By Susan Willis

Back surgery comes in two main forms: traditional open back surgery and minimally-invasive back surgery. The traditional, open back surgery has been around longer as compared to the minimally-invasive variety. Open surgery involves the surgeon making extensive, large incisions in the back and can entail considerable dissection of the back muscles in order to access the problem areas.

Minimally-invasive back surgery has become more popular in recent years. By contrast with open surgery, minimally-invasive surgery involves the insertion of hollow catheters into the back. At that point, other surgical tools are inserted through the catheters while the surgeon views the procedure using fluoroscopy, or a ‘live x-ray.’ In fact, minimally-invasive techniques have become so advanced that often the incisions are made using radio waves, heat or laser technologies.

If you are wondering, ‘How long does it take to recover from back surgery?,’ the first thing you need to consider is whether the surgery in question is of the traditional, open surgery type or the minimally-invasive type. It goes without saying that minimally-invasive surgeries involve less cutting of major muscle groups, so the recovery time is much faster.

Here are the general recovery times for some common types of back surgery:

1. Cervical spine surgery: about 5 weeks.

2. Lumbar spine surgery: usually 4-6 weeks


3. Recovery from spine surgery: 6-12 weeks or longer

(Ask your doctor for expected recovery times in your case).

Here are some surgery recovery best practices you can follow to speed up your recovery time:

1. Modify your home in small ways before the day of your surgery, including for example adding an extension to your toilet to make it taller and installing rails around your tub or shower for easy gripping.

2. Be sure you have access to loose-fitting clothing and shoes to make it easier to get dressed and undressed.

3. Consult with your doctor before your surgery to ensure that you have discussed your pain management options. Make sure you have plenty of prescribed pain medication on hand.

4. Get into the best-possible physical condition before your surgery. The healthier that you are going into your surgery, the faster your body will heal afterward.

5. Avoid sitting, standing or lying in any single position for too long, which can contribute to aches and pains and can hinder healing. Instead, keep changing body positions every 10 – 20 minutes during waking hours.

6. Avoid any heavy lifting or pushing of large objects.

7. When rising out of bed, lift your head as far as you can off of your pillow, then swing your legs out.

8. Apply ice frequently to your back – especially in the first 48 to 72 hours. This can help you reduce back pain. Heat may also help you keep pain to a minimum.

9. Be sure to get yourself periods of continuous, uninterrupted sleep because it helps the body to heal faster.

10. Light exercise and stretching can significantly speed up the recovery process and decrease the chances of experiencing pain in the future.

Other tips for healing faster after back surgery: avoid smoking or drinking too much alcohol, use chairs with lumbar support, and drink plenty of water.

You will speed up your recovery after back surgery by following these important steps and tips. The healthier you are going into surgery and the better you take care of yourself afterward, the faster you will be back to feeling good again.

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