The spine consists of 24 bones. However, the spine is not an entire bone system in which each bone has its own purpose. The vertebrae are held together by strong ligaments called annuli. These ligaments provide stability and help keep the spine straight and aligned with the rest of the body. When the spine is injured and instability occurs, the ligament is torn or damaged. An unstable spine can lead to several other problems, including pain in addition to back and neck injuries.
What factors affect healing after spine surgery
The process of healing after a spine surgery is complicated and lengthy. While the muscles and ligaments do heal in response to proper treatment, many factors influence how quickly this will occur:
1. The age of the patient
Age is an essential factor in the healing process for a spine surgery. The older you are, the longer it may take for your body to heal from the damage done. This is because older people have a slower metabolism, making the healing process significantly longer.
2. Type of Surgery
The procedure or surgery you had is another great indicator of how quickly your body will heal. Surgeries like decompression and fusion take longer to heal than more minor procedures, like a discectomy or a laminectomy.
3. Occurrence of complications
Complications with your spine surgery may occur at any point during the healing process. Fortunately, most complications are easily treated and usually resolve quickly. However, some complications can last for an extended period and may be difficult to treat fully.
4. Type of anesthesia
The type of anesthetic used for your surgery can also play a role in the healing process. Local anesthetics will cause fewer changes to the body than general anesthetics. The body must rest and recover from the changes caused by general anesthesia before it can heal from the damage done. This can cause the healing process to be significantly longer if a general anesthetic is used.
5. Type of immobilization
After your spine surgery, your body will be wrapped in a tight brace that keeps you immobile. This allows the decompression to set in properly, which will help reduce pain and swelling. However, it is possible that the brace itself can cause complications during the healing process. This can be the case for patients who have very short legs, who cannot keep their legs out of the brace.
6. Patient’s activity level
Patients who do not exercise or move their bodies too much can become stiff and arthritic due to inactivity. In these patients, the healing process can be slowed due to poor mobility and the risk of stiffness. On the flip side, those who exercise regularly are at more risk of delayed healing.
7. Patient’s nutritional intake
A patient’s diet and overall health can also play a role in their recovery. For example, those who eat a heavy diet of red meat, chicken, and fish will have to wait longer for their bodies to repair themselves. The same is true of patients who smoke and drink large amounts of alcohol.
8. Patient’s overall health
The health and wellbeing of the patient play a significant role in the healing process. If a patient has a poor immune system, then they may have a higher risk of complications from the procedure. In this case, it may be necessary for the patient to rest and recuperate for longer periods.
The complications that can occur after spine surgery
Complications are events that occur during the healing process that can affect how quickly it occurs. While complications are not common, they can be severe if left untreated. The following are some of the possible complications that can occur after a spine surgery:
1. Nerve injury
Nerve injury occurs when there is damage to a nerve. This can cause pain or numbness in the area of the injury. Nerve damage can also affect the muscles that are controlled by that nerve. If a nerve is injured during the healing process, it can delay healing significantly.
Infection is a severe complication that can affect the entire body. While infections are usually treatable, they can be hard to treat if left untreated for an extended time.
3. Kidney damage
Kidney damage can be caused by prolonged use of diuretics, which reduce the body’s ability to produce urine. This can damage the kidney and lead to kidney failure.
3. Venous thrombosis
A patient can develop venous thrombosis or blood clots if they are on bed rest for an extended period. This is a dangerous complication that can lead to death.
4. Bone necrosis
If a patient has a broken bone that is not appropriately treated, the bone can become necrotic (dead). This can cause long-term damage to the body and may lead to a life-threatening infection.
5. Infection of the spinal cord
Spinal epidural abscesses can occur if there is a bacterial infection within the spinal cord. This type of infection is challenging to treat because it can affect the body’s ability to move, leaving patients paralyzed.
What can you do to promote a successful healing process?
If you are recovering from a spine surgery, there are many things that you can do to help your body to heal as quickly as possible. These include:
1. Rest as much as possible
When you are recovering from a spine surgery, there is nothing that you can do to speed up the healing process. The best thing to do is to allow your body to rest without stressing it during this time.
2. Drink plenty of water
For the healing process to occur, your body must be hydrated. This means that you should drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure that your body is adequately hydrated 24 hours a day.
3. Do some light exercises
Light exercises will help improve the blood flow throughout your body and allow your muscles to rest. It is also a great way to burn calories and strengthen your muscles without taking too much time away from your recovery.
4. Eat a healthy diet
Your body needs the energy to heal, so you must eat a balanced diet. It is also vital that your body has the right nutrients to aid healing.
Massaging the back and legs can help to relax the muscle and promote blood flow throughout the area. The increased blood flow will allow more nutrients to be transported around the body more quickly.
6. Use a support belt
Support belts are designed to alleviate back pain and promote proper posture. This will help your body to heal more quickly.
7. Use ice and heat packs
Applying ice and heat packs to the surgery site can reduce swelling, relax the muscles and improve blood flow throughout the area.
8. Take pain medication as prescribed
Taking as directed by a spine surgeon will help your body to rest and heal more quickly.
9. Don’t lift heavy objects
Lifting heavy objects can cause further damage to the area, which will slow down your body’s ability to heal.
In summary, spine surgery can be a great way to help relieve pain caused by a herniated disk or spinal stenosis. However, you must follow your doctor’s advice during this time to promote the best possible healing process.