Physical therapy and rehabilitation are an important part of recovery from spine surgery, but in order to have long-term success, you need to make changes in your everyday life even after rehabilitation is over. By leading a healthy lifestyle all of the time, you are not only helping to ensure the success of your surgery; you are also helping to decrease your chances of other health and back problems in the future. These six tips can help you get on the right track.
1. Keep up the good posture.
Physical therapy exercises should help to strengthen the muscles in the back, which can help to improve posture. When you are finished with your physical therapy program, make an effort to keep up those good posture habits. Avoid slouching when sitting and standing so that your spine stays in proper alignment. If your job requires you to sit at a desk all day, use an ergonomic desk chair or a lumbar support pillow to avoid strain on the lower back. And remember, no hunching over the keyboard while typing!
2. Get moving!
Don’t stay seated all day! Get up and move around throughout the day to avoid stiffness and strain on the lower back. Keep up with your exercise program as you heal. As you recover, you will be able to gradually introduce more challenging exercises into your routine. Core strengthening exercises are great for maintaining good posture. Tight muscles can also contribute to back pain, so make sure to stretch areas like the neck, back, hips, glutes, and hamstrings.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
Excess weight puts excess strain on the spine that it isn’t designed to handle. This excessive pressure on the spine can increase your chance of complications from surgery and can also lead to other spine problems down the road. A healthy diet coupled with exercise can help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
4. Stay hydrated.
Make it a point to drink plenty of water every day. Try to limit your intake of coffee, tea, alcohol, and soda; these drinks encourage dehydration. Dehydration causes the tissues in our bodies to create and collect lactic acid, which can lead to stiffness and soreness in the back. Stiffness and soreness may make it difficult for you to keep up with your exercise routine. If you have trouble remembering to drink enough water, try to keep a bottle of water with you at all times as a reminder. If it’s right in front of you, you’ll be more likely to drink it.
5. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Your body needs time to repair itself after surgery, and sleep is an important part of that. Some medications can disrupt your normal sleep cycle, causing you to rest and nap more during the day. However, continuous sleep at night is very important. Practice good sleeping habits to make sure you sleep through the night.
6. No smoking!
While your surgeon most likely asked you to quit smoking before surgery, just because the surgery is over doesn’t mean you can pick up the habit again. Smoking can accelerate degeneration of the spinal discs, and the nicotine in cigarettes is also known to weaken our bones and inhibit their ability to re-grow. This is especially critical if you have had a fusion surgery, as the vertebrae may not fuse together correctly, or may not fuse at all. Even if the bones fuse together, the fusion may not be solid enough to last long-term if you continue to smoke. Do yourself–and your body–a favor and quit.
These lifestyle changes will not only help to ensure long-term success of your back surgery, but will also help to prevent future problems with your back and overall health. If you have any questions about recovery from back surgery, tweet me @GleiberMD.