If you have questions about spine surgery, here are some important things to know before the surgery and what to expect during recovery time.
Spine Surgery Frequently Asked Questions
Many of the risks of spinal surgery are the same as risks for other procedures:
- General anesthesia risks
However, spinal surgery also has additional risks. An anterior approach to the spine — through the anterior neck — could cause damage to structures including the esophagus, trachea and carotid arteries.
Spinal surgery also carries risks to the spinal cord and nerve roots, and damage to those structures could cause weakness and numbness, as well as problems with the bowels and bladder.
Generally, surgeons will always choose the least invasive method possible for a surgery. However, not all surgeries — and not all spinal injuries — allow for a minimally invasive approach.
Talk to your surgeon about their preferred method of performing the surgery, and ask specifically if a minimally invasive approach is possible.
Depending on the type of surgery you have, you may feel better almost immediately. Or, it could take months before you have complete relief.
The speed of your recovery depends on the:
- Type of your surgery
- Surgeon’s approach to your spine
- Amount of damage to your spine.
Talk to your doctor about realistic expectations for recovery.
Following your surgery, you and your surgeon can discuss the most effective pain medication for you. A multimodal approach may include options such as:
- Hot and cold packs
- Patient-controlled analgesia — a pump that gives you a dose of pain medicine when you need it
- Relaxation techniques
- Transcutaneous eletrical nerve stimulation — uses small electrical impulses to block pain signals from certain nerves to the brain
As you recover from spinal surgery, your doctor may recommend:
- Wearing a back brace
- Not lifting heavy objects
- Avoiding bending at the waist
- To consult with a physical therapist as you reintroduce exercise into your routine