In a world with a growing number of digital tools, neck pain has become an issue because most of the time, we keep our necks down on our electronic gadgets. Still, neck pain can have many different underlying causes.
While not the first option to alleviate the pain, surgery is a potential treatment for long-term neck pain. Although many neck pain cases will eventually go away with less invasive treatments, there are a few conditions where surgery is the best option.
Concerning neck surgery, there can be different types. Although this article wouldn’t delve into the details, the type of surgery a doctor may recommend you will depend on numerous factors, including, but not limited to, the underlying cause of your condition and your personal preference.
Regardless of the type, if you are preparing for the neck surgery, you may feel nervous, unprepared, and tired with the amount of information you are subjected to. This article aims to alleviate some of the concerns before and after surgery and help you prepare for D-day.
This article articulates the aspects of the recovery period. It also talks about what is must or desirable to expedite the recovery and make it less painful.
The recovery period post-neck surgery
Often, neck-surgeries require only an overnight stay. However, depending on the neck-surgery you underwent, you may end up spending a day or two in the hospital post-surgery.
After your surgery, it is normal to feel pain or discomfort while recovering. The good news is, most people can typically eat and walk after 24 hours of the surgery. Your doctor will prescribe medication and supplements to help relieve your pain while you are in hospital and leaving for home.
To stabilize and protect your neck post-surgery, you may need to wear a cervical collar called a neck-brace. Your doctor or the hospital staff shall give you instructions on when to wear it, and how.
Now, let us talk about your activity level post-surgery. Although your doctor may recommend a few light exercises post-surgery, she may also ask you not to work, drive, or lift objects, at least for a few weeks after your surgery. You must consult your doctor periodically to ensure you understand when you can return to your regular daily routine.
A few weeks after your neck-surgery, your doctor may refer you to physical therapy. This therapy is essential to help restore the strength and range of motion of your neck. A physical therapist will work closely with you during this time. She will also recommend exercises to do at home between your subsequent physical therapy appointments.
You must follow the therapy plan because it will significantly impact the expedited recovery following your neck surgery.
Health and nutritious food
The food and nutrition that go into your body have a tremendous effect on your recovery and healing.
Post-surgery, you will have trouble swallowing. It is because, during the surgery, the esophagus is retracted gently by a metal instrument. It causes swelling, and in turn, makes it difficult to swallow.
Your recovery will be faster if you consume whole foods and high-protein soft textured items. Your doctor will put you on a soft diet for the first two weeks. It will include soups, yogurts, puddings, broths, ice creams, soft fruits, mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables, and protein shakes.
You must avoid foods that are chewier and crunchy. The list will include, but not limited to, chips, toffee, peanuts, hard cheese, other nuts, hard meats like chicken or beef, and crunchy raw vegetables.
Before you go for the surgery, you should stock up on the items in the fridge. You may also want to contact grocery and food delivery services around the area you live in. So that you are not worried about it post your surgery.
Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated is something that always has a positive effect. It ensures that the nutrients have the right impact on your joint and organ maintenance during recovery.
It would be best to avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages like coffee or alcohol because they can dehydrate your system. Hydration will help keep your blood vessels from narrowing, which in turn will stay healthy and oxygenated blood flowing to the neck.
Also, your healing will be much more efficient if you eliminate junk foods while recovering. These food items only have a lot of calories without the right nutrients that your body needs.
Prescriptions medications and OTC supplements
After your neck surgery, your surgeon may also prescribe you pain medications for post-surgery pain control. The prescription may include narcotic drugs such as Vicodin to control severe pains. However, your narcotic pain medications, inactivity, anesthesia, and stress can cause constipation.
On the other hand, unlike narcotic pain medications, non-narcotic pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) do not cause constipation. So, you may ask your physician if you can take non-narcotic drugs vis-à-vis narcotic drugs. To prevent or avoid constipation, you may also consider taking non-prescription laxatives prophylactically after surgery.
In addition to pain relievers, your surgeon or physician may also recommend off-the-counter (OTC) vitamins and mineral supplements to expedite healing post-surgery. These may include Calcium and vitamin D, which foster bone growth after a fusion.
You should ensure that you have detailed instructions from your doctor and pharmacist on how to take prescription or over-the-counter medicines and at what frequency. Also, as your mobility will be restricted once you get home, you must know in advance who will fill your prescriptions – a friend, family member, or a neighbor – for you.
Things you can’t do for a few weeks after surgery
While you will get a set of instructions on what you can do, your doctor will also advise you on things you cannot do. You will not be able to do certain physical activities like bending over to pick something up or lifting over 8 lbs.
Your surgeon will also tell you that you should not engage in strenuous activities and stay off work. Your doctor will again ask you to avoid full-body showering to keep your wounds safe and avoid infections. While you are recovering, driving is not allowed for at least two weeks to protect both you and other road users.
Therefore, you should ensure that you have family or friends to drive you home and various appointments and help you around the house while recovering.
Tools to make your life easier recovery faster
You must take care of yourself post-surgery. It will help if you do whatever you have to keep your safety and comfort in mind because you would certainly want to recover as quickly as possible.
Sometimes the smallest things are the most significant conveniences when you are frustrated by being so helpless. Here is the list of a few self-evident but often forgotten little things that will make things very convenient for you after your neck-surgery.
Extra pads for neck collar/brace: A neck brace is used to keep your neck still and support it while it heals. You must wear your cervical collar as recommended by your surgeon. Because your collar needs to be worn at all times except to wash your face and neck, it is a good idea to get extra pads for that.
It would be best if you ask for extra pads when you go for your collar fitting. It is because your neck may get sweaty, and you will have to change them often.
Cooling Towels: Your neck and shoulder muscles may get sore after the surgery. Although an ice pack may reduce that, it doesn’t go to all the areas that may be hurting.
Also, if you are from a hot climate, cooling towels can provide great comfort. When using cooling towels, you need to run them under cold water and place them over your neck, shoulders, and arms. These towels stay cold until they dry out.
Bendable straws: Bendable straws are very helpful after neck surgery. These are a lifesaver when your neck movement is limited. You can buy a bag of these as you will need them most of the time, especially when you are on a liquid diet the first few days after the surgery.
Earplugs: After neck surgery, you may not be sleeping in your bedroom for a while, as you may find your living room more comfortable where you can engage with the family and friends more often. However, the flip side is that it may be a little noisy.
Although everybody will try to be quiet, the noise will keep interrupting your sleep. Here, earplugs will help you get that much-required sleep even in noisy places like the hospital or the living room at home.
Grabbers: Post-surgery, many of your movements will be restricted because of your neck movement. Here, the grabbers play a genuinely unique role as they help you reach many different things you need.
The good news is these are not very expensive. You may purchase two and keep them at the two most visited places in your house, for example, one for upstairs and one for downstairs, so that you can find them when you need them.
Dry Shampoo: After neck surgery, you may not be able to shampoo your hair for a while. Dry shampoo will be your friend. You need to use a little of it because you will have to wash your hair with your water if you use too much.
Comfortable pillows: A bed rest pillow would help you immensely by providing a comfortable sitting upright in the bed. Many neck-surgery patients also love down pillows. These can squish and take the form you may feel comfortable in. Just a pro-tip – don’t get expensive pillows, though, because after you contort them multiple times, you may not like to use them as regular pillows.
Contact the hospital if things are abnormal
While neck surgery is relatively normal nowadays, it is still considered major surgery. So if you feel fever, notice blood or observe pus from the wound, or have difficulty breathing, you should call the hospital or your physician. You should also do the same if you find it challenging to use the bathroom or feel pain and numbness in your neck.
It would be best to keep these contacts on your speed dial should you need to call them. If you have voice assistants like Alexa or Google Home, you may set them up to make calls for you.
Post-neck surgery, you may not be able to do many things by yourself. It may make you frustrated and exhausted.
It may be a difficult time, but you should not be too hard on yourself. All these things mentioned in this article will help you expedite your recovery and make you feel a little more comfortable, independent, and less aggrieved.
In a nutshell, listening to your body, follow your surgeon’s advice, and have these tools will play a crucial role in shortening your recovery time and get your neck back on track.