Nearly a million spine surgeries are performed each year in the United States. Statistically, many of these procedures, especially common ones like spinal fusion, produce positive results. Even with the odds being on your side, it’s understandable to be anxious when having any type of spine surgery. However, being excessively nervous can contribute to added physical and mental stress that could affect recovery. Here are some ways you can ease your nerves and calm your anxiety before spine surgery.
1. Don’t Smoke in Response to Stress
Several studies have noted a link between chemicals in cigarettes and the way important nutrients are delivered to the spine via tiny blood vessels. Anything that disrupts this process can make it difficult to heal post-surgery. Make an effort to stop smoking as soon as you and your Los Angeles spine surgeon determine spine surgery is the right option for you.
2. Get Answers That Matter Most to You
Anxiety sometimes comes from not fully understanding either the condition or the procedure that’s been recommended to treat it. Even if your surgeon went over everything, you may still have questions. Consider scheduling a separate appointment to talk about your concerns. The discussion may involve:
- Finding out why a certain procedure has been recommended for you
- Getting on the same page with what’s realistically expected after surgery (e.g. reduced pain levels, relief from disruptive symptoms, enhanced quality of daily life)
- Honestly talking about any lingering fears or concerns you have
- Learning more about your surgery and how it will be performed*
Some people get more anxious if they know too many details about their surgery. Decide what’s comfortable for you.
3. Focus on What Surgery Could Mean for You
It’s surprisingly easy to get bogged down in thoughts about what could go wrong with spine surgery. Doing so can also be what’s making you anxious. Realize your surgeon will do everything possible to handle the specifics of your procedure, and focus your attention on what surgery could mean for you. For many patients, this includes:
- Being able to concentrate more at work
- Participating in favorite activities or sports again
- Being more involved with children and grandchildren
- Increased mobility and flexibility
4. Cross Things Off Your Pre-Surgery To-Do List
Maybe all you need is something to keep your mind off concerns about your surgery. One way to do this is by making a list of things you need to get done before your operation. As you busy yourself with smaller tasks you have more control over, you may find yourself stressing less. With spine surgery, this typically includes:
- Packing a bag for the time you’ll be in the hospital or clinic
- Bringing a few comfort items like slippers and books
- Preparing and freezing some meals so you won’t have much cooking to do as you recover
- Arranging for assistance around the house from friends and family
- Setting up your home in a way that will be more convenient for you during recovery (e.g. putting everyday items within easy reach, setting up a temporary sleeping area downstairs)
- Buying a few assistive devices or accessories like sealed water bottles with flexible straws, handheld grabbers, and toilet risers
5. Seek Support from Others
Having someone to talk to about your concerns can be a good way to get the reassurance you’ll need to keep your nerves in check. Your personal support group might include your spouse or immediate family members and close friends. If this isn’t an option, consider joining a support group. These same people can be a source of comfort as you recover.
6. Consider Professional Counseling
Should your anxiety about your upcoming spine surgery be something you can’t manage on your own, consider professional counseling or therapy sessions. Options include talk therapy where you simply discuss your concerns with a therapist or cognitive behavioral therapy that involves shifting your way of thinking.
7. Prepare Your Body with Lifestyle Adjustments
Your susceptibility to stress and anxiety can also be affected by the foods you eat and the general lifestyle you lead. For instance, foods such as fruits and veggies, dark chocolate, whole grains, and fatty fish like salmon may naturally enhance your mood. Other lifestyle adjustments that could naturally minimize your stress include:
- Exercising as much as possible prior to your surgery (to naturally increase levels of mood-enhancing endorphins and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol)
- Correcting vitamin deficiencies with supplements (with doctor approval to prevent issues with anesthesia and post-surgery medication)
- Sticking to a regular sleep schedule (numerous studies have linked sleep to mood)
8. Explore Relaxation Techniques
If you have lingering anxiety related to an inability to effectively de-stress, there are some relaxation techniques that may benefit you. Plus, many of these techniques can also be applied to other aspects of your life. Possibilities include:
- Yoga – Gentle stretches and controlled breathing techniques promote mind-body relaxation
- Mindful meditation – You learn to separate and focus your thoughts and achieve a state of calmness
- Acupuncture – This ancient technique focuses on specific pressure points that restore balance and promote relaxation
- Hypnosis – Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is a very controllable technique that can be used to safely get your mind off of your fears
- Neuro-linguistic programming – This is an increasingly popular technique that involves applying strategies successful people use and applying them to your own goals
- Massage therapy – Massages are relaxing, and they can also increase circulation, which can speed up the tissue healing process
Some people find it helpful to explore pet therapy when managing pre-surgery stress. Keeping a diary or journal where you write down your thoughts and concerns may also be an effective way to manage anxiety. There are various procedures you might be considering, from traditional fusion surgery to Mobi-C disc replacement. Los Angeles residents can turn to Dr. Bae at The Spine Institute for the relief they need. To schedule an in-person evaluation, call 310-828-7757 today.