If you have a painful back condition that can be treated with surgery, you may be wondering what recovery is going to be like. Understandably, this is a major concern of patients considering surgery. Traditionally, back surgeries are performed as open procedures, which means bigger incisions, longer operating times, a higher complication rate, and lengthier recovery periods. Today, many back surgeries can be performed using minimally invasive techniques. The most common minimally invasive back surgeries include lumbar decompression or fusion, microdiscectomy, and spinal laminectomy.
Benefits of Minimally Invasive Back Surgery
Minimally invasive back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) uses smaller incisions, a fiber-optic camera, and small specialized surgical tools. The muscles and soft tissues surrounding the spine are left intact. A minimally invasive approach usually means surgeries are completed earlier, patients spend less time in the hospital, there is less postoperative pain, and the recovery time is shorter.
What Recovery Looks Like
Complete recovery from MISS can take anywhere from three to six months, with many patients being able to return to light activities a week after surgery. During the early stages of recovery, patients are advised to focus on giving their bodies time to heal. Preparations help patients have a more comfortable recovery. Here is what your recovery will likely be like:
- While in the hospital, patients are provided pain medication intravenously to augment the diminishing effects of anesthesia. There is generally less pain to be expected since the minimally invasive technique uses small incisions. Always check with your neurosurgeon before taking any other medication.
- In the first few weeks after surgery, patients will need to restrict activities. Ample rest is crucial. Avoid bending, lifting, standing, or sitting (especially in a slouched position) for too long, pushing and pulling heavy objects, and making sudden twisting or jerking movements. Avoid reaching high above your shoulder level. Wear your brace as directed by your neurosurgeon.
- Keep the dressing and wound dry for at least five days, after which you may be able to wash the incision and pat it dry. To relieve discomfort, apply ice to the area 20 minutes at a time.
- You may begin light activities on the third day of coming home. Get up and stretch every 30 minutes. Gradually increase physical activity by taking short walks. After two weeks, increase the distance of your walks per day.
- Physical therapy can optimize and shorten recovery. Various modalities can help with pain control and reduce reliance on pain medication. Exercise also helps rebuild the strength of muscles that support the spine, rebuild stamina, and regain mobility and flexibility. Overall, physical therapy is instrumental in helping patients return to normal function.
- Do not drive or engage in contact sports unless instructed by your neurosurgeon. Stop smoking to prevent a delay in healing.
Recovery may look different from patient to patient, as factors such as the patient’s overall health, preparation and adherence to doctor’s instructions, and the specific surgery performed can affect the experience and outcomes.
Back Surgery in Colorado Springs, CO
At Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, we make sure you have all the information and services you need to have the best outcomes from minimally invasive back surgery. Our neurosurgeons are considered leaders in minimally invasive spine surgery, with their highly advanced skills in these cutting-edge procedures. To schedule a consultation, call our clinic at (303) 790-1800, or use our online request form.