When it comes to sports-related injuries and recovery times, athletes can be naturally impatient. When a spine or back surgery becomes necessary, we often hear the question, “How soon can I get back to sports after back surgery?”
Many people ask this question rather nervously because they fear the answer is “never.” There’s a stigma related to back injuries and surgery that suggests a person’s sports activities are over once they go under the knife. Thankfully, that’s not true in most cases; with rest and proper care, a return to sports is highly probable after back surgery. However, patience is key — because recovery doesn’t happen overnight. The time it takes you to return to sports will be based on a number of factors, including the extent of your injuries, the type of procedure, the type of sports you participate in and how you take care of yourself in the meantime. Let’s take a look at a few of these factors.
Minimally Invasive Surgery versus Major Surgery
A lot of people don’t realize that thanks to medical advances, many back surgeries are minimally invasive, meaning only a small incision is needed — and many procedures can now be done on an outpatient basis, meaning you can go home the same day! Minimally invasive surgeries cause much less trauma and intrusion to the body, which greatly speeds up recovery times with proper rest and care. Some athletes return to full activity in as little as 4-6 weeks after minimally invasive surgeries; others may require some physical therapy and take a few months to recover. With major back surgery, you should be prepared for physical therapy and doctor’s care for at least 4-6 months before you are cleared to return to sports.
Type of Sport
Another factor weighing into recovery times is the type of sport you’re engaged in. For non-collision sports like running, swimming or golf, the doctor may clear you in as little as 4-6 weeks with good progress. For contact sports, it may take longer for your back to strengthen against further injury, so you may have to wait 4-6 months or more to return to the field, court or ice.
Things You Can Do to Accelerate Returning to Sports
If you know you must undergo back surgery, what can you do to hasten your own recovery time? As it turns out, plenty — and you can start preparing even before surgery. Here are some tips to help quicken your return to sports:
- Quit smoking. Nicotine makes it more difficult for the body to heal itself.
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol consumption may deaden the pain somewhat, but it also slows recovery times.
- Lose excess weight before the surgery. Those extra pounds put extra pressure on your back, making it more difficult to recover.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Your body relies on nutrients to heal itself. Give it plenty to work with.
Everyone’s case is different, so your spinal surgeon is the best person to give you a better idea of your expected recovery times and how soon you can get back to sports after your back surgery. To learn more, call Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center today at 404-25