How Long Does it Take to Recover From Spinal Surgery?

Any surgery is a serious stress for the body. Therefore, even if the surgeon who performed the operation is a true genius of medicine and everything went well, postoperative rehabilitation is necessary to restore the body’s strength and functions fully.

Spine Surgery Recovery

In recent years, there has been a tendency to increase the incidence of spine disease, which is primarily due to lack of adequate exercise, poor nutrition, and a sedentary lifestyle in the era of total computerization. That consequently leads to a decrease in the tone of the torso muscles that hold the spine.

Thus, in the developed countries of the world, osteochondrosis of the spine is 90% of the total number of dystrophic diseases of the spine.

Recovering from back surgery happens in entirely different ways, as there are four main types, each of which has a different effect on the body.

Discectomy

That’s the removal of the disc that separates the vertebrae and helps support part of your spinal column. The intervention can be performed with different surgical techniques under general or spinal anesthesia.

Such an operation is prescribed for injuries or degeneration of the spinal cushion, with osteochondrosis or hernia. Disease symptoms are as follows: localized pain and numbness or extremities tingling.

Recovery from the procedure is often quick, but the patient continues to feel pain. There may also be numbness or weakness in the nerve pathway that has been exposed to high pressure.

Foraminotomy

Foraminal Therapy is applied to patients who have been diagnosed with spinal canal stenosis, a gradual narrowing of the vertebrae openings on any part of the back (cervical, thoracic, lumbar). That’s a manipulation of the spinal nerve roots that requires repositioning the tissues and cutting the bone to relieve pressure on the nerve. The procedure involves access to each vertebral level, so the incision length depends on the desired operable area.

The practice of recovery from lower back surgery shows slow and steady progress: patients can be exposed to light physical activity and also drive a car after eight weeks. Complete healing occurs within 18 months.

Laminectomy

That’s the removal of the plate, bone spurs, ligaments, as well as the back of the bones that make up the vertebrae to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves or spine. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and mechanical ventilation.

Laminectomy is usually performed for lingering back or neck pain and nerve damage symptoms such as limb weakness and numbness. Patients can often lose control of bowel movements and urination. Complications such as bleeding, infections, blood clots, and nerve root damage can occur with this type of intervention.

After the operation, a mandatory stay in the hospital for up to several days is required, and most likely, in the evening, you won’t be able to walk as with TOPS™ implantation. Of course, any mobility will be controlled with medication: you’ll have to overcome pain to do any exercise constantly. When caring for the sick, it’s necessary to follow clear rules for bathing, walking, and sleeping. It’ll take at least 3-4 months for your bones to heal well, and recovery will take place gradually over a year.

If your diagnosis is spine arthrodesis, but you’re young and healthy, then the possibility of work will still be excluded for a period of up to 6 weeks. On the other hand, older people will have to fight for every movement: it’ll take 4-6 months for them to recover.

Spinal fusion

It’s the fusion of two bones in the back. Today, the procedure is considered outdated and incomplete among doctors: its peak came at the turn of the 20th century and required great care and planning from the patient and the surgeon. Previously, it was prescribed to patients with osteochondrosis or other diseases that didn’t respond to conservative treatment.

The fusion aims to prevent pain by immobilizing a specific spine area and is very dangerous in everyday life. Specialized titanium screws, rods, and plates are designed to maintain the rigidity and stability of two or more vertebral segments, which will be a monolithic bone structure after surgery. Such an operation is often delayed up to 8 hours. Recovery time to spinal fusion is also very long and takes from 6 months to a year. Its duration depends on your preoperative state: if you’re in good physical shape and have a healthy lifestyle, it promises the best predictions.

TOPS™ system

The TOPS™ implant maintains the mobility of the vertebral segment while the upper and lower vertebrae don’t suffer from increased stress as in previous procedures. Such a design doesn’t immobilize a person but gives the whole range of movements. The operation is considered minimally invasive, and its average duration is about 60-120 minutes. There is also an early clinically significant reduction in pain compared to the patient’s baseline.

Complications during implantation are much less common than in previous procedures. E.g., only one patient had an asymptomatic screw halo in the postoperative period six months later. However, the process involved changing the screw position, which could probably be the reason for the above conclusion. Also, after 36 months, one patient showed progressive degenerative changes.

Many specialists have inclined to therapy with no fusion spinal surgery in recent years but based on safety and positive results of clinical trials.

Recovery from lower back surgery will depend on your preparedness in the preoperative period: the level of activity and physical fitness will affect the rapid progress. You will be able to walk and move on the next day after the intervention – the maximum stay in the hospital for patients in four days. Achievement of the expected level of mobility is reached already at 4-6 weeks and depends on the correct rehabilitation approaches and a course of physiotherapy. Using nutrients to improve recovery and healing is another aspect of quick recovery.

How does nutrition help you recover?

Research shows that using spinal surgery recovery vitamins and other supplements helps the body rehabilitate better. Immune nutrition minimizes the risk of complications such as infection. Oral supplements are commonly used in tablets, or the liquid is given intravenously. Arginine, glutamine, omega-3 fatty acids, nucleotides, and antioxidants are the primary nutrients for healing after injuries such as osteochondrosis, herniated discs, and surgery. Let’s take a look at each substance.

Arginine

It’s an amino acid that the human body produces in small quantities. The supplement is so valuable that it increases the ability to fight infections.

Foods containing arginine are nuts, seeds, legumes, poultry (especially turkey).

Glutamine

The amino acid can be synthesized in sufficient quantities. It participates in biological processes that control cell growth and also reduces the risk of infections.

You can get glutamine naturally by eating beef, eggs, rice, corn, and soy cheese.

Omega-3

Reduces the body’s inflammatory response, which is a source of persistent back pain. Salmon, eggs, nuts, flax, spinach, and other leafy vegetables contain omega-3.

Nucleotides

DNA and RNA are made up of nucleotides, which are their formative and supportive components. The human body synthesizes and processes nucleotides, but they can additionally come from food. Sources of nucleotides are foods of plant and animal origin.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, selenium. They reduce oxidative stress associated with chronic inflammation.

Examples of naturally occurring antioxidants include leafy greens, nuts, fruits, seeds, and whole grains.

To understand how long the recovery from back fusion surgery is, consider its risks. There can be a difficult struggle with the arising complications, where the correct diet and universal rehabilitation methods aren’t always appropriate. On the other hand, with the TOPS™ implant, healing will be much faster as the risks of infections and bleeding are minimized.

What difficulties do patients face after surgery? 

First of all, it is a pain and fear that will increase with movement. Therefore, the patients often limit themselves, thus delaying recovery.

It may seem that rehabilitation of the spine is not necessary, as if you can go home after surgery and get treated there. But this is really a very risky intention, and if you do so, you may stay bedridden forever.

Spinal surgery can provide dramatic relief for people with moderate to severe spinal problems that do not respond to conventional conservative therapy. For example, spinal decompression can remove pressure on nerves, relieve pain and restore mobility in many such patients.

Spine surgery recovery time varies depending on the procedure. The main purpose of rehabilitation is to restore the full range of motion, as well as the formation of a capable muscular corset.

Here are the methods used: the simplest exercises, supervision, and support of a doctor, physiotherapy procedures, classes on the simulators and in the pool, therapeutic baths, massage, reflexology, psychological support.

First, the physiological therapist examines the postoperative card, the features of surgery. Then, in collaboration with other specialists, create a method of treatment. The method of treatment includes two sides, physical and psychological. These two methods perfectly complement each other and give a great result together. 

The recovery time

If you’re a candidate for spinal surgery, it’s important to understand all aspects of the procedure and its aftermath. One of the most important questions these patients should have answers to is the length of time required to recover from spinal surgery.

Recovery time from back surgery depends on the form of surgery. There are two forms of back surgery: procedures where vertebrae are fused together versus procedures that do not immobilize the spine. Recovery from fusion surgery can take longer than the recovery time from back surgeries that only involve a decompression or a surgery that preserves motion. Your physician can tell you more about the recovery time required for a particular procedure. But it’s important for patients to consider outcomes as well as recovery time.

Effects achieved after physical rehabilitation:

  •     improving blood circulation;
  •     elimination of edema and pain;
  •     healing of sutures and soft tissues;
  •     increase muscle strength;
  •     improving bone growth;
  •     restoration of physiological movements of the spine;
  •     activation of global muscles;
  •     synchronization of work of all parts of a body;
  •     prevention of secondary diseases. 

For example, spinal decompression surgery has traditionally been performed in conjunction with spinal fusion back surgery. As part of the recovery process, restrictions on motions and activities are placed on the patient to allow the previously independent vertebral bodies to biologically fuse together and become one long rigid segment devoid of motion. In contrast, with the TOPS™ System, an alternative to spinal fusion following a spinal decompression procedure, there are no restrictions placed on the patient. You maintain a full range of independent vertebral motion after surgery, and the patient dictates the speed of recovery from this back surgery. You can increase your activity level as quickly as you want.

When should you start spine surgery recovery?

The answer is simple — the sooner, the better. Rehabilitation treatment should begin immediately after surgery and continue until an acceptable result is achieved. The rehabilitation process is no less important than the success of the operation itself.

Timely physical and psychological rehabilitation helps to pass the adaptation period quickly and without consequences. The doctor, before the intervention, must explain its features, course, possible complications. After the operation, he must clearly indicate what restrictions the patient has and when they are removed. In the initial stage, you should use painkillers to reduce discomfort. But by the end of the first week, they should be canceled.

The importance of rehabilitation measures should not be underestimated. Rehabilitation mustn’t cause pain, as muscle spasms can cause a painful reaction. The clinical effect will give a gradual muscle relaxation and increased range of motion in the joints.

The patient should be guided in the stages of rehabilitation, know the rules of conduct and the necessary exercises in the postoperative period. It is the doctor who determines how much recovery time is required in each case.

Back surgery treatment doesn’t end when the surgeon completes the operative work. The recovery period is of critical importance in restoring spinal health. Whatever the recovery period requires, make sure you carefully follow your physician’s instructions. And be aware of all your options for spinal surgery, so you’ll have not only the possible shortest recovery time but also the best possible outcome to your back surgery.

The rules of spinal surgery emphasize the consumption of more vegetables and fruits, preference for white meat and fish, the addition of jelly to the diet. After all, these dishes help to restore cartilage.

The rehabilitation program is made individually. It depends on the type of operation, patient’s age and general condition, the recovery period. The activities are planned and carried out under the close supervision of a surgeon, a neurologist, and a physical therapist.

People with low back pain develop a fear of movement, which once again confirms the close connection between biological and psychosocial factors. Often patients avoid the movements that caused the pain, even after recovery. This not only negatively affects the mobility of the spine but can also provoke depression, which increases the risk of recurrence.

How long you will recover after surgery depends on many factors. First of all, it is a method of surgery. Minimally invasive recovery techniques are now increasingly used. After that, the patient returns home for 3-4 days. With traditional interventions, the hospital stay can be extended by 1-1.5 weeks.

Previously, patients were allowed to get out of bed only a day after surgery. Other methods are now being practiced. In a few hours, it is recommended to get to your feet. You may need the help of a nurse. You can walk on the first day for no more than 5-10 minutes, then the load increases.

If the surgery was complex, only passive rehabilitation (massage, passive gymnastics) is used in the first month. The effect begins on the muscles of the thighs, buttocks, pelvis, shoulder girdle, and chest. The operated site is not involved in this period.

Gradually active ones are connected to passive techniques. With a physical therapist, you will learn how to perform exercises for flexibility, strengthening the back muscles properly. You can use gymnastic sticks and rubber bands, expanders, dumbbells, fitness and medicine balls during classes. At a remote stage, join the exercises on a special simulator, a balancer.

One of the causes of lumbar spine surgery is overweight and poor nutrition. Therefore, we recommend that all clients who come for rehabilitation and have signs of obesity consult a nutritionist. The doctor will choose the type of diet that will help normalize body weight and speed recovery.

Spine and lumbar spine surgery is a procedure with a rather lengthy recovery.

Recovering from back surgery requires patience, so during the early stages of recovery from spinal fusion surgery, some basic activity restrictions must be followed:

  • lay face up on the bed;
  • no bending;
  • no lifting;
  • no twisting;
  • no driving.

Young people are generally more capable of a faster recovery from back surgery than their older counterparts.

Conclusion

The purpose of treatment and rehabilitation measures is to remove swelling in the operated area and eliminate pain. Doctors prescribe patients a course of medication and procedures designed to prevent complications after surgery.

Walking is important after spinal surgery, but you must remember to start slowly and follow your doctor’s orders on how much to walk

Do not do strenuous activities, like jogging or golfing; do not do household duties that put a strain on the back, like gardening and vacuuming.

It should not be assumed that six months after the intervention, you can forget about rehabilitation. The degenerative changes in the spine that provoked the hernia do not go away. It is possible to slow down their development and prevent the recurrence of the problem only with the help of exercise, massage, and lifestyle changes. Therefore, most doctors recommend not to stop special classes for the rest of your life.

Take your time, be patient, allow your attendants to help you, and know that each day, with each step, you’re on your way to recovery.