Spinal fusion surgery creates an area for bone to develop to create a full fusion over the next several months. Ideally, you’ll get a complete fusion that helps to alleviate your pain so you can get back to your life. However, there are things you can do to ensure that you get healthy bone growth after surgery to boost your chances of having a successful fusion. We’re going to outline several things you can do to support healthy bone growth below.
1. Stop Smoking
If you’re a smoker, you’ll want to try and stop before surgery if it’s possible. You should ideally stop any nicotine intake, including cigar smoking and chewing tobacco. Nicotine can negatively impact your bone-growing cells, and this makes it more difficult for your body to create enough of these cells to get a complete fusion. Talk to your surgeon about the benefits of quitting smoking before you have your surgery and take steps to stop or reduce your nicotine intake.
2. Prepare in Advance for Postoperative Restrictions
After spinal fusion surgery; you’ll need around three months for the fusion to reach the first stage of healing. During this time, you have to be very careful and avoid activities that could put the bone graft at risk for failure. Prepare in advance to not have to lift, bend at the fusion point, or twist. Also, avoid vigorous activities like golfing, running, or other sports. This will increase your chances of success.
3. Exercise Prior to Surgery
Try to exercise and get in as good of shape as possible a few months leading up to your surgery. It could be difficult to do much if you’re in a lot of pain, but even moving a little bit is better than nothing. Walk for 5 to 10 minutes a few times a day. This will get you ready for rehab after surgery because they’ll expect you to walk. If you have issues, your surgeon could request physical therapy for you.
4. Practice Good Back Care
Once you have surgery, make sure you practice good back care. Walking can help prevent clots. You also want to keep your spine in proper alignment, and you can do this by wearing any brace mechanisms your surgeon suggests. They could be uncomfortable, but they’ll help ensure your vertebrae fuse correctly into a single bone mass. Also, make sure you limit specific kinds of physical activity as part of your post-operative care to prevent further complications.
5. Get on and Maintain a Healthy Diet
Your activity levels and what you eat have an impact on your long-term recovery process. Having an unhealthy diet puts more stress on your body as a whole, and this can lead to a longer recovery time. Also, adding a decent amount of protein with key vitamins and minerals can help encourage strong and healthy bone growth during and after the grafting process. Not doing so will put more stress on your spinal column.
6. Go to Your Physical Therapy Appointments
Going to physical therapy after a spinal fusion surgery isn’t on anyone’s list of great things to do. However, therapy is essential to having good, long-lasting results. Physical therapy can help minimize fatigue, prevent future injuries, and help restore good functioning. They’ll help manage your pain levels and teach you to use proper positioning, ice packs, or electrical stimulation. Make sure you follow the physical therapist’s directions at home, too, in order to have the best chance possible at success.
7. Manage Your Weight
Generally speaking, obese or severely overweight patients can have longer surgical times. They can also have higher complication rates after spinal fusion surgery. This is because the excess weight you carry around can put unnecessary strain on your spine, especially where the new fusion is. Managing your weight and getting down or closer to a healthy weight can remove a lot of stress from your spine and speed up your healing times.
8. Perform Pain-Relief Activities
If your doctor prescribes you analgesics after your spinal fusion surgery, take them as prescribed. This can help control your discomfort levels during recovery. They may recommend you stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, though. Try to remain active during recovery without overdoing it. Regular movement can help keep the blood flowing to prevent clots, and it can also prevent your muscles from getting weak. It boosts your energy levels and discourages the formation of pressure ulcers too.
9. Internalize Recovery Habits
There are several things you can do to internalize recovery habits after your surgery. Keep any follow-up appointments with your doctor and avoid soaking in water until the incisions heal. Avoid trying to do everything too soon, practice any prescribed breathing exercises, and wait to return to work until you’ve properly healed. Finally, try to line up at-home help to assist with daily activities and prevent further injuries. Ideally, you’ll set some of these things up before you have your spinal fusion surgery.
10. Have a Support System
Even if you want to go through your spinal fusion surgery alone, it’s a better idea to have a solid support system with you after the surgery. You won’t be able to do everything you need to during your daily activities, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Arrange for family or friends to drive you home from the hospital and take turns helping you out as you need it.
Contact Florida Spine Associates
If you have questions about spinal fusion surgery and what you can do to support healthy bone growth after surgery, contact us. Our staff is ready and willing to sit down with you and go over the main things you can do to increase your chances of success. We'll address any issues or questions you have to make you more comfortable with the process too.