The human body was created to heal itself, and supporting the healing process requires eating and/or supplementing with essential nutrients. The right nutrients are especially important after a major health event, such as spine surgery, or any type of damage to the back or neck.
Using nutrients to improve recovery and healing is an area of medicine called immunonutrition.
This article reviews the role of several essential sources of nutrition.
Role of Nutritional Supplements for Back Pain and Surgery
The goal of using immunonutrition after back surgery and other stressful health events is to:
- Minimize the risk of complications, such as infection
- Aid in healing
- Shorten recovery times
People who have significant ongoing back pain, and/or those who have undergone spine surgery, may have unique challenges that may make it difficult to get sufficient nutrients through a healthy diet.
Examples of these nutritional issues include:
- A suppressed appetite, often a side effect of back pain medications
- Significant constipation creating pain and discomfort, a common side effect of medications following spine surgery or for chronic back pain
- The inability to keep foods down due to nausea
- Discomfort swallowing solid foods after neck surgery (typically temporary)
- The desire to lose weight prior to back surgery in order to decrease joint stress or decrease surgical risks3; reducing caloric intake with an unbalanced diet can result in certain nutritional deficits
- Mobility issues related to back pain that decrease a person’s ability to shop for food and cook nutritious meals
Due to the many challenges with getting enough of the right nutrients through diet alone, immunonutrition therapy typically uses supplements, such as:
- Oral supplements, either in pill form or specially manufactured drink formulas
- Liquid supplements that are administered intravenously
Whether supplements are taken orally or given intravenously does not influence their overall effect.4