The human spine is designed to be remarkably resilient. Still, years of poor posture combined with a general lack of regular exercise, sudden traumatic injuries, or surgery to correct issues such as damaged discs or compressed nerves can take a toll on this important structure. When your backbone and the parts that support it are affected by an injury or surgery, it could take some time and effort to restore your spine’s ability to handle daily movements without distracting pain. Here are five tips that can help you achieve this goal.
1. Connect with the Right Specialists
The first step in rebuilding your back after an injury or surgery is to get the right type of guidance. Start with a Beverly Hills spine surgeon who can perform advanced testing to ensure your treatment is based on an accurate diagnosis. If you had surgery, ask your surgeon for recovery suggestions that address your specific needs and unique circumstances. Other specialists that may help you regain strength and see positive results as you recover include:
- Physical therapists
- Personal trainers specializing in recovery-based exercise
- Dieticians who can help with dietary suggestions that promote natural healing and ease pain
2. Stick with Your Physical Therapy Program
Rest is fine for a short time, but long periods of inactivity can weaken spine-supporting muscle groups and make you susceptible to reinjury, which is why rebuilding your back usually involves some type of physical therapy. Increase your odds of seeing results with physical therapy by:
- Not skipping sessions when you “feel just fine” to avoid slowing or reversing the progress you’ve made
- Communicating with your therapist so exercises and therapeutic techniques can be adjusted based on your personal comfort
- Following recommendations for exercises you can safely do between sessions
3. Watch Your Weight and Diet
Even if you’re normally good about watching your weight, it’s easy to slip into the habit of enjoying more comfort foods when you’re slowed down by recovery. However, extra weight can place added stress on the spine and make symptoms worse, not better.
Be just as mindful of the types of foods you eat and how much water you drink. Hydration increases circulation of essential nutrients to the tissues in and around the spine. With foods, opt for choices that naturally minimize inflammation and promote healing. Beneficial sources of nutrition include:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Healthy spices and herbs like turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
- Berries, fatty fish like salmon, tomatoes, whole grains, and other foods that naturally fight inflammation
4. Have the Right Perspective with Medications
Painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and corticosteroid injections can ease your discomfort as you regain your strength and recover. However, these drugs will not treat the actual source of your pain, so it’s important to have the right perspective in mind. The primary purpose of medication is to ease your symptoms enough so you can participate more in physical therapy and explore other treatment options. Ideally, you should reach a point where you can safely transition off of your medication or use lower doses.
5. Remain Active and Healthy After Recovery
If you reach your weight loss goals and go right back to your old eating habits, you’ll likely put the weight on again and be back where you were when you first started your diet. The same concept applies to what you achieve with physical therapy and other recovery treatments. After you’ve reached a point where you’re enjoying better mobility and the ability to go about your normal routine free of pain, maintain these improvements by:
- Exploring enjoyable forms of exercise such as swimming, doing yoga, walking, biking, or working in your garden
- Doing activities with friends and family members for added motivation
- Making healthy eating and cooking a fun part of your routine by considering cooking classes to learn new recipes or inviting friends over for healthy eating nights
- Watching your posture as you sit, stand, and sleep
As you rebuild your back and increase your flexibility and mobility, have realistic expectations. If you are working with a physical therapist, set smaller, achievable goals to maintain your confidence. Should you know someone who had a similar injury or the same type of surgery, avoid the temptation to base your expectations on his or her results. Instead, go at a comfortable pace to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on yourself during recovery.
If you’re living with chronic back pain, get in touch with The Spine Institute to find out if you might need a surgical procedure to alleviate your discomfort. We specialize in a wide array of fusion procedures and spinal fusion alternatives. Beverly Hills patients should call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.