Spinal fusion is characterized by permanently joining together two or more bones (also referred to as vertebrae) of the spine so that there is no movement left between them. While you are anticipating your spinal fusion surgery, you should not forget to prepare in advance for the recovery period. The goal is to create a comforting, healing and positive environment post surgery so that there is a successful surgical outcome.
What Is Spinal Fusion Surgery?
Spinal fusion is done under general anesthesia. It is a type of major surgery that lasts for several hours. There are different types of methods to do a spinal fusion surgery:
Bone is taken either from the bone bank or from the pelvic bone. A bridge is made using this bone between two spinal bones. New bone grows with the help of this bone graft.
The spinal bones are held together using metal implants until there is growth of new bone between them.
Spinal Fusion Recovery Tips
Nutrition: Nutrition is important post spinal recovery. You should take care of the following:
1. Eat a diet rich in high fiber foods: Constipation post surgery can lead to significant discomfort. It can be caused due to inactivity, pain medicines, stress and anesthesia. Females should aim to get around 20-25 g of fiber per day whereas males should aim to get around 30-38 g of fiber per day. Some foods which have 3-8 g of fiber per serving include blueberries, raspberries, prunes, apples and pears with skins, broccoli, baked potato with skin, green peas, whole wheat spaghetti, corn, oatmeal, black beans, air popped popcorn, and lentils. Maintaining adequate hydration is also important.
2. Eating ice cream and dark chocolate in moderation can help in releasing your endorphins to make yourself feel good.
3. Eat vitamins and healthy whole foods: Your spinal fusion will heal more efficiently if you eliminate junk food from your diet. You should also consult your surgeon about which vitamins you should take both before and after spinal fusion surgery to promote healing. For instance, vitamin D and calcium are required to increase growth of bone after a fusion.
Medicines: You may require various medicines post surgery during the recovery period.
1. Tylenol: Tylenol is a non-narcotic pain medicine that does not lead to constipation as narcotic pain medicines do. Discuss with your surgeon how you can include Tylenol (acetaminophen) in your pain control medical regimen.
2. Prescription pain medicine: You will be receiving prescription pain medicine by your physician post fusion surgery. Ensure that you know in advance as to from where your prescription will be filled once you reach home.
3. Laxatives: You can consider including non-prescription laxatives prophylactically post surgery. There are different types of non-prescription laxatives that are available readily at most of the grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores. However, while you are taking any type of medicine, it is imperative to read the directions carefully, and/or discuss with a pharmacist or your primary care provider if you have any queries. Some of the commonly used laxatives are Citrucel, FiberCon, Metamucil, Colace, Surfak, Dulcolax, Senokot-S, Milk of Magnesia etc.
4. Medicine organizer box: You will be taking multiple medicines post surgery and you will be foggy. Both of these are good reasons to get a medicine organizer box and organize your current medicines before surgery. Immediately post surgery, you can ask someone to add your pain medicine or any other prescription medicine your surgeon has prescribed.
When it comes to spinal fusion recovery tips, there are things that you can use to make life easier.
1. Toilet riser: Using a toilet riser will make it easier for you to get on and off from the toilet. Toilet riser is a round piece of molded plastic that is fitted securely around the existing toilet seat, thereby increasing the height by around 8 inches.
2. Walker or cane: You will feel better as soon as you start moving around. Walkers and/or cane will add to the support and security that is needed as you take your initial steps around your house and neighborhood.
3. Shower chair: You will definitely feel better by the steam and heat from a hot shower; hence, arrange for a shower chair.
4. Gripper: Put grippers (also referred to as grabbers or reachers) strategically around the home so that you can get hold of things that will become out of reach soon.
5. Heating pads and Ice packs: You will require ice packs and heating pads as they are a simple and wonderful way to relieve pain.
6. Back brace: Consult your surgeon if they recommend a back brace once you start walking.
7. Body pillow: A body pillow will help you find comfort and different reclining and sleeping positions.
Entertainment: You should stock up on books, movies, music CDs etc. for the time you will be in bed after surgery. This is one of the useful spinal fusion recovery tips.
Social Support: You should arrange for someone to check on you during the early days post surgery if you live alone. You can converse with a relative or a friend on phone or text them. Once you feel better, you can invite family and friends for short visits. Arrange for some extra help for cleaning the house while you are on bed post surgery. You can ask a friend to offer you a ride to your physician for follow-up appointments. This becomes especially important during the initial days because you are on pain medicines. Caringbridge.org is an online platform for connecting and sharing news as you recover. The website also helps in setting up and organizing rides to appointments and other tasks you may need help with.
A General Wellness Plan:
1. A dependable pain doctor: You may need a reputable pain doctor for the leftover pain after the initial healing phase.
2. Sleep: Discuss with your physician what they will prescribe you for trouble sleeping that you may encounter post surgery.
3. Massage therapy: Massage therapy is extremely beneficial for the healing post surgery. You can find a licensed therapist who can visit your home. Even if the focus of the massage is only on your legs and feet, your whole body will benefit as it will help you release tension and relax.
4. Meditation and prayer: Meditation and prayer can be a helpful way to cope with your post surgical pain, sense of helplessness and fatigue. According to studies, mindful meditation helps patients reduce the sensitivity of brain to chronic pain.