In the lead up to microdiscectomy surgery, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. Chances are, you’ve been in a lot of pain and a severely herniated disc can make even the simplest everyday actions feel like torture. However, as unlikely as it may seem while you’re preparing for surgery, being fit, strong and active can play a very important role in long-term outcomes following spinal decompression surgery.
At Complex Spine London, our leading spinal surgeons are proud to offer the latest minimally-invasive techniques and achieving the best possible outcomes for all patients is extremely important to us – but we understand that recovery outcomes don’t start and end in the operating theatre. Rehab is also a crucial part of the picture.
Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your rehab after microdiscectomy surgery:
1. It starts from day one
OK, so it may be a little while before you return to a full exercise regime, and it’s very important to follow all the aftercare advice you’re given during the initial recovery phase, but having a positive approach to your recovery can make a big difference. It’s easy to think: ‘I’ve just had spinal surgery, surely it’s fine for me to spend two weeks lying on the sofa’ – but this isn’t really the case. Your surgeon and the hospital physio will encourage you to get up and walk around as quickly as possible after your surgery, and it’s important you keep this up once you get home. Obviously, don’t go rushing back to the gym or ignoring advice around things like avoiding heavy lifting – but do take heed of instructions to avoid spending long periods sitting down, and get outside for short walks.
2. Build a solid foundation
You’re having surgery in order to eliminate severe chronic pain and restore quality of life – and maybe you’re desperate to get back to full fitness and enjoy an active life again. We fully support this goal but it’s a good idea to nail the basics and build a solid foundation first – and following an expert and evidence-based approach is a great idea. This postoperative physiotherapy and rehabilitation guide is a good place to start. In addition, a specialist physiotherapist will be able to suggest exercises specific to your individual needs, and completing a short core rehabilitation programme will stand you in good stead to get back to full fitness while minimising the risk of further pain and injuries.
3. Communication is key
When you’ve had a long period of severe pain and reduced mobility – and then undergone spinal surgery – it’s natural to worry about relapsing and feel anxious when aches and pains occur. However, it’s helpful to remember that some discomfort can be completely normal during recovery and when returning to exercise and, generally speaking, being strong and active is much better for your back than leading a sedentary lifestyle. That said, listening to your body and not pushing too hard, too soon is important too. Finding the balance can be tricky but you don’t have to do it alone. If in doubt, get things checked with your physio, ask for their advice and let them guide you on the activities you’re doing and whether any niggling aches and pains are a cause for concern.
4. Choose a PT or rehab specialist who understands your back problems
If you’ve completed a core rehab programme, physiotherapy has been going well, and you’ve been gradually rebuilding your strength and fitness sensibly – then you might be feeling ready to get back to a fitness regime in earnest. If you’re thinking of ramping things up or setting specific fitness goals, it’s a good idea to work with a trainer or rehab specialist with experience of working with clients with your medical history. They’ll be able to tailor a workout regime and offer specific advice that both supports your goals and minimises the risk of further pain and injury, taking into account any underlying weaknesses or vulnerabilities you may have. The more you understand about your body and how to manage it, the greater the chances of enjoying the activities you love problem-free.
5. Embrace cross-training and think about the long-term
Lastly, if you want to stay fit and active for life, instead of seeing rehab as something you do for a few weeks and then forget about, think of it as an ongoing lifestyle shift. How? Cross-training. This basically means supporting your fitness goals with different exercises and workouts that bolster your strength. Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer or hiker, cross-training will support your performance in these things and help you avoid injury. This is particularly important for anybody with a history of back pain, disc injuries and spinal surgery, as maintaining a strong back and core is one of the best weapons in terms of avoiding relapse and further pain.
If you’re struggling with a severely herniated disc that hasn’t responded to conservative treatment or considering spinal decompression surgery, our specialist team is here to help – book a consultation via our enquiry form or call us on 020 3950 2409.