Every year, about 15 million Americans will undergo some type of spinal surgery. Because it’s such a routine procedure, serious complications are uncommon. However, many patients voice concerns over how long it will take for them to recover.
Before you undergo surgery, your back and spine doctor will always have a detailed conversation about what you may experience before and after your procedure.
But to give you an idea of what the general timeline looks like, here is what you can expect during back surgery recovery.
The First Few Hours
Your recovery timeline will depend on many factors, the most notable being the type of spine surgery you undergo. But the first 24 hours tend to play out the same way.
After the successful surgery, a nurse will watch over you until you wake. You’ll spend these first few hours in recovery, where staff can monitor your condition.
Once you’re cleared from post-op, you’ll be taken to a regular room where you may stay for several days. During this time, physical and occupational therapists will start to brief your exercise and movement needs during your recovery.
Although rest is important to your healing process, doctors will typically try to get you out of bed as soon as possible. Staying in bed for long periods while you recover increases the risk of blood clots, so getting up and moving is crucial.
It’s also important to get the body moving so that you can begin your physical therapy. This usually starts within 24 hours of surgery.
You’ll start by doing simple movements to strengthen the arms and legs. Then you’ll graduate to moving from the bed to a chair. Finally, you’ll be able to get up and move around with the help of a walker.
This period of in-patient rehabilitation tends to last three days, though it may be longer if you’ve had a spinal fusion.
After you return home, you’ll need to make regular physical therapy appointments to continue your recovery. These visits will focus on restoring your ability to walk. After a few days, most patients can move about without the use of their walkers.
Following the Advice of Your Back and Spine Doctor At Home
Readmission rates for spinal surgery are rare, but about 15% of patients will require medical treatment within 30 days of their surgery. To reduce these risks, it’s important to follow the advice of your spine doctor when you return home.
Your spine and back doctor will instruct you on the proper ways to sit, sleep, bathe, and care for your wounds to reduce the risk of complications and speed up your recovery.
One challenge many patients face is driving, as you need to be able to twist and turn to check blind spots. You also need to be sufficiently healed to discontinue pain medication and get your doctor’s approval. For most patients, this takes about three weeks.
At this stage, you can start discussing returning to work. But it’s important not to rush this decision, as making a full recovery from your surgery can take anywhere from six weeks to several months.
Beginning Your New Life
A back and spine doctor will typically only recommend surgery when other treatments have failed or when an injury poses a serious, imminent risk. But in those cases, undergoing back or spine surgery can change the life of a patient.
If you’ve been recommended for spine or back surgery, or are curious if it may be the right solution for you, contact us to schedule your consultation today.