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5 Challenges To Expect During Recovery From Kyphoplasty

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Kyphoplasty is an advanced procedure that allows a doctor to stabilize a fractured vertebrae in your back, relieving severe back pain and mobility issues commonly associated with osteoporosis. This surgery is handled as an outpatient visit and offers a far faster recovery time than other options for stabilizing a damaged spine. However, you'll still need to deal with these five challenges as you recover from a kyphoplasty procedure.

Short-Term Observation

Whether you require general anesthesia or just local numbing to disguise the feeling of the penetration into the vertebrae, the doctor performing the surgery will want you to stay in the clinic or hospital for the first few hours. This short-term observation allows them to watch for early warning signs of complications with the spinal repair. It also allows the staff to treat you promptly if you show any adverse side effects to the anesthesia.

Pain and Inflammation

Most people seeking kyphoplasty first find out about the surgery after telling their doctor about severe and debilitating pain in their back due to fractures. Since osteoporosis weakens the bones, including the vertebrae, fractures become common as the disease progresses. Unfortunately, the surgery itself will leave you feeling sore for a short time afterwards.

You should notice the pain fading away within the first few weeks after surgery. Some patients wake up from surgery with such an immediate reduction in pain from the vertebrae damage that the soreness of surgery is hardly noticeable. Your doctor may recommend low risk pain management techniques such as

  • Over the counter pain medications like aspirin and naproxen
  • The application of ice to ease swelling and inflammation in the soft tissue around the surgery site
  • Electrical stimulation to reduce limb pain and numbness if the repaired vertebrae was pressing on a major nerve
  • Massage, after a few weeks of healing to make sure the spine is stable,

Limited Activities

Your doctor will recommend you limit your activities for the first few weeks. Don't drive until the doctor gives you the green light, since holding your arms at steering wheel height puts pressure on your spine. You won't be able to do any heavy lifting for at least six weeks and should avoid any amount of lifting in the first week. Walking is recommended to give the body some gentle exercise that reduces inflammation and encourages your natural healing capabilities.

Physical Rehabilitation

In order to strength the muscles supporting your spine to avoid fractures in the future, you'll need at least a couple visits to a physical therapist while recovering. The guided exercises help you work those muscles without putting the stabilized vertebrae at risk for another fracture. You may need to ramp up your osteoporosis treatment after the surgery too, including higher Vitamin D and calcium dosages to regain bone mass and strength.

Physical therapists can also help you find pain management treatments that are non-narcotic. It's very easy to become dependent on pain medication with the pain of a fractured vertebrae or after this kind of surgery. Many therapists also practice massage, acupuncture, and other alternative treatments with fewer risks.

Urination Problems

Finally, the treatment may temporarily interrupt your normal bladder control and leave you struggling to urinate. The doctor may insert a catheter if you notice a problem, which should resolve on its own after a few days.

Talk to your doctor to find out if there are any specific complications or risks you face due to other health problems. Surgery, no matter how minor, always comes with risks. However, this spinal surgery is relatively minor when compared to the other splinting and stabilizing options available for setting a fractured vertebrae.