It’s been six weeks since my back surgery. Today, I had my second follow-up appointment. The nurse practitioner at the neurosurgery center was pleased that I’m not experiencing any pain, and I’m no longer taking any medication for pain.
She examined my incision and confirmed it’s completely healed. I was pretty sure it was, but it’s hard for me to see it, since it’s in the middle of my back. I can now shower, bathe or swim without any need to bandage it.
Then we talked about which activities I can do and which activities I still need to avoid. I can’t do anything high impact (including running) for six more weeks, but it’s OK to do low-impact activities like bicycling or swimming. I can also continue to walk, which was my only form of exercise for the last six weeks.
The nurse practitioner I saw today was different than the one I saw four weeks ago, so I had to bring her up to date on my race-walking. We talked about how much I’ve been walking, my upcoming marathons, and how fast I’ll need to walk them. She said it’s OK to go ahead and walk those marathons. She would have been more concerned if my surgery had been in the lumbar region, but because it was a thoracic surgery, there’s far less risk.
That said, she couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be any risk at all. It takes 12 weeks for a herniated disk to fully heal. Until then, there’s still an increased risk of re-herniation. Prior to 12 weeks, somewhere between eight and fourteen percent of patients experience re-herniation. That’s why I can’t do any running. They worry most about activities that can be jarring to my spine.
Until today, I wasn’t supposed to do any housework or yardwork. Now I can begin doing those activities again, so long as they don’t hurt, don’t cause excessive bending or twisting, and don’t violate my lifting restriction. I asked specifically about mowing the lawn. I shouldn’t do that for six more weeks.
My lifting restriction will be my biggest headache for my upcoming trip to Europe. Until today, I couldn’t lift anything over 10 pounds. Now I can lift up to 15 pounds, and I can increase that by about two pounds per week. When I go on my trip, I’ll still need to pay attention to how much my bags weigh. I may have to get a suitcase with wheels.