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The Importance of Sticking to the Recovery Plan

When you undergo spine surgery, you expect it to fix or improve your condition, and in many cases, it does. However, that doesn’t mean that everything will automatically be better in the long-term the moment you leave the operating room. Some people may experience great improvement in their condition immediately following surgery, but your body needs time to heal if you want your surgery to be a success in the long run.

The recovery plan your surgeon gives you may seem rather strict, but it was put together in your best interest to give your body time to heal completely. Even if you are not experiencing any pain, resuming restricted activities before you get the go-ahead from your surgeon could result in a less successful surgery or an even longer recovery time if you injure yourself. The outcome of your surgery will not necessarily be ruined every time you don’t follow the recovery plan to a T, but it’s not worth the risk. You have likely invested time and money into treatment and surgery for your spinal condition, and you don’t want to set yourself back with a complication that could have been prevented by sticking to the plan.

Here are some of the complications that you could experience if you don’t stick to the recovery plan:

Re-injury and Increased Pain

When you are still healing, you are more vulnerable to re-injure the area or make it worse, which could lead to increased pain or a setback in your recovery. This is why it is important that you only return to restricted activities when you have been cleared by your doctor.


Even if the surgery was performed using minimally invasive methods with small incisions, those incisions need to be kept clean, and dressings need to be changed according to the instructions of your surgeon. Failure to properly care for a surgical incision can lead to infection in the area. Your body is already recovering from surgery, and developing an infection at the surgical site could set you back in your recovery.

Healing Improperly

Improper healing can be caused by a number of factors. If you have had a spinal fusion, the bone needs time fully fuse together, which normally takes about 3 months. If you engage in activities that place stress on the area of the fusion before it is fully healed, the vertebrae may not fuse together properly. Smoking is another issue that can contribute to improper healing, particularly in the case of a spinal fusion. Studies have shown that the nicotine in cigarettes affects bone health, and many people who smoke after a spinal fusion have unsuccessful fusions.

Loss of Full Range of Motion

Rehabilitation exercises are designed to help you regain flexibility, strength, and range of motion, and are therefore a very important part of your recovery program. The exercises can be uncomfortable, but should not be unbearably painful. If you find that your exercise plan is too painful for you to complete, let your physical therapist know so that he or she can adjust your plan, rather than abandoning exercise altogether.

Need for Additional Surgery

Depending on the severity of the above complications, additional surgery may be needed to correct the problem.

Recovery plans are put in place to help provide the best possible results after spine surgery. While the recovery plan may be strict, think of it as time you are investing into yourself to be the healthiest you can be.