The most common cause of back pain after surgery is an incorrect preoperative diagnosis, where your doctor misdiagnoses the condition that qualifies you for surgery, and performs the wrong surgery on you. The second most common cause of continued back pain after surgery is inadequate rehabilitation after your operation.
Post-Op Recovery Time
Often, healing from spine surgery takes months to a year, depending on the type of spine surgery and the area of your spine that needed surgery.
What to Expect After Spine Surgery
A post-operative rehabilitation program that incorporates stretching, strengthening and conditioning of your muscles and tendons is an important part of recovering successfully from surgery on your spine.
Failed Back Surgery Syndrome is not a syndrome; it is a term that is used to describe your pain that starts or persists after your spine surgery. There are no typical cases of failed back surgery syndrome. Every patient is different, and your individualized treatment will be matched to your situation.
These are a few potential pain generators that can affect you after surgery.
- Inflammation: The facet joints in your spine, like all the other joints in your body, can get inflamed through overuse.
- Mechanical Change in Spine: Depending on the type of surgery, the mechanics of your spine will change. Adjacent segment disease occurs after fusion surgery. Because two segments of your spinal column are fused into one, they are no longer moving individually but have formed into one segment; causing an additional force to move through it, more wear and tear, and more possible pain to happen.
- Tissue Damage: Myofascial pains can occur after your tissue is separated. When your tissue comes back together, the connective tissue can cause fibrosis, becoming tight and painful and potentially trapping nerves.
The longer you have had your preoperative pain symptoms, and the bigger your back surgery, the longer and harder your rehabilitation after your operation will be. Unless there is a particular recurring problem that occurs after surgery, that can be solved with more surgery (like a recurring herniated disc), it is more reasonable to continue with rehabilitation rather than seeking out additional spinal surgeries.
Further Steps Post-Op Spine Surgery
Surgery is only one initial component of your healing process. Do not feel like because you have undergone back surgery you have been “fixed” and do not need any further treatment. However this is not usually true; continued therapy and rehabilitation are necessary for you to have a real recovery.
Spine surgery is a significant undertaking. Rehab is an important part of helping you get the biggest benefits possible after spine surgery. Going into a rehabilitation program can help you recover from your spine surgery as quickly and entirely as possible. Think of it as an alignment for your body. Your physical therapist is in charge of “calibrating” your spine for everyday use after it has been altered during surgery.
There are three primary ways a therapist will work with you to ensure you get back into the best physical condition possible after your spine surgery:
- Education: You will have plenty of opportunities and are encouraged to ask questions about your recovery to your physical therapist during your one-on-one physical therapy sessions. Your therapist can help explain the exact changes that have occurred in your spine as a result of your surgery. They can also tell you what you can do to maximize the benefits of your surgery. If your therapist doesn’t know the answer to a question you may have, he or she can talk with a spine specialist or surgeon to get the answers you need.
- Exercise: Getting exercise is a vital part of getting better after your spine has been changed through surgery. Training is critical in helping your body heal from your original injury and preventing or minimizing future episodes of back pain. Exercise is the key to eliminating your fatigue, getting you back to activity safely, and avoiding re-injury. Your physical therapist will develop an original exercise plan based on your type of spine surgery. Your therapist will teach you the exercises you need to know and then expect you to do these exercises on your own at home.
- Pain Control: Your therapist will help you manage your pain following your back surgery. Ice application, electrical devices, and specific body positions and movements are all strategies your therapist may use to help minimize your pain.
- Training: Your therapist will focus on muscle facilitation within areas that need special retraining. By focusing on muscles in your incision area, muscles that have been weakened by surgery, and small muscles that help stabilize the spine, your therapist will help you regain strength and stability in your spine.
Your success in recovery depends on your willingness to work hard, at home as well as with your therapist. Your surgery will take you a good distance down your road to recovery; then you and your therapist or team of therapists can work together to make your recovery the best it can be.
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