Even if your neck surgery involves less invasive techniques, you’ll need to go through a recovery period. During this post-surgery time, tissues will heal and cervical bones and joints will regain strength. Unlike arms and legs, the neck can’t be temporarily out of commission since it has to support your head and absorb some of the impact of your daily movements. However, there are steps you can take to safely speed up your recovery following minimally invasive neck surgery. Santa Monica patients should follow these tips.
1. Ease Back into Your Normal Routine
It may be tempting to want to get back to your normal routines after neck surgery, especially if you regularly work out, jog, run, or play sports. However, some degree of rest and activity modification can minimize the risk of reinjury. For instance, if you had fusion surgery, too much exertion may cause hardware to move out of place or prevent a graft from taking. As you ease back into your normal personal and work-related habits, protect your healing neck by:
- Paying attention to your posture as you sit, stand, and sleep
- Avoiding excessive turns and twists of your upper spine and neck
- Taking a break if you experience a sudden increase in discomfort
- Checking with your doctor before increasing your activity level
2. Play an Active Role in Physical Therapy
Usually combining exercises and therapeutic techniques, physical therapy following neck surgery shouldn’t just be a series of sessions where you go through the motions to get it over with it. If you’re fully committed to your rehab, you’re more likely to see faster progress. You’ll ultimately have a more productive recovery by:
- Providing feedback on what’s working and what’s not helping so adjustments can be made
- Following recommendations for exercises and stretches you can safely do between sessions
- Discussing your goals and expectations with recovery so your physical therapy plan can be better tailored to your needs
3. Eat Right and Stay Hydrated
The rate at which your body’s tissues heal is partly influenced by how well essential nutrients and oxygenated blood travel to the affected area. While it can be tempting to opt for comfort foods as you recover, you’ll have better results if you make healthy snack and meal choices.
Also, keep water close by because being hydrated can ease inflammation and help you maintain optimal circulation. Consider including the following nutrient-rich foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties in your diet to further facilitate the healing process:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Bright-colored fruits
- Whole grains
- Nuts (but not salted or processed ones)
- Turmeric, rosemary, cinnamon, garlic, and similar spices
4. Keep Your Surgical Site Clean
An infection around your wound site could quickly derail your recovery and possibly require additional surgery. Minimize this risk by changing your dressing and cleaning your wound site as instructed. If your procedure was done from the back of your neck instead of the front and you’re having difficulty reaching without stretching too much, ask a friend or family member to help. When you change your dressing, look for signs of infection such as:
- Redness or swelling
- Cloudy or smelly drainage
- A wound site that’s warm when touched
- An unusual increase in tenderness or sensitivity around the wound area
5. Get Regular Exercise
Go beyond the exercises you do with physical therapy and find ways to incorporate regular exercise into your routine. As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to overdo it. However, resting too much can affect range of motion and weaken muscles that directly or indirectly support the cervical spine.
Exercise also helps by stimulating the production of endorphins, which are hormones that behave like mild painkillers. You’ll also see a boost in serotonin, which is what helps you maintain your sleep-wake cycle. This is a good thing since productive sleep can help your body’s tissues heal.
Aim for about 30 minutes of sustained activity each day. After checking with your doctor, consider exercise that includes:
- Low-impact aerobic activities like walking and biking
- Water-based exercises
- Controlled movement exercises like yoga and Pilates
- Workout routines that focus on core muscle groups
If you plan to have neck surgery, make sure it’s performed by a trusted spine surgeon. Santa Monica residents can place their trust in Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons. Call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.