After back surgery, you may wonder how soon you can resume your regular activities. In general, a patient who undergoes a minimally invasive spinal procedure will experience a recovery period of approximately four to six weeks, which is much quicker than the healing time associated with traditional open-spine surgery. Following are some guidelines on what to expect after a minimally invasive neck or back procedure, with the caveat that each individual’s circumstances are unique and therefore require specific instructions, monitoring and management by the patient’s surgeon.
How You Will Feel
In the first few weeks after back surgery, it is common to experience discomfort in the form of pain, muscle spasms and tightness in and around the surgical area. In addition, you may notice some swelling and redness at the incision site. Following a lumbar procedure, you might feel an intermittent tingling sensation in your buttocks, leg or foot. Likewise, after cervical surgery, sporadic numbness in your arm or hand is possible. Frequently changing your position from lying down to sitting or standing is beneficial, but may be painful, so you’ll want to move slowly and carefully. Your comfort level should improve steadily after the first few days.
What You Can Do
After back surgery, your surgeon will likely encourage you to gradually increase your activity level, which will strengthen your body and accelerate its healing response. However, it is of utmost importance to listen to your body. If a certain activity or movement creates or intensifies your pain, you should stop immediately. During the first two weeks, many patients begin by taking two or three five-minute walks each day, gradually increasing to three or four fifteen-minute walks, as tolerated, with the goal of being able to walk two miles without back pain within a six-week timeframe.
While no two spinal procedures are exactly alike, knowing what to expect after back surgery can help ensure the best possible outcome for you.