After consulting with a trusted neurosurgeon, you may have found that a minimally invasive surgery is necessary to resolve the pain and discomfort caused by your neck problem. Whether you are having a posterior cervical foraminotomy, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, microdiscectomy or some other type of neck procedure, you are likely experiencing anxiety about the pre-op process and the post-op recovery. However, educating yourself about the surgery, as well as about the before and after process, can help ease any fears you may have.
Benefits of a Minimally Invasive Surgery
One of the most important things to know is that the neck surgery recovery period and post-op pain is much less with minimally invasive surgeries than with traditional surgeries. Although you may have to slow down your routine and activities for a few weeks, most of these procedures will have you back to your normal, active lifestyle shortly. There is also less chance of complications from these type of surgeries, and the documented outcomes are almost always positive.
About 7 to 14 days before you have the surgery, you will have an appointment for a pre-admission workup. This generally includes an EKG and lab work. The nurse will ask you multiple questions about the medications you take. Please bring a list of all your medications to this visit. This includes any vitamins or herbal supplements that you take. The nurse will tell you which medications to stop before the procedure. Often, this may include aspirin or any type of blood thinner. The nurse will also tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the surgery. Usually, the rule is to not eat or drink anything after midnight the day of the surgery, with the exception of water. Follow your doctor’s instructions as closely as possible in order to have a quick recovery process.
Many patients return home the same day as a minimally invasive neck surgery, but it may be necessary for you to stay in the hospital for anywhere from 48 to 72 hours. Usually, your doctor will want you to be able to void on your own and to be able to sit up and walk a few feet safely with very little assistance.
Your surgeon will go over the wound care and general instructions for your return home. It is imperative that you follow his or her instructions to the letter, such as keeping the incision dry and abstaining from lifting anything too heavy. Even if you feel just fine, it is important that you limit your physical activities to those deemed acceptable by your surgeon. It is normal to be impatient and want to return to your normal routine as soon as possible, but following the physician’s directions ensures that you recover quickly and without compromising your health.
When you are tempted to overtax yourself, remember how it felt to suffer from the neck pain. If you take it easy for a short time, your body will be able to heal properly. This is the key to getting back to the lifestyle you enjoyed before neck pain disrupted it.
Your surgeon will usually want to see you within a few weeks, depending on what type of neck surgery was performed. At this time, the physician will check your incision and may remove any stitches if they aren’t the type that dissolve on their own. He or she will also ask you about your comfort level and your overall health. Be honest with your surgeon regarding any problems or concerns you may have. He or she is your best advocate in regaining a healthy, active lifestyle.
After this visit, the physician may allow you to increase your physical activities, such as doing light housework, swimming or walking longer distances. He or she will likely reduce or eliminate your prescription pain medications, depending on how you are feeling. They might also tell you when it is acceptable to drive again, and may even allow you to go back to work on a part-time or full-time basis.
Getting Adequate Rest
Better than anyone, you know how much rest you need every night in order to feel your best. Keep in mind that your body is going through a healing process and may require more rest than usual. If you feel tired during the day, take a nap. Getting adequate rest will put you on the road to recovery much faster.
Nutritional Needs After Surgery
After your surgery, try to refrain from indulging in your favorite snack foods. Focus on eating plenty of lean meat, nuts, beans and other foods that supply the necessary proteins for your body to heal properly. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to give you all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to recover. Calcium-rich foods, like cheese and yogurt, are also important since they help build strong bones. Many people are also Vitamin D deficient, and this important component of the body’s bone building machinery may need to be supplemented.
Making a Full Recovery
As you progress toward a full neck surgery recovery, remember to treat your body kindly. For many patients, it only takes a few weeks to completely recover, but others may need a couple of months. Your surgeon may also advise you to get some physical therapy before returning to full-time work or a normal routine. Keep in mind that the care that you give your body now will result in a healthier lifestyle once you take care of your debilitating neck pain.