After undergoing back surgery, many patients wonder if they can incorporate chiropractic care into their recovery process. Traditionally, physical therapy has been the go-to standard of care after back surgery. But as the way we approach healthcare evolves, other treatment options, including chiropractic care, have gained attention for their potential to improve overall health and quality of life.
Here, we’re exploring the feasibility and safety of receiving chiropractic treatment after undergoing spine surgery.
Common Types of Back Surgery
Several procedures are commonly performed to alleviate neck pain, back pain and other symptoms of degenerative diseases affecting the spine. They include:
Spinal fusion surgery
Spinal fusion surgery is one of the most common types of back surgeries, especially for patients dealing with chronic back pain, degenerative disk disease, or spinal instability. In this procedure, two or more vertebrae are fused together to eliminate any movement between them. Instrumentation such as screws, rods, or plates are typically used to hold these bones in place while they fuse naturally over time. This stabilizes the lumbar spine and aims to alleviate pain caused by the motion of degenerating vertebrae.
While the goal is substantial pain relief and improved stability, it’s worth noting that spinal fusion surgery requires an extended recovery period and may limit your range of motion in the long term.
A laminectomy is another surgical procedure commonly recommended for conditions like spinal stenosis or herniated disks. During this operation, a portion of the back of the vertebra, known as the lamina, is removed. This is done to create more space within the spinal canal and thereby relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. The procedure is effective in reducing symptoms like numbness, weakness, and pain that radiate down the arms or legs.
A laminectomy can greatly enhance your quality of life by offering relief from debilitating symptoms. However, it may also involve risks such as spinal instability if a large amount of bone or tissue is removed.
Herniated disk surgery
Herniated disk surgery is often considered when more conservative treatment options have failed to provide relief from pain or other symptoms. This type of surgery, known as a discectomy, focuses on removing part or all of the damaged disk to relieve pressure on the nerve.
Microdiscectomy is another procedure to consider for herniated or ruptured discs. Unlike a traditional discectomy, this minimally invasive surgery involves smaller incisions, shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery times.
The Role of Chiropractic Care After Back Surgery
After undergoing back surgery, you may be exploring various treatment options to support your recovery and enhance your overall quality of life. One such option to consider is chiropractic care.
Prior to initiating any form of chiropractic treatment, a thorough evaluation should be conducted to assess the state of your spinal health and overall recovery. This typically involves consultation with your surgeon, healthcare provider, and potentially, physical therapists who are well-versed in post-operative care.
While it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice, here are some ways a chiropractor can contribute to your post-surgical rehabilitation.
Drug-free pain management
Even after successful surgery, you may still experience residual back pain or discomfort in adjacent areas of the spine. Some research suggests that chiropractic care can relieve pain in people who continue to experience pain after surgery.
A chiropractor can offer specialized techniques for pain relief that complement your post-surgical treatment plan. For example, soft tissue therapies or non-rotational manipulations may be applied to relieve tension and alleviate pain in areas surrounding the surgery site.
Improved range of motion
Certain procedures lead to a restricted range of motion, particularly during the initial recovery period. And while physical therapy is usually prescribed after surgery, it’s often limited to a few appointments before your insurance no longer covers the costs.
A chiropractor can work with you long-term, guiding you through targeted stretches and exercises designed to improve your flexibility gradually. This personalized care can help you regain a better range of motion without compromising the surgical site, thus improving your day-to-day functioning.
A visit to the chiropractor doesn’t necessarily mean a traditional chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractors often integrate multiple approaches to address your healthcare needs. These may include modalities like ultrasound therapy or electrical stimulation that can promote tissue healing and offer pain relief. Some chiropractors also collaborate with physical therapists to design a comprehensive rehabilitation program tailored to your specific needs.
Ongoing wellness support
Chiropractic care is not just about treating immediate issues; it also focuses on promoting long-term wellness. By offering nutritional advice, lifestyle recommendations, and ergonomic tips, a chiropractor can help you manage your overall health better. This holistic approach can be beneficial in preventing future spinal issues and improving your quality of life in the long run.
Potential Risks of Chiropractic Care After Surgery
As with all medical interventions, chiropractic care does carry some risks. Understanding these risks is vital when considering the inclusion of chiropractic care in your post-surgery recovery plan.
While chiropractic care offers multiple benefits, not all patients are suitable candidates, particularly immediately following surgery. Always engage in open communication with your healthcare provider and consider obtaining a second opinion if you’re thinking about incorporating chiropractic treatments.
Risk of reinjury
Incorrect spinal adjustments or overly aggressive chiropractic manipulation can cause complications, exacerbating pre-existing conditions or creating new issues. For instance, for spinal fusion patients, improper spinal adjustments could jeopardize the fusion site and may necessitate additional surgery.
This is why it’s crucial to consult with qualified chiropractic physicians who have experience dealing with post-surgery cases. They can assess the state of your recovery and determine which, if any, chiropractic treatments are appropriate for your condition.
Failed back surgery syndrome
Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is a term used to describe a situation where the objectives of spine surgery are not met. Symptoms may include chronic pain, numbness, and a continuation or worsening of the original issue that necessitated surgery.
Engaging in chiropractic care that is not aligned with your post-surgery treatment plan can increase the risk of experiencing FBSS. If spinal adjustments or other chiropractic treatments are not administered carefully and thoughtfully, they could potentially negate the benefits achieved through surgery. Conversely, it’s worth noting that chiropractic care has been shown to treat symptoms of FBSS in at least one case.
The decision to undergo back surgery often comes after much deliberation and a thorough review of your treatment options. While surgical intervention aims to address underlying issues like chronic back pain, herniated disks, and spinal degeneration, your healthcare journey doesn’t end when you leave the operating room.
Chiropractic care can offer supplementary paths to achieve pain relief, improve mobility, and even speed up the recovery process. However, it’s crucial to recognize that while chiropractic treatment has its merits, it’s not universally suitable for all surgery patients. In fact, the most common chiropractic service, spinal manipulation, is not recommended immediately after surgery and may or may not be appropriate for you in the future, depending on your unique condition.
So, can you have chiropractic care after back surgery? The answer, like many in healthcare, is nuanced. It depends on your specific situation, the type of surgery you’ve had, your overall health, and the recommendations of your healthcare providers. With their guidance, you can make an informed decision about the role chiropractic care might play in your journey towards a healthier spine and an improved quality of life.