According to the severity and nature of your back pain, a doctor may recommend several treatment options. Medication and physical therapy can often ease the symptoms, but some patients need to have surgery to deal with more serious issues. Spinal fusion surgery is a complex procedure with a relatively long recovery time, and patients may need to deal with different side effects and complications. Learn more about the link between back fusion surgery and mental health, and find out what you need to do to make sure you allow your body and your mind to heal from this complex procedure.
Why patients have spinal fusion surgery
Spinal fusion is a form of surgery that aims to stop unwanted movement between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine, where a surgeon uses a graft to permanently bond the vertebrae together The process can involve strips of bone graft over the back of the spine or material placed between the vertebrae. In some cases, a surgeon may even use a special surgical cage, which he or she places between the vertebrae and packs out with graft material.
A doctor may recommend spinal fusion surgery if you have:
More than 200,000 people in the United States have spinal fusion surgery. The success rate (where the procedure stops back pain) is around 75 percent.
Mental health problems arising from spinal surgery
A study by the Oregon Health & Science University found that nearly 20 percent of people with lower back fusion surgery developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the procedure. The study was the first of its kind to investigate PTSD symptoms in people having an elective medical procedure.
The study found that patients were at higher risk of PTSD if they had suffered from depression or anxiety before the surgery. That aside, the study also showed that people with no history of mental health problems could also suffer with PTSD.
Why back surgery is stressful
Doctors are not sure what causes PTSD, but research indicates that one or more factors can lead to the condition. These factors include:
Given the nature of spinal fusion surgery, it is unsurprising that PTSD may occur. Following the surgery, patients normally need to stay in hospital for 3 or 4 days. The procedure can lead to severe pain, and you may need intravenous pain medication. Furthermore, you cannot eat for several days immediately after the surgery, and when you leave the hospital you'll probably need to wear a back brace. In some cases, it can take patients six months to rehabilitate fully.
In some cases, patients fail to understand how serious this procedure is, and some people don't have realistic expectations about the length of recovery time. What's more, spinal fusion doesn't always help ease back pain, which can have severe mental consequences for somebody who pins their hopes on the outcome.
What patients can do
Psychological preparation can help patients cope with back surgery. Ideally, you should aim to develop a preparation program with a healthcare professional, so you are ready to face the surgery. It's important to tailor the program to your needs. For example, some people thrive when they have all the available information, but, conversely, some people become stressed when they have too much information to take in. Make sure a nurse or doctor takes account of your personality style and how you cope.
Many people fail to remember the information that a doctor gives them. Surgical consent forms are often complex and written in a way that many people struggle to understand. In these cases, it's often helpful to have a friend or loved one with you to each appointment, as he or she can help you gather the information you need.
If you have a history of stress or anxiety, talk to your doctor before you consider any type of back surgery. He or she can help you take preventive measures that will avoid these symptoms developing post-surgery.
Studies show that spinal fusion surgery can lead to serious mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Make sure you prepare adequately for any surgical procedure, to make sure you stand the best chance of a full recovery. For more information about dealing with back pain, visit a specialist's website, such as http://www.swfna.com.
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