Tips for Better Recovery

Post-Surgical Constipation

The most common problem after surgery is not pain management but post-surgical constipation.

The combined effects of anesthesia, narcotics, stress, the pain stimulus of surgery, dehydration and reduced physical activity can work against your body’s normal routine of elimination, often producing the worst constipation of your life.

Start a high fiber diet 3 days before surgery so that you are regular for surgery. Women should try to get 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day while men should get 30 to 38 grams per day.

In addition, taking a stool softener or laxative once you get home is often a good idea. If you haven’t had any movement after a day, begin taking a product such as Peri-Colace, Senokot-S or Phillips Liquid Gels. Be sure to contact your surgeon if constipation continues for more than two days.


For Spine Fusion Surgery Patients

After surgery, you should avoid all NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) including aspirin, BC powder, Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and Naproxen (Aleve), as well as any other prescription anti-inflammatories. NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals made by the body to promote bone healing.

Do not resume these medications until your surgeon says it is okay to do so, usually 6 months after surgery. You may take Tylenol at any time (no more than 3000 mg in 24 hours), as it does not block prostaglandin production.

Also, ask your surgeon which vitamins to take before and after the surgery to promote healing. For example, calcium and vitamin D can foster bone growth after spine fusion surgery.


Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis

Patients who are having brain or spine surgery are at increased risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), so it is critically important to move your legs after surgery. And, as soon as your surgeon gives you the approval to do so, get out of bed and walk.

DVT occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. It can cause leg pain or swelling but also can occur with no symptoms. The bottom line is to get your legs moving early, and often.


For Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion Patients

Your body will do most of its healing while you sleep.

After surgery, try sleeping on your back with a small towel rolled into the small of your neck, as your neck needs to be supported during the night. Many of our patients find this a comfortable resting position. Also, consider placing a pillow under your knees to keep them slightly elevated. This will help keep stress off your lower back.

Don’t sleep your stomach as this causes excessive strain on the neck muscles and joints, making symptoms worse.

If you prefer to sleep on your side, use a pillow (or two) tucked all the way to the shoulders. A body pillow may also enable you to find a comfortable sleeping position, but in either case, be sure to give your neck proper support.


Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can be extremely beneficial to the healing process.

Even if the therapist is only able to focus on your feet, arms and legs, the benefit will be to your whole body as you relax and release tension. Before surgery, you might identify a licensed massage therapist who can come to your home.


Patience and Keeping a Positive Attitude

Everyone’s body heals at different rates. Try not to get frustrated if you are not back to feeling like yourself as quickly as you’d like to be.

Also, maintaining a positive attitude has also been shown to result in better surgical outcomes. Focus on family and friends, and the little things in your life for which you are grateful.