The Southeastern Spine Institute

Controlling your pain following back surgery

Whether you undergo minimally invasive back surgery or have a more intensive procedure that requires a longer rehabilitation, you can expect to experience some pain. Even the most experienced spine surgeons, like your doctors at the Southeastern Spine Institute, must maneuver around muscle tissue and nerve roots to fix your back problems.

No matter how severe your pain is, managing it properly can shorten your recovery process. Controlling your pain also plays a significant role in your long-term recovery. So prior to your surgery, your doctor should prepare you for the type of pain you’ll experience during your recovery and set up a plan for managing that discomfort.

Make a Back Surgery Recovery Plan

With the help of your doctor and your recovery team — which includes your physical therapist and your caregivers at home, you can get through the initial pain after your procedure with little or no interruptions. Your pain management plan must include realistic expectations, as well as methods for dealing with pain when it arises.

Postoperative pain is inevitable. Follow these tips to get through it effectively:

  • Talk to your spine doctor before the back surgery about the various options for pain control. Let him know if you’ve had issues with pain meds in the past, if you have addiction problems or if you just prefer to use the least amount of narcotic relief possible.
  • Discuss pain medication options such as heat and ice, relaxation techniques and the use of non-narcotic pain relievers.
  • Alert the clinical staff about your pain levels after your procedure to help them determine the best approach to pain management after you leave the facility.
  • Appoint a caregiver in advance to manage your medications. Rely on your support network so you don’t have to worry about anything except healing.
  • Follow the directions on the prescriptions, which may require you to take pain medication before you feel extreme pain. The stress from pain can actually slow your recovery.

Get It in Writing

Your surgeon will prescribe medications for your recovery and provide instructions for taking them. But ask your surgeon to provide other instructions to help you manage pain and prevent complications after back surgery. For example, ask for:

  • Recommendations for treating constipation, a common postoperative condition
  • Instructions for how to avoid over-medication
  • What over-the-counter remedies are safe for you to take
  • Suggestions for the best positions to help you get to sleep
  • What kind of back brace might be appropriate
  • When you can shower and what precautions are required
  • Which appliances, such as toilet risers and walkers, may help you when you get home
  • Tips for the best diet to promote healing, while preventing nausea and constipation

Before you go to your pre-operative appointment with your back surgeon and his team, write down all the questions you can think of to ask. You can relax when you know that you’ve planned for everything for your recovery, including managing your pain. Put together a straightforward plan with clear instructions.

And don’t forget to plan fun activities for your recovery from back surgery. Pick up your favorite movies, video games and books before you need them.