Post-operative care

Regardless what type of spine surgery you have had, it’s important to us that you practice good postoperative care after your surgery.

The goal of postoperative care is to help you prevent complications such as infection, to promote healing of your incision, and to help speed you on the road to recovery.

To this end, Dr. Blankenship has put together the following postoperative care instructions for you. (See links on the right side of this page). By following them to the letter, you’ll greatly improve your chances for a successful outcome.

General Instructions

  • Aerobic exercise is critical for general spine care and is very critical in the post-operative care period. Walking on a smooth, flat surface is best. Swimming and bicycle riding are acceptable alternatives, but should only be substituted with Dr. Blankenship’s approval. Progress your walking until you are able to walk 20 minutes each day. Your goal should be met within three to four weeks after surgery. Then progress your walking to 30 to 40 minutes each day at least five days a week. This should be a lifelong commitment. The goal is low impact aerobics.
  • Do not lift more than 10 pounds the first week after surgery. You may progress after that to 25 pounds. The way you lift is much more important than the weight you lift. If you have not been instructed in proper mechanics for lifting, ask Dr. Blankenship or your therapist for help.
  • Eat a balanced diet with adequate roughage. A multi-vitamin supplement should be taken. If you have had a spinal fusion, you will have a calcium and magnesium supplement to take in addition to your vitamin. If you are overweight, you should start a weight loss program that includes a balanced diet and exercise. Please do not try other diets without discussing them with Dr. Blankenship.
  • If you have had a fusion, a brace or collar will be given to you. You should not discontinue or change the frequency of its use without approval from Dr. Blankenship. The length of use of these supports is usually six weeks, depending on the patient and type of surgery performed.
  • If you smoke, you should stop. Nicotine and many of the other chemicals in tobacco smoke constrict the blood flow to your discs, spinal muscles, and your fusion if present. Dr. Blankenship, who is also a certified addictionologist, can outline a smoking cessation program. Stopping smoking is certainly not easy, but it can be done, and is critical for the care of your spine.
  • Avoid constipation. Drink six to eight glasses of water each day. Also, take one teaspoon of Metamucil in water three times a day. A laxative may also be used if needed.
  • Do not take Ibuprofen, Motrin, Alleve, Lodine, Celebrex, Relafen, Feldene, Orudis, or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or steroids the first four weeks after your surgery unless approved by Dr. Blankenship. These medicines can inhibit fusion and cause bleeding in the postoperative period.
  • The following symptoms should be reported to Dr. Blankenship promptly:

    – A temperature over 101 degrees by mouth

    – A increase in the level of pain or a change in the location of pain

    – Drainage from your incision

    – Muscular weakness or numbness in an extremity

    – Any other symptoms of concern should also be reported

Isometric Exercises

Cervical Spine – 5

Strengthening: Isometric Lateral Bending (in neutral)

Using light pressure from fingertips, press into side of head above ear. Resist bending head sideways.

Hold: 3 – 5 seconds

Repeat: 10 times, both directions

Do: 1 – 2 sessions per day.

Cervical Spine – 6

Strengthening: Isometric Rotation (in neutral)

Using light pressure from fingertips, press into temple / forehead area. Resist turning head.

Hold: 3 – 5 seconds

Repeat: 10 times, both directions

Do: 1 – 2 sessions per day.

Cervical Spine – 7

Strengthening: Isometric Flexion (in neutral)

Using light pressure with fingertips at forehead, resist bending head forward.

Hold: 3 – 5 seconds

Repeat: 10 times, both directions

Do: 1 – 2 sessions per day.

Cervical Spine – 8

Strengthening: Isometric Extension (in neutral)

Using light pressure with fingertips at back of head, resist backward bending of head.

Hold: 3 – 5 seconds

Repeat: 10 times, both directions

Do: 1 – 2 sessions per day.

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