Although it’s minimally invasive, vertebroplasties still involve a procedure on your spine. Without the proper recovery strategy, you could find yourself back at square one when it comes to your back pain.
Fortunately, your care at West Texas Pain Institute doesn’t stop once you leave our office. Dr. Raul Lopez and our team are dedicated to helping you manage your pain from consultation to recovery.
Here’s everything you should know about life after vertebroplasty.
An overview of vertebroplasties
Dr. Lopez uses vertebroplasties to address compression fractures in your spine. These compression fractures stem from hairline cracks in your vertebra, which weakens it and causes it to collapse.
During your vertebroplasty, Dr. Lopez injects a special bone cement called PMMA to fill in the cracks in your vertebra, which hardens and reinforces your spine.
This is an outpatient procedure that only requires a small incision, and you can opt for a local anesthetic or mild sedation to keep you comfortable.
The real challenge comes after your procedure. Take a closer look at what to expect after your vertebroplasty.
The first few hours
Immediately following your vertebroplasty, you’ll rest comfortably in our office for a few hours. A trusted friend or family member can take you home once you’ve rested from the procedure. Any post-procedure discomfort should be mild and temporary.
The first few days
Dr. Lopez sends you home with customized aftercare instructions, but he typically encourages his patients to rest at home for at least the first 24-48 hours. You can use ice packs to manage any discomfort at the injection site. Most of our patients reported improved pain relief within the first day.
The first few weeks
We want you to get back to your normal routine — especially exercise — as quickly as possible, but it’s a good idea to ease back into your activities slowly and avoid strenuous exercises like heavy lifting for the first three weeks. Depending on your needs, we recommend wearing a brace or going to physical therapy to support your back as it heals.
The first few months and beyond
After you’ve returned fully to your daily life and normal exercise, you can start focusing on preventing future compression fractures. This step in your recovery journey is especially important if you have osteoporosis or other conditions that compromise your bones.
Here are a few expert tips on preventing spinal compression fractures.
Increase your calcium intake
You’ve probably heard the old wives tale encouraging children to drink a glass of milk to strengthen their bones, and there’s a reason why it’s so well-known.
Your body needs calcium to make strong, healthy bones, but it can’t make calcium on its own, so you have to get calcium from your diet. You can do this by eating calcium-rich foods, including:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Salmon or sardines
Talk to Dr. Lopez about other ways you can increase your calcium intake, such as taking calcium supplements.
Boost vitamin D intake
Similar to calcium, vitamin D also plays a role in your bone strength. Without it, your body can’t effectively absorb calcium. You can boost your vitamin D intake by eating a healthy diet, but the best way to help your body make its own vitamin D is to get outside and spend time in the sun.
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it triggers your body’s production of vitamin D. Fortunately for us Texans, we rarely have a sunless day, so be sure to take advantage of the sun’s rays safely.
Smoking wreaks havoc on your bone health. For example, it restricts the flow of oxygenated blood to your bones, preventing healing. Smoking also interferes with your ability to absorb calcium, and the nicotine slows the production of healthy bone cells.
Smoking is particularly harmful to women as it breaks down estrogen, which is a key ingredient to healthy bones.
One of the best things you can do for your bones is to quit smoking and let your body heal and rebuild your bones naturally as it’s meant to do.
Even a mild fall can cause hairline cracks in your vertebra and lead to more spinal compression fractures. Keep these things in mind when trying to prevent falls:
- Wear shoes that fit properly
- Remove hazards in your home
- Increase the lighting in your home
- Use assistive devices, such as handrails
Boosting your physical fitness through regular exercise can also improve your balance, strength, coordination, and flexibility. Try gentle exercises that involve proactive slow, graceful movements like tai-chi, yoga, or water aerobics.
If you’d like more information about vertebroplasties or guidance on how to recover from them, request an appointment with Dr. Lopez at our El Paso, Texas office online or over the phone today.