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How Successful Is Back Surgery for Spinal Stenosis Right Away and 1 Year Later

How Successful Is Back Surgery for Spinal Stenosis Right Away and 1 Year Later

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
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In the past, treating clients after spinal stenosis surgery felt really scary but after nearly 10 years of doing it I have seen so many clients do so well after spinal stenosis surgery. They do well because they know what to consider beforehand and have a good idea they are appropriate for the surgery.

What to Expect Right Away After Spinal Stenosis Surgery

Right after spinal stenosis surgery, you can expect to feel better. In my better, I mean if you had severe leg pain, you should notice that your leg pain is reduced or even completely gone.

Sciatica type pain is very common with stenosis, and the most common cause to receive spinal stenosis surgery.

That said, sciatica and spinal stenosis are different conditions.

I tell my clients that you can expect a reduction in leg pain, but the surgery may not impact your back pain. Often times people expect to have less back pain right away and that’s not the case.

While you will be moving and walking on the first day after surgery, you still have some recovery ahead of you.

With spinal stenosis surgery they remove bone, and while it is considered minimally invasive, you will still need to work on your back strength and mobility.

Walking is very important initially and then progress to resistance training.

The number one thing I would do after surgery is to schedule my physical therapy appointments. Your physical therapist will look at your back understand what surgery you’ve had, and be able to help you progress towards your goals. Your surgeon may not recommend physical therapy, but trust me you want to regain as much range of motion as possible and improve your strength.

You have a lot of life ahead of you and a physical therapist on your side, will help you progress, faster, and more efficiently.

Factors Influencing the Success of Back Surgery for Spinal Stenosis:

Factors influencing the success of back surgery for spinal stenosis
Factors influencing the success of back surgery for spinal stenosis
  1. Severity of Spinal Stenosis: The more severe the stenosis, the more challenging it may be to achieve complete relief of symptoms.
  2. Type of Surgery: There are different surgical procedures for spinal stenosis, such as decompressive laminectomy, laminotomy, and spinal fusion. The choice of surgery depends on the specific characteristics of the condition and your spine.
  3. Overall Health of the Patient: The general health of the patient can impact the success of surgery and the recovery process. Health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular issues can affect outcomes.
  4. Rehabilitation and Postoperative Care: Following surgery, rehabilitation plays a crucial role in recovery. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are often recommended to help patients regain strength, flexibility, and functionality.
  5. Individual Variation: Every person's body responds differently to surgery. Factors such as genetics, pain tolerance, and individual healing processes can influence outcomes.
Physical Therapy is important after Spinal Surgery!
Physical Therapy is important after Spinal Surgery!

One Year After Spinal Stenosis Surgery Can Look Really Good

One year after spinal stenosis surgery can look really good. Often times patients are not in physical therapy and doing what they want to do. I’ve seen patients return to weightlifting, playing golf, and heavy work activities.

That being said, it is normal to have up and down lower back pain along the way. They did remove bone with the surgery and your spine has changed. You can expect to feel stiff and sore here and there but with some good mobility exercises and flexibility work overtime, it can be easily managed.

I tell my clients that one after surgery you should be doing what you want to do, and feeling confident your back pain is much improved.

If you were still having sciatica type of pain a year after surgery, I would consider starting back up with physical therapy and doing exercises such as nerve glides to help reduce your leg pain.

Life after spinal stenosis surgery
Life after spinal stenosis surgery

In conclusion, immediate relief from leg pain is common, yet back pain may persist, requiring ongoing recovery efforts. Physical therapy, scheduled early on, becomes a vital ally in regaining strength and mobility. A year post-surgery, significant improvements are achievable, with patients returning to active lifestyles. However, ups and downs are expected, managed through mobility exercises and flexibility work. Success factors include severity of stenosis, surgery type, patient's overall health, postoperative care, and individual variations.

Trust the process, prioritize rehabilitation, and embrace the guidance of a physical therapist to ensure a confident and improved life after spinal stenosis surgery. If you have questions or concerns, reach out for personalized support on your healing journey.

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

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