After undergoing back surgery, you’ll need to take extra care to pamper your back as it heals. Along with physical therapy, there are several tips that should help you with your recovery, including:
- If you’re in pain, ask for help. Your provider will likely prescribe some postoperative pain medication, and it’s important to follow your provider’s instructions to properly manage pain. But don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for assistance with tasks that cause pain or discomfort while you’re recovering.
- Use ice and heat to ease pain. Frequent application of ice, especially within the first 48 to 72 hours, can aid in pain management. Icing after activity, such as walking and stretching, is also a good idea. Heat can be helpful to relieve tension or muscle pain in other parts of the body. In the first few days after surgery, however, applying heat to the surgical area can actually increase swelling and pain.
- Sleep comfortably. Getting plenty of uninterrupted sleep helps the body to heal faster. Using extra pillows under your knees and behind your shoulders to prop yourself in a reclining position takes stress off the low back. If you sleep on your side, tuck a pillow between your knees to keep your low back relaxed.
Other healthy habits that can help during the recovery process include:
- Avoid smoking. Smoking slows the body’s ability to heal.
- Avoid drinking excess alcohol. Alcohol may interact negatively with many postoperative pain medications.
- Use lumbar support, ergonomic chairs, and correct posture to avoid putting unnecessary strain on the low back and to keep the spine in proper alignment.
- Avoid sitting for prolonged periods. Get up, move around, and change position frequently to avoid discomfort and muscle stiffness.
- Achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts extra stress on the low back.
- Eat a healthy diet. Good nutrition helps the body’s healing process. Ask your provider about any nutritional implications of postoperative pain medications. For example, some medicines may cause constipation, so you may want to eat plenty of high-fiber foods.
- Drink plenty of water. Hydration is important for overall health, and it can also help reduce postoperative constipation.