In order to aid your recovery from lower back surgery, you will likely need to make changes to your existing lifestyle.
While change can be difficult, adopting the following 3 tips may help shorten your recovery time:
1. Sleep at least 8 hours per night
If you are like most people, you don’t get enough sleep every night. You might think this is no big deal—but it can inhibit your body’s natural healing process. And if your back surgery has limited your mobility, sleep can become even more difficult due to your lack of physical exertion and difficulty with finding a comfortable sleeping position at night.
If this is the case for you, it is especially important to practice good sleep hygiene. Over time, good sleep hygiene habits can help train your body to both fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits include:
- Going to bed and waking up at consistent times
- Avoiding the use of electronics in your bedroom after a certain set time
- Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants for at least 4 hours before your bed time
- Avoiding naps during the day
Additionally, you should speak with your doctor if your lower back pain is severely limiting your sleep. This is because a lack of sleep can lead to a frustrating cycle where your pain inhibits your sleep—and in turn a lack of sleep makes your pain worse. Your doctor may be able to prescribe sleep medications for a limited period of time to help you get the sleep you need.
2. Eat a healthy diet to aid your recovery from back surgery
We live in a time when people want their food fast. This often leads to unhealthy eating habits, and many of us take in too many calories while not consuming enough nutrients and vitamins (which are necessary to aid your body in the healing process).
Excess weight from consuming too many calories can inhibit healing in your lower back in part by mechanically pulling your pelvis forward, and moving the center of your body mass away from the spine. This in turn places additional stress on the various structures in your lower back, possibly including the segments you’ve just had surgery on. Therefore, it is particularly important to monitor your caloric intake following lower back surgery.
The dietary needs of each person are unique, so it is best to speak with a medical professional prior to your surgery so you can develop a healthy eating plan. While plans may differ, they typically include:
- Lean meats such as chicken or fish
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Avoiding processed foods as much as possible
- Whole grains and legumes
- A once-a-day general vitamin supplement
In addition to monitoring your caloric intake and the kinds of food you eat, it is also a good idea to drink roughly 8 glasses of water per day.
3. Walk, Walk, Walk
Individuals recovering from surgery are prone to put on excess weight because they are often limited in their mobility (and therefore their ability to burn calories), especially in the first 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. In my opinion, walking after lower back surgery is the single most important exercise you can do to burn calories. In addition, it will also help restore muscle tone to the muscles along your spine, and will help your body recover from the local inflammation caused by your surgical procedure.
As soon as you are able, take increasingly longer walks 4 to 5 times each day. The trick is to start slow and build your way up slowly but steadily.
In order to get the most out of the above 3 tips, begin to adopt them prior to your lower back surgery. This will put you in the best position post-surgery for recovery—and it may even help improve your surgical outcome.
It is also a good idea to continue these habits after you’ve healed, as they will make for a better life for you and your family.