Spinal surgery is a major operation and your doctor will normally suggest other minimally invasive techniques, such as pain-relieving injections, before recommending surgery.
Surgical procedures will typically only be offered when other more conservative approaches have been tried and are no longer effective.
If you are concerned about undergoing spinal surgery, talk to your doctor to ascertain if there are other approaches that you might be able to try.
It will depend which surgical procedure you have had and other factors like your age and overall health. On average, recovery times are likely to be as follows:
- Discectomy – the symptoms should subside within a few weeks.
- Laminectomy and spinal fusion – it will take three to four months for the bones to heal but the healing process may continue for up to 12 months. Depending on the nature of your work you may be able to return to work after four to six weeks. However if you have a more strenuous job or your are older and therefore take longer to heal, you may be off work for four to six months.
You may need to make some simple changes after spinal surgery.
- You should not sit for longer than 30 minutes at a time without getting up and stretching your back.
- You may need to wear a brace when you are sitting or walking to support your back. You should not bend at the waist. Instead your physiotherapist will show you how to bend your knees and squat down if you want to pick something up.
- It is important not to carry anything heavier than around 4.5kilograms while you are recovering.
- You may need to get someone to help you with heavy shopping bags or lifting up small children.
- You should not lift above your head until your fusion is fully healed.
A physiotherapist will talk to you about a rehabilitation programme to ensure you recover fully from surgery and regain your strength and flexibility.
This is likely to include an exercise programme, pain management and some lifestyle changes such as taking short regular walks.
Your spinal surgeon will advise you which sports are safe and how soon you can begin them.
You should not start swimming, running, golf or other types of strenuous exercise until advised that it is safe to do so.
This may vary from person to person but you should not drive for at least two weeks after surgery.
After this time you may be able to drive if your surgeon says it is safe to do so. Avoid car trips of longer than 30-45 minutes as this will put an unnecessary strain on your back.