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What do You Really Expect from Surgery?

What do You Really Expect from Surgery?

Once you decide on surgery, it is time to decide what your expectations are. How should you prepare for immediate post-op needs and what does the future hold for you concerning work, activities and pain.

Let’s talk……

The first thing you need to know is we can not make you 20 years old again. Many people seem to think, and are often led to believe, that one “simple” surgery can make you a completely different person. It is not going to happen. The goal of most neck and back surgeries is to decrease pain and/or improve the stability of the spine.

Postoperatively, there will be discomfort. The level of discomfort will depend on what surgery is done, your previous pain level and your physical condition pre-op. With neck surgery, like an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion, or a lumbar discectomy, patients often have less pain than they had before surgery. Once pressure comes off a nerve, the relief is often like getting a rock out of your shoe.

With bigger surgeries, such as a lumbar fusion, there is more swelling and even though they are mostly minimally invasive these days, there is still a large amount of manipulation and bone work that can cause pain post-operatively. Take your medication as ordered and wean yourself off as soon as possible. If a Tylenol can control your pain enough to keep you moving, then it is sufficient. No need to add a drug addiction to your problems.

With almost all spine surgeries, on an otherwise healthy person, you will be expected to be up walking around the next day and doing most of your usual activities in 3-6 weeks… but we still can’t make you 20 years old. So be realistic. You can ride a bike again, but the Tour de France is out. You can go hiking but we’d prefer you avoid marathons. Realistic expectations make make both the physician and patient much happier and can make recovery quicker and much more pleasant.

Last modified: December 11, 2020

2 thoughts on “What do You Really Expect from Surgery?

  1. I’ve had a posterior foraminotomy of c4-6 and an anterior cervical fusion of c4-7. The latter one relieved my arm pain and overall numbness, however I suffer so from bilateral neck and shoulder pain. I also had a bilateral decompression of L4-5. Anything else I can do to relieve or minimize my pain besides living on pain pills. Yes, I’m 64 and had all three surgeries within the last 5 years.

    1. Hi Terry. Unfortunately with an anterior/ posterior fusion, the neck is changed completely. The rest of your body has to readjust and that often results in trapezius and shoulder pain. Barring any problem with your fusion or instrumentation, physical therapy could be your best bet. Run it by your surgeon and see if this is a possibility for you.

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