Chronic back trouble can affect many areas of your life. It can inhibit your ability to work and exercise that in turn leads to more complications. Back pain can affect your mental health too, leading to depression and anxiety. And it can impact your general activity levels and enthusiasm for life in general. But then again, considering surgery can also cause tension and anxiety.
Back surgery isn’t like having your appendix removed. There isn’t a 100 percent guarantee that surgery cures the condition that’s giving you pain. But if your back specialist at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) recommends surgical treatment for your back pain, you can bet that it’s the last resort and he is confident you will have positive results. Before you agree, however, consider asking these questions prior to surgery:
- What’s causing my back pain? Your doctor should be able to accurately diagnose your symptoms and identify what’s causing your back pain. Ask to see the x-ray or the MRI to get a clear picture of the source of your pain.
- What are my chances of success for back surgery? Your back specialist will be fairly certain about the likelihood of success for your surgery. The estimates include rates of success, taking in all your risk factors.
- What are the risks of the surgery? All forms of surgery carry some type of risk. The basic risks associated with any surgery are infection, excessive bleeding, adverse reaction to anesthesia, blood clots, heart attack and stroke. Risks associated specifically with back surgery include herniated disk, nerve damage, sexual dysfunction, pain, paralysis and loss of lower intestinal controls (bladder or bowel).
- What’s your experience performing this surgery? It’s always a good idea to ask about the level of expertise of a back surgeon and how often they work on your type of back condition. If it’s a surgery he performs routinely, it may give you some peace of mind. Practice makes perfect, even in the world of back surgery. Your SSI back surgeons are happy to provide you with their credentials.
- How long does this surgery take? The length of surgery time depends on your condition. It may take anywhere from an hour to seven or eight hours. For example, if you need a spinal fusion surgery, it can take anywhere from two to seven hours, depending on how many vertebrae need to be fused, whether nerves in the spine are affected, how badly diseased vertebrae are and whether there is any scarring from past surgeries.
- What’s the recovery time after surgery? Recovery time varies too. If you’re young and in good physical shape, recovery is quicker. Keys to shortening recovery time include maintaining a well-balanced diet, having a healthy attitude, and letting your body rest per your doctor’s orders. Back surgery recovery time for people who are out of shape, who smoke or are overweight is much slower than normal. Recovery time also depends on the type of back condition you have and the surgical procedure. In the case of a spinal fusion surgery, for example, the recovery time can be as long as three months once you leave the hospital.
- What kind of therapy will I need? The types of therapy needed following back surgery depend on the area of the back where the surgery was performed, the condition treated and your overall health. Physical therapy or rehab can help you recover from surgery as completely and quickly as possible. Exercise is custom-tailored by your doctor and your physical therapist, depending on your condition, and may include stretching, walking, swimming, and lifting weights.
Your pain control therapy may include medications, ice applications, electrical impulse therapy, and limiting spine position and movement to reduce pain. Muscle facilitation is typically one-on-one work with a physical therapist to return the strength of your muscles while stabilizing your spine.
- How do I prepare for surgery? Knowing that you’re going in for surgery, it’s a good idea to arrange your home to make it as accessible, convenient and safe as possible for when you return. A few tips to transform your home before you have back surgery include:
- Installing a toilet riser
- Keeping commonly used items within reach
- Purchasing items to aid in your limited mobility like a “grabber” (to retrieve out-of-reach items), slip-on shoes, and prepared food (to limit the hassle of cooking so you can spend more time seated and at rest)