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The Importance of Weight Control Before Spine Surgery

When you’re dealing with back pain severe enough to require surgery, the last thing you want to hear is that you need to lose weight. But the truth is that in order to make sure that you are in the best possible condition to optimize the outcome of your operation, you want to be in the best physical condition you can be – and for many, this means shedding excess pounds. There is a significant amount of research that shows that people who are in good health recover more quickly and with fewer complications than those who have complicating conditions, and being overweight compromises a number of different body systems.

We understand that weight loss is difficult and that the pain that you are suffering can make it an even greater challenge. But we also know that the more you weigh, the more stress you are putting on your spine. Not only are extra pounds causing you to feel worse before the surgery, they will make it harder to recuperate. That being said, we do not recommend any dramatic steps or fad diets, which can put your body under additional stress. Instead, we recommend a focus on eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods in the days and weeks before your scheduled surgery, as well as engaging in a doctor-approved exercise program.

Nutrition: The healthier your diet, the better you will feel and the more prepared your body will be for surgery. Concentrate on eliminating processed foods, high-sodium foods, sugars, and fats, replacing them with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and quality protein in the form of fat-free dairy products, chicken, beef, and fish. Eliminate alcohol and caffeine, as they contribute to an inflammatory response and dehydrate you, and make sure that you are drinking 8 glasses of water each day. Do not take any supplements without checking in with your physician: some of effects or interactions with drugs that may interfere with your healing process.

Exercise: Depending upon your physical condition and your level of pain, there are a number of different exercises you can engage in that may help you to lose weight while at the same time strengthening your muscles and your cardiovascular health. Walking is an excellent form of exercise that increases your stamina and gets your circulatory system moving, but if it makes your pain worse, consider a program of swimming or water aerobics. Even water walking can get your heart rate up while eliminating impact on your spine.  If you need assistance with finding an exercise program that will work for you, your spine specialist can likely recommend a program, or put you in touch with a trainer or physical therapist that can provide you with a training program that works.

Even losing a few pounds can help to make your recovery easier, and is likely to make you feel better as you prepare for your surgery.