Recovery Process After Surgery
The average recovery time following a minimally-invasive spine surgery is seven to 10 days. By then, the patient should be feeling pretty good, and will usually notice progress by the time they have an appointment with their physician after about a week following the procedure. The vast majority of people are feeling better by then.
Any paralysis, weakness in the arms or legs, or numbness, is a concerning finding. After their minimally invasive procedure, the patient should immediately call a physician for any change in their neurological status, such as any severe weakness, or anything outside of how they normally feel.
Expected Level of Pain
In the first seven to ten days, the degree of pain can be moderate, but should lessen with each passing day. Beyond that, it should improve daily. As soon as patients are at the seven-day mark, the inflammatory symptoms should start to subside, while pain begins to get better on a daily basis.
Spinal pain or discomfort may not be gone, but usually, it is improved by the first follow-up appointment. The first two days may be a little rough, but after that, people turn around and do very well recovering from these procedures.
Pain beyond the first follow-up appointment really depends on what the patient’s pre-operative status was and how much pain they were experiencing. Patients who had weakness in their arm or leg on the same side that they were experiencing pain before their surgery may take up to three or four weeks to get better after the surgery. Patients with pre-operative neurological symptoms tend to take a little bit more time to recover.
Scheduling Further Appointments
The number of follow-up appointments a patient needs depends on the type of surgery they had. Some patients who have a minimally-invasive endoscopic surgery have their wounds checked once and do not need much with regards to follow-up. Other patients who have instrumentation in their spine have to follow-up on a four to six-week basis so that a physician can ensure that their bodies are recovering properly and on schedule.
Tending to the Operation Site
The patient should not care for the operation site at all. Usually, a nurse comes to the house. Home healthcare comes and checks on the wound unless one of the patient’s family members is a medical caregiver.
Instructions are given to the patient to keep a dry, sterile dressing on the wound and not get the wound wet. The patient is given explicit instructions on exactly how to handle the wound. It does not require much on the part of the patient.
In the first week, a spinal surgeon might recommend the patient take it easy, not do any lifting, and wear their brace. After that, they can start gentle control or range-of-motion exercises. Depending on the type of surgery a patient had, they may be able to carefully resume physical activity with each passing day. On average, after one to two weeks, the patient can increase their activity level as tolerated.
Physicians always try to get patients back to their general levels of mobility as soon as possible. The earlier patients move around when they return to their pre-injured, or pre-operative status, the sooner they start feeling better. Participating in certain light exercises can certainly help facilitate recovery and get the patient back on track toward feeling better faster. The important thing to remember is to make sure that exercises are low-impact and not aggressive in nature.
Weight, age, and the number of discs repaired are factors that influence suggested pain reducing activity levels after surgery. There are many variables that control how efficiently someone recovers and how fast they resume normal activity.
Recommended Levels of Exercise
Patients wishing to begin or resume exercising should take it easy and not try anything too strenuous. It really is just common sense; you want to avoid bending, lifting, twisting, and anything too strenuous, and always keep it low-impact.
When the patient had a completely blown-out disc or if they had neurologic deficits, and weakness in their arms or legs, the weakness may put them at higher risk of falling. Physicians may not recommend immediate physical therapy for patients experiencing such symptoms.