Chronic neck pain often involves more than a stiff neck. Many people who suffer from neck pain also suffer from headaches, muscle spasms, and discomfort from the back of the head down into the shoulders, arms, and hands. Neck pain can greatly affect the quality of your life.
Here at Failed Back Institute in Weatherford, Texas, Scott Smith, MD, is a spine surgeon and orthopedist with more than 25 years of experience in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of back and neck pain. If you’ve tried to get long-term pain relief with more conservative treatments, but you’re still suffering from chronic neck pain, surgery may be the most effective remedy. Dr. Smith shares five tips to help you prepare for neck surgery.
1. Stop smoking.
You know that smoking is bad for you for a host of reasons, such as increasing your risk for lung cancer and other serious illnesses. But are you aware how tobacco use affects your bones and your ability to heal after surgery?
Smoking affects your circulation and hinders blood flow to the discs in your spine. If you have herniated discs in your neck that are causing chronic pain, this decrease in blood flow means oxygen and healing nutrients can’t get to the cells quickly enough so they can heal properly. Furthermore, the nicotine in cigarettes inhibits bone healing after surgery, and increases your risk of infection and wound problems.
Quitting smoking before surgery can help your body heal, and it could be your incentive to stop smoking for good.
2. Optimize your overall health.
Before undergoing neck surgery, it’s in your best interest to be as healthy as possible going into it. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, take the necessary steps to get them under control before scheduling spinal surgery. Additionally, be open and honest about your medical history so Dr. Smith can advise you regarding any precautions you need to take before proceeding with neck surgery.
3. Stop taking medications as directed.
Certain medications can inhibit your body’s ability to heal after surgery. Before neck surgery, be prepared to stop taking both prescription and over-the-counter pain-relievers, vitamins, and even some herbal supplements up to 7-10 days prior. Medications that thin your blood or inhibit clotting can be dangerous, too.
4. Make arrangements for help after surgery.
Planning ahead to have a close friend or family member stay with you for a few days when you return home after neck surgery can help with your transition from the hospital. You’ll need time to rest and recover, and you’ll most likely have postoperative pain and discomfort. Ask friends and family to help in advance so you know who’ll be there to drive you home after surgery and who will stay and assist you with daily tasks for the first few days.
Don’t plan on cooking meals or doing your usual household chores, and be sure to take time off from work. Dr. Smith will advise you in more detail how long to plan for recovery based on your individual surgery and overall health.
5. Stay as active as possible before surgery.
Even though you’re seeking neck surgery because chronic pain prevents you from being as active as you’d like, it’s important to move as much as possible before surgery. Staying active can help you recover more easily. Even if it’s just a daily walk to keep your body moving and your blood circulating, aerobic activity can make a difference in how easily you recover.
If Dr. Smith recommends physical therapy or exercises you can do at home, be sure to do them to the best of your ability. They may help strengthen your muscles and provide more stability in your neck and shoulders.
We recommend that you ask questions about your neck surgery. Dr. Smith takes the time to answer your questions and hear your concerns to make sure that you clearly understand the procedure and what to expect as you recover. While you may feel more pain immediately following neck surgery, the ultimate goal is to help you recover as efficiently as possible so you can live a more pain-free life for the long term.
Don’t let chronic neck pain prevent you from living your best life. Even if you’ve had spinal surgery in the past, but you still suffer from pain, Dr. Smith may be able to help. Call today to request a consultation or use the convenient online booking tool.