerves, and can be performed either non-surgically or surgically. Lumbar spinal decompression simply refers to decompression procedures performed on the lower portion of the spine.

The surgical solution for a lumbar pinched nerve involves removing tissue from vertebrae in the lumbar region that impinge, or put pressure on a nerve. This is called lumbar spinal decompression surgery. Historically, spinal fusion back surgery has been performed in conjunction with lumbar decompression surgery to stabilize the spine. Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion that preserves the full range of the spine’s natural motion, and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world. This provides an important more treatment option for individuals with moderate to severe symptoms of pinched nerves who do not respond to non-surgical lumbar decompression procedures.

Back Treatment Options

Spinal fusion

In our previous blog we discussed the tremendous stresses borne by the lumbar, or lower portion of the spine comprising the five lowest vertebrae. In fact, lumbar back pain is a significant health issue, affecting about 70 to 85 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, according the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Among the most common causes of lumbar spinal problems is the degeneration of bones and tissue in the spine that occur as a normal part of aging. But one doesn’t have to be older to have lumbar spinal problems. Back pain is the most frequent cause of activity limitation in people under the age of 45, according to the NIH. Trauma or injury, poor posture and biomechanics, genetics, obesity and poor muscle tone can all result in lumbar spinal problems that cause pain, limit mobility, and have other serious health consequences. These conditions include spinal stenosis, bulging disc, herniated disc, slipped disc, radiculopathy and spondylolisthesis.

A variety of treatment options are available for individuals affected by conditions causing lumbar back pain. Individuals with moderate to severe cases of these conditions who do not respond to conservative treatment options such as medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes, may opt for a surgical solution. Frequently this involves cutting away portions of a lumbar vertebra that is impinging, or putting pressure on a nerve emanating from the spinal column. Such spinal decompression surgery can have a dramatic impact on relieving pain and restoring mobility. However, removing bony elements also weakens and destabilizes the spine, so historically a procedure known as lumbar fusion, or lumbar spinal fusion has been performed in conjunction with spinal decompression back surgery of the lower spine. In this procedure the vertebra from which tissue was removed is fused to an adjacent vertebra. This stabilizes and strengthens the spine, but lumbar fusion eliminates the natural flexion and independent motion of the fused vertebrae. Today lumbar decompression surgery patients have an alternative to lumbar fusion: the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System. TOPS preserves the full range of the spine’s natural motion, and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world. If you are considering surgery for a lumbar spinal problem, ask your physician about all your surgical options.

Recovering from Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

 

Lumbar spinal stenosis, a common medical problem, denotes an unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal, the center of the spinal column housing the spinal nerves that relay sensorial information to the brain and control the movements of our muscles. The term stenosis comes from Latin, and means a narrowing. When a portion of the spinal canal narrows unnaturally, it can put pressure on the spinal nerves, and these pinched nerves in turn can cause pain and limit mobility.

The good news is that a variety of treatment options are available that have been proven effective in helping individuals recover from or ameliorate the symptoms of spinal stenosis. Conservative, non-invasive therapies include simple lifestyle changes, medications, physical therapy, and injections of anti-inflammatory agents. For patients with spinal stenosis, there’s no way of knowing which of these approaches will be most successful, so physicians may simply prescribe one of these treatments as a first step, and monitor the results to see how the patient responds. If the first method selected doesn’t achieve the results of helping the patient recover from spinal stenosis, the next option may be tried, and so on.

For patients with moderate to severe spinal stenosis who do not respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be recommended. In this form of spinal decompression surgery, the surgeon trims away excess bone in the narrowed center of the affected vertebra, relieving pressure on the compressed nerve or nerves. Historically, a spinal fusion back surgery operation has been performed in conjunction with surgery to relieve spinal stenosis, in order to stabilize the region of the spine where the operation was performed. Today there’s an important, and better alternative to spinal fusion. The TOPS (Total Posterior Spine) System procedure provides better clinical outcomes than spinal fusion surgery. The TOPS solution has the added benefit of preserving the spine’s full range of motion, unlike spinal fusion, which permanently fuses adjacent vertebrae. TOPS also offers a much quicker recovery from surgical treatment for spinal stenosis than spinal fusion. If you’re a candidate for spinal stenosis surgery, make sure you understand all the advanced surgical solutions available today, and what impact each will have on your recovery from this condition.