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5 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Back Surgery

If you’re about to undergo back surgery, you may be experiencing some anxiety. Will the procedure go as planned? How much pain will it cause? How long will recovery take? And, perhaps most importantly of all, will the back surgery alleviate the symptoms that led you to undergo the procedure in the first place?

These are all valid questions. Fortunately, you don’t have to be left wondering and worrying. Here are several things you can do to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for back surgery.

Do your research, know your options and ask questions. If you’re considering back surgery to treat a spine condition that’s causing you pain or disability, the decision isn’t necessarily an easy one. The thought of undergoing any surgical procedure, no matter how minor, can be frightening, and spine surgery especially so. Before surgery, do your research on the procedure recommended by your surgeon. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor any questions you may have, and fully explore your non-surgical treatment options.

Understand surgery can’t fix everything. While a surgical procedure may make a significant difference in the amount of back pain you feel, surgery is not a cure-all for your back condition or symptoms. Your spine doctor can recommend the surgical or non-surgical treatment that will best address your pain as well as improve your spinal structure and function.

Surround yourself with support. Depending on the type of back surgery your doctor has recommended, it can take weeks, or even months, for you to recover and return to a normal level of activity. Gather family and friends who are able to help you out during this recovery period, especially during the first few days following your procedure. 

Identify negative thoughts. Thinking positively about your upcoming surgery can improve both your response to the procedure and your recovery. Learn to identify negative thought patterns, such as playing the “What if?” game or assessing things in all-or-nothing terms (e.g., expecting the surgery to be a complete success or a complete failure). Challenge these negative thoughts with coping thoughts such as, “I am choosing surgery and looking forward to a positive outcome.”

Manage your stress. During the entire back surgery process (that is, both leading up to and following surgery), keep your stress level low. To help manage your stress:

  • Set priorities.
  • Communicate openly, especially with respect to your concerns.
  • Take time to relax.
  • Delegate responsibilities.
  • Set appropriate limits for yourself in preparing for as well as recovering from surgery.

Studies have shown that mentally preparing yourself for back surgery can lessen your stress and anxiety, reduce your risk of complications, improve the outcome of the procedure and enhance your overall patient experience. Psychologically preparing for surgery can also help you feel empowered to play an active role in your own healing and recovery. If you have questions or concerns about your upcoming back surgery, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Kushwaha today.

About Vivek Kushwaha

Vivek P. Kushwaha attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his B.A. from the College of Natural Sciences. He then earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, Texas.

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