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Often we find our patients have been suffering from back pain for years by the time they finally see an orthopedic specialist or have a consultation with our spine surgeons. For many patients, they have finally had enough of the chronic pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility so commonly associated with anatomical problems with the spine.
Making the decision to have spine surgery is not an easy one. While new technology and advancements in surgical procedures have greatly reduced the risk of all types of spinal surgery, there are risks to consider. This is not unique to spinal surgeries but, because of the nature of the spine in all types of movement, complications can result in very lengthy recovery times.
With non-emergency types of spinal surgeries, it is possible for a patient to time the procedure so it works best for their own schedule as well as for that of their spouse, family or caregiver. There are a few considerations we encourage our patients to consider for non-emergency spinal procedures.
The recovery for every type of spine surgery is different, and there are also differences between individual patients as well. For a complex type of procedures such as a spinal fusion, recovery and time off work can be one to two months, with up to 6 months not uncommon with older patients, patients with limited mobility prior to the surgery, or patients with other health conditions.
As this will be a lengthy time talking to your doctor as well as your employer to have your leave covered with vacation or sick time can be essential for some individuals.
Family and Caregivers
After the surgery and when you are at home you will need substantial help and assistance for at least a month post-procedure for most people. This includes having someone to help with cooking, cleaning, running errands and even in the first few days with moving around, dressing and other personal needs.
With more minimally invasive types of procedures, such as a discectomy, a patient may be able to work at least part time within about 2 weeks of the procedure, so they will need less support as well as less time off.
Regardless of the type of spine surgery you have, physical therapy will be required after the procedure. This usually starts within a week or two after the surgery, but this will depend on the patient and the procedure.
Therapy will continue based on individual progress and until your orthopedic doctor is happy with the strength and flexibility you have in your back. In most cases, therapy can be scheduled to limit any impact on your work, which is helpful for our patients to get back to their normal lives and routines.