Frequently Asked Questions
What are Alternative Treatments?
The term alternative medicine encompasses a wide array of treatments, which may include acupuncture, yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. Although supporting research is limited, many patients experience positive progression and relief from pain as a result of alternative treatments.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncturists insert very fine needles (sterilized and disposable) into precise points on the body called Meridians. The purpose of acupuncture is to restore a healthy flow of energy throughout the body.
- Yoga – Yoga works to integrate the mind, body and spirit, incorporating ethical disciplines, physical postures, gestures, breathing exercises and meditation.
- Pilates – Pilates is a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises that involves exercises performed using specialized equipment that both supports and challenges functional movements.
- Tai Chi – Tai Chi has demonstrated usefulness in the prevention and treatment of certain problems such as back pain. Tai Chi is non-invasive, relatively inexpensive and gentle on the spine. Many people with back pain use it as an adjunct to traditional medical approaches
What is Massage Therapy?
Massage is a popular therapy that helps millions of people with a wide variety of spinal conditions. Massage improves blood circulation, relaxes muscles for improved range of motion, and leads to increased endorphin levels, which is very effective in managing pain.
What is Pain Management?
For many patients, managing the pain of their condition is the most important aspect of their treatment. A pain management specialist develops a treatment plan to relieve, reduce, or manage pain and help patients return to everyday activities quickly without surgery or heavy reliance on medication.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical Therapy (PT) is often prescribed for patients with back pain and other spinal problems. It can help to reduce pain, increase flexibility, build strength, and even improve your posture. A well-designed PT treatment plan can help speed a spine patient’s recovery. Water therapy (also called aquatic therapy), is an element of PT treatment plans that consists of a variety of aquatic-based treatments and exercises designed for back pain relief and to condition and strengthen muscles. Water therapy exercise offers many of the same benefits associated with a land-based exercise program with the added benefits of water.
What is Conservative Care?
A majority of back and neck problems can be treated effectively without spinal surgery. Non-surgical treatment can include physical therapy, pain management, massage and alternative medicine techniques. The new standard of care today is to combine these therapies to maximize patient outcomes.
As you prepare yourself mentally to undergo spinal surgery, you also need to prepare yourself for the recovery period that will follow your operation. While the surgery entails work on the part of the surgeon, after that, the brunt of the work is in your hands. To ensure a smooth and healthy recovery, it is important that, as a patient, you closely follow the set of instructions that your surgical team gives you.
After the operation, you will be brought to the recovery room or intensive care unit (ICU) for observation. When you wake up from the anesthesia, you may be slightly disoriented, and not know where you are. The nurses and doctors around you will tell you where you are, and remind you that you have undergone surgery. As the effects of the anesthesia wear off, you will feel very tired, and, at this point, will be encouraged to rest.
Members of your surgical team may ask you to respond to some simple commands, such as “Wiggle your fingers and toes” and “Take deep breaths.” When you awaken, you will be lying on your back, which may seem surprising, if you have had surgery through an incision in the back; however, lying on your back is not harmful to the surgical area.
Prior to the surgery, an intravenous (IV) tube will be inserted into your arm to provide your body with fluids during your hospital stay. The administration of these fluids will make you feel swollen for the first few days after the operation.
When you awake from the anesthesia, you may feel the urge to urinate. So, in addition to the IV, a catheter tube (also commonly called a Foley Catheter) may be placed into your bladder to drain urine from your system. The catheter serves two purposes: (1) it permits the doctors and nurses to monitor how much urine your body is producing, and (2) it eliminates the need for you to get up and go to the bathroom. Once you are able to get up and move around, the catheter will be removed, and you can then use the bathroom normally.
During your hospital stay, you will get additional instructions from your nurses and other members of your surgical teams regarding your diet and activity.
Proper nutrition is an important factor in your recovery. Your surgeon may restrict what you drink and eat, or place you on a special diet, depending on the surgical approach that was used during the operation. Calories and food intake are an important part of recovery. Some patients find that their physician orders are less restrictive than the diet they follow at home. After the surgery, you will continue to receive intravenous fluids until you are able to tolerate regular liquids, which typically involves gradually transitioning you from sips of clear fluids to full liquids (including JELL-O® gelatin). From there, you will be given small amounts of solid food until you are ready to return to a regular diet.
With respect to physical activity, in most cases, your surgeon will want for you to get out of bed on the first or second day after your surgery. Nurses and physical therapists will assist you with this activity until you feel comfortable enough to get up and move around on your own.
Before you are discharged from the hospital, your doctor and other members of the hospital staff will give you additional self-care instructions for you to follow at home – a list of “dos and don’ts,” which you will be asked to follow for the first 6 to 8 weeks of your home recovery. So, if you are unsure of any of these instructions, ask for clarification. Following these instructions is crucial to your recovery.
Nowadays, surgery involves one or more incisions depending on the surgical approach used to perform the operation. Therefore, when you are discharged home you may still have a surgical dressing on your incision(s). Either a nurse will visit your home to change the dressing or a caregiver, such as one of your family members, will be taught to do it for you. It is important that the dressing be changed daily and kept dry.
If any signs of infection are observed while changing the dressing, call your doctor. These signs include:
- Fever – a body temperature greater than 101°F (38°C)
- Drainage from the incision(s)
- Opening of the incision(s), and
- Redness or warmth around the incision(s).
- In addition, call your doctor if you experience chills, nausea/vomiting, or suffer any type of trauma (e.g., a fall, automobile accident).
During this recovery period, you will also be instructed to keep your incision(s) clean, making sure only to use soap and water to cleanse the area. In general, you should not shower until your doctor has permitted you to do so.
In addition to caring for your incision(s), you will also be encouraged to:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Maintain a healthy diet (high in protein)
- Walk or do deep-breathing exercises, and
- Gradually increase your physical activity.
- Activities to avoid include any heavy lifting, climbing (including stairs), bending, or twisting. You should also avoid the use of skin lotion in the area of the incision(s); you need to keep this area dry until it has had the opportunity to heal well.
Follow up with your doctor on a regular basis during this post-operative period, and make sure to call your doctor if you have any concerns or questions.
JELL-O® gelatin is a registered trademark of Kraft Foods, Inc.