Back problems often cause chronic pain. Although patients who eventually need surgery have often suffered for years with persistent pain that occasionally flares up, the idea of a surgical procedure and recovery feels intimidating. Patients often want to know if their procedure will achieve pain relief or cause more pain. Here, we will discuss the issue of pain in the aftermath of a spinal injury and surgical repair.
Spine Surgery and the Matter of Pain
To have spinal surgery is a big deal. We understand. And while we cannot make generalizations that speak to every situation, our experience is that surgery is when patients are typically in the least amount of pain. This is because back surgery is performed with general and/or local anesthesia. These techniques block nerve transmissions from the spinal segment being treated, so comfort should be maintained.
After spine surgery, patients can expect their pain level to increase to some degree. This may be different than what was felt before surgery. Pain from the original injury may be gone but replaced with post-surgical discomfort. The good news is that this pain should be temporary. Once the muscles and soft tissues that were disrupted during surgery have healed and relaxed, comfort should improve significantly.
Pain is at its most intense during the first week after back surgery. However, it can be well-controlled. Patients are given prescription medication to improve comfort and are advised to take this as directed. Do not wait for pain to occur to take the prescribed medicine. Additionally, patients who are well-informed and understand that post-operative pain is an expectation of their procedure tend to fare better than those who expect to be pain-free immediately after surgery.
As patients move farther away from surgery day, pain decreases incrementally. If pain continues or worsens during the recovery period, a follow-up should be scheduled so Dr. Albert can assess healing and rule out any complications. It is unlikely that post-operative pain would result from surgical failure or an additional injury. In most situations, we see pain decrease significantly as patients move through their rehabilitation plan and tissue inflammation eases.
The bottom line is that patients who undergo back surgery may have to deal with moderate pain for a short time after their procedure. This pain is usually different than what they had experienced as a result of their initial injury and, most importantly, it is a temporary problem that is part of the journey to a much more comfortable life.