The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported that 27 million adults suffered from back problems in 2007 with upwards of $30.3 billion spent to ease the pain. While it may be comforting to know you’re not alone while facing back surgery or during post-op recovery, it doesn’t make the process any easier. However, there are healthy ways to manage your pain and stay on top of your recovery to get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Manage Your Pain
As your discomfort subsides after surgery, you will probably experience pain from the operation itself peaking at 72 hours after surgery. But it’s important to stay active to avoid blood clots, pneumonia and other ailments. Medication can help manage your pain to resume physical activity, but too much can numb you, preventing you from knowing when you’ve had enough. Discuss the right amount of medication and frequency with your doctor and stick to his recommendations. Don’t decide how much you need on your own.
Slowly Increase Activity
Walk around your house a few times a day and gradually venture into your yard to reintroduce exercise. Add on a little distance each day until you can walk around the block and beyond. Get up and walk around at least six times a day, and avoid lifting anything that is 10 pounds or more, suggests Medicine Plus. Take it slow and avoid heavy housework like vacuuming or laundry. If your doctor didn’t prescribe specific exercise once you’ve returned home, keep doing the exercises your therapists showed you in the hospital.
Do Regular Spine Exercises
Regular spinal stretches and exercises will strengthen your back and prevent future pain. The muscles that line your spine are called erector spinae muscles and need to be exercised to properly support your spine and back. According to Spine-Health.com, two of the best exercises you can do that are safe and effective are McKenzie exercises and Dynamic Lumbar Stabilization.
McKenzie exercises extend the spine and reduce pressure on nerves. Depending on what pain and condition you are in, there are different McKenzie exercises you can do for lower or upper back either standing up or laying down. Dynamic Lumbar Stabilization technique is based on proprioception, which is awareness of the position of your joints. If you perform these exercises gradually, it will reduce pain and help strengthen your back and keep it well positioned.
Another great resource for exercise and physical therapy tips is Laser Spine Institute‘s spine exercise page. It has advice from professionals as well as easy-to-follow videos and information. The video series base exercises on your need, such as post-surgery stretches, alternative exercises and basic daily spinal activities.
Increase Your Water Intake
Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day helps rid your body of the anesthetics and excess pain medication, while easing soreness. It can also help ease bowel movements and constipation that can occur due to pain reliever use.
The downside to increasing your water intake is the need to get up and use the bathroom more frequently. Don’t let the idea of multiple trips to the bathroom intimidate you. Use the opportunity to walk around your house and get in your exercise requirements.
Ice Your Back
Icing your back at the surgery site can help soothe pain and decrease swelling. Make a homemade gel pack with a Ziploc bag of liquid dish soap. Fill it up about halfway and place the bag flat in the freezer. Place on your back for at least 30 minutes up to four times a day. Refreeze the gel so it’s ready the next time you’d like to apply.
Remember, your pain management and recovery is a partnership between you and your doctor. Keep your physician informed of your concerns and any setbacks you may encounter so you can continue to strive toward a pain-free tomorrow.
To PREVENT Back Pain, stay Fit & Healthy
EDITOR: The article above is mostly about recovering from back surgery, but isn’t it better to prevent the need for such extreme measures in the first place? That’s why I’m taking this space to write about the three pillars of health (nutrition, exercise & sleep) and how they affect your weight, muscle fitness, and overall health.
Weight – It’s known that being overweight contributes to back pain, as well as all sorts of other joint and muscle pain. And of course we also know that nutrition and exercise are related to weight, but sleep?
Sleep – Are you one of the 100+M Americans who sleep less than 6 hours/night when 7-9 is recommended? Analysis of several studies found that being sleep deprived increases the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin, decreases insulin sensitivity (a risk factor for diabetes), and decreases the hormone leptin (key for energy balance and food intake), resulting in 27% higher risk of obesity. So here’s some motivation: Lose over 14 pounds per year by sleeping one hour more per night rather than watching TV.
Sleep Surface – Your sleep position, pillow and mattress also play roles, so let me suggest looking at IntelliBED®. Their mattresses use Intelli-Gel® sleep technology, a soft and very strong rubberlike material unlike any other bedding material, to keep your spine in proper alignment, ensuring a great night’s sleep while also providing 50-80% more pressure relief than inner-spring or memory foam mattresses. It’s also the only material I know of that will perform “like new” for the life of the mattress, but I’m starting to sound like a commercial, so enough of that.
Exercise – You can find all sorts of exercises online to strengthen back muscles and reduce the risk of injury, including these from Mayo Clinic that take just 15 minutes a day.
Nutrition – With so many food options available, it is often difficult to determine the best foods to put on our plates when building a healthy meal. MyPlate is an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles.