Stenosis surgery is one of those “both a blessing and a curse” situations. For the estimated 35 million Americans with spinal stenosis, the surgery can be a way to conquer chronic pain. At the same time, you have to go through the surgical recovery before you can enjoy those results.
As important as the surgery itself is, few patients realize how much of an impact their recovery period has. It’s also something you have more control over than you recognize.
To make your stenosis surgery recovery as smooth and efficient as possible, try these tips.
Tips for Recovering from Stenosis Recovery
Every surgery patient wants to heal as soon as possible so they can get back to enjoying their daily life. For spinal stenosis surgery patients, these tips can help.
1. Follow Instructions to a T
We list this first because it’s the absolute most important thing you can do. Before surgery, your doctor will give you detailed instructions for pre-surgical and post-surgical care.
This will include what medications to stop or start taking and when. It will also explain how and when to care for your incision, how much you need to limit your activity, and much more.
Every surgery and every patient is unique, and your surgeon’s instructions are based on your specific needs. It’s vital that you follow them to the letter. That includes attending any and all recommended physical therapy sessions.
If you have questions about your spine surgery or your post-surgical instructions, always call your surgeon to ask. Your health isn’t worth the risk of making incorrect assumptions.
2. Prepare Your Home in Advance
The road to a fast and smooth recovery starts before your procedure. While you may spend a few days in the hospital after surgery, you’ll spend most of your recovery at home.
One important step is to get rid of anything that you need to avoid during your recovery. For instance, give away your NSAID pain relievers or lock them away somewhere inconvenient. You won’t be able to take them after surgery because they can interfere with your healing process.
On top of these pain relievers, get rid of any tobacco or vaping products you may have in the house. The nicotine has a serious impact on your body’s healing ability. Getting the nicotine out of the house will help you avoid the temptation.
Another great way to prepare your house is to think about the items you’ll need in your first weeks of recovery. Move these items so that they are all easy to reach around your waist or chest level. You can injure yourself if you try to bend down or reach up too high to get something.
3. Have a Helper
A great support system is a vital part of a healthy surgery recovery. You need people around you who can give you emotional support while also helping you with your day-to-day tasks.
If you live alone, it’s best to have a friend or family member stay with you for the first several days. You may need their help in the middle of the night with medications or trips to the bathroom.
It’s a good idea to have several people who are able to help. This lets them divide the responsibilities so one caregiver doesn’t get overwhelmed. After all, you don’t want to damage your relationship with your caregiver in the post-surgical process.
4. Walk It Off
One of the most important things you can do for your recovery is to stay active after surgery. You want to get up and move around at least every few hours.
This is most important because it lowers your risk of post-surgical blood clots, which can be life-threatening. It also helps your body maintain a healthy blood flow, which helps the healing process.
Of course, it’s important that you don’t overdo it. Start small by strolling between rooms in your house. Ask you get stronger, you can progress to walks down the block or down the street.
5. Listen to Your Body
Speaking of trying not to overdo your activity, remember that pain is there for a reason. It’s your body telling you that it’s time to stop.
Recovering from surgery isn’t like exercising. You won’t heal faster or get better results if you “work through the pain.” Instead, you risk a serious injury and the added stress can actually slow down your healing rate.
This applies to any action you’re doing after surgery. If you’re trying to reach for something and you start to feel pain, ask someone for help instead.
6. Get Some Zzzs
Plenty of patients underestimate the role that sleep plays in the body’s recovery process. They think, “I spend most of the day resting, so why does my body need more rest through sleep?”
In reality, there are a variety of tasks your body performs while you sleep, and that includes healing. Getting plenty of sleep will give your body the time it needs to heal.
It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions about sleep as well. You may need to sleep at specific angles or avoid certain positions. While it might be hard to sleep in a non-routine way at first, stick with it and your body will adjust.
7. Don’t Be a Hero
Another common problem for stenosis surgery patients is that they think that the less they take their pain medication, the better.
Forgoing your pain medication won’t make you heal any faster. In fact, it can slow down the process because it puts you under more stress.
Instead of trying to “fight through it,” take your pain medications as prescribed or when you need them. While we recognize that patients are worried about opioid addiction, this is very rare for people who use their medication as prescribed for a short-term need like surgery.
It’s also important that you don’t try to “find a middle ground” by taking over-the-counter pain relievers instead of your prescribed medication. Most of those pain relievers have a risk of bleeding after surgery, making them dangerous for post-surgical patients.
Creating a Smooth Stenosis Surgery Recovery
Spinal stenosis surgery is an effective treatment that can open the door to a less painful life for stenosis patients. How you heal makes all the difference, though. To help your body in its journey toward a healthier life, follow the tips above.
If you’re still in the planning stages and you want to find out if stenosis surgery can help you, schedule an appointment at our spine center.