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If you need back surgery, here are some things to consider.

Thanks to minimally invasive techniques, back surgery is easier and less painful than ever before. But surgery still presents patients with challenges as they recover, especially for more involved spinal procedures, such as removing bone spurs or fusing two bones. Here's what to expect if you or a loved one will be undergoing back surgery.

Pain Management

For any back surgery, you can expect pain for several days or more. If your surgery was to relieve pressure on nerves, you might still feel pain, numbness, or weakness along the affected nerves. In the hospital, you’ll most likely receive intravenous pain medication. When you go home, your doctor will give you a prescription for medication you'll take orally.

Wound Care

The site of the surgery will be sutured for up to two weeks. You should check the wound to see if it:

  • Begins to open
  • Feels warm
  • Looks red or swollen

In rare cases, the wound may get infected. Signs of infection include:

  • High temperature
  • Chills
  • Redness or swelling around the wound

Contact your doctor if you have symptoms associated with an infection.

Physical Activity

Depending on the type of surgery, activity might be limited for several weeks to several months. Some considerations include:

  • If you’re given a back brace or support, be sure to use it.
  • Don't ride in a car, even as a passenger, for two weeks.
  • Bend at the knees, not the waist.
  • Don’t lift or carry anything over ten pounds.
  • Limit walks and the use of stairs in the first two weeks after surgery.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor will give you exercises to strengthen your muscles, and in some cases he might recommend seeing a physical therapist.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you develop an infection. Symptoms might include:

  • A wound oozing green or yellow fluid
  • Losing feeling in your limbs
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Worsening pain

At North Hills Hospital, we’re proud to offer a state-of-the-art Orthopedic Surgery Center with skilled spinal surgery staff. If you’d like a physician referral for any kind of orthopedic care, call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Surgical Options for Back Pain

Depending on the cause of your pain, both treatments could be necessary.

You reach overhead for something, and pain shoots through your shoulder. Or maybe even when your sitting still, you feel an ache. What we call the shoulder is made up of three bones and many tendons and muscles, and problems with any of them can lead to shoulder pain.

In 90 percent of shoulder injuries, patients respond to non-surgical treatments. Other times, surgery is necessary. Here’s a look at some common shoulder problems and how they’re treated.

Arthritis
Arthritis in the shoulder is commonly treated with one or more of these:

  • Changes in physical activity to reduce pain
  • Physical therapy exercise
  • Injections of corticosteroids
  • Application of ice and/or moist heat
  • For rheumatoid arthritis, prescription medication

In some cases, doctors perform arthroscopic surgery to clean out the joint. In extreme cases, a doctor might recommend a shoulder joint replacement.

Inflammation and Tears
In the shoulder, tendons and sacs of fluid called bursas can become inflamed. Shoulder tendonitis and bursitis are usually treated the same way as arthritis.

The muscles and tendons around the shoulder form the rotator cuff. When a tear occurs in the cuff, half of patients use the non-surgical treatments described above to reduce pain. Surgery is most often recommended if:

  • The tear is a result of an acute injury
  • The tear increases in size
  • Pain lasts more than six months
  • There is major loss of use of the shoulder

Dislocation
With a one-time dislocation, a doctor pops the upper arm bone back into the shoulder joint. Afterward, physical therapy helps reduce risk of recurrence. But if dislocations become frequent, surgery is often recommended.

Fracture
Surgery, including the insertion of pins or plates, can be an option, depending on the type of break. In some cases, simply wearing a sling is enough to let the bone heal. In either case, exercises to strengthen muscles are the norm.

Whatever is causing your shoulder paint, the Orthopedic Surgery Center at North Hills Hospital is ready to help. Our staff includes surgeons, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Give us a call at (855)-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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