Best Practices of Psychological Preparation for Back Surgery
Hearing that you need a back surgery can trigger fear and apprehension. That’s because one of the most delicate yet vital organs in our bodies is our spine. We know this intuitively and logically. Any disruptions in your back muscles, vertebrae or nerves can cause unbearable pain but the sound of surgery rings certain alarm bells. But don’t worry, if it has to be done, it cannot be avoided. In fact, the sooner you get your back surgery out of the way, the better you will feel.
You will also be relieved to know that medical science has come a long way. Surgeons now use advanced technology and methods to ensure risk-free back surgeries with least pain and quick recovery time.
So, now that you are aware of these facts, we will share some ways to prepare yourself mentally, for your upcoming back surgery. These techniques have been approved by medical practitioners and therapists to ensure the following:
- Less stress and uneasiness during the medical procedure
- Fewer complications in surgery and recovery
- Decrease in pain and fewer medications for pain relief
- Fewer sedation prerequisites
- Shorter hospitalization period
- Reduced medical care requests from the patient as the patient take responsibility for his/her recovery
- increase in patient satisfaction
- Reduced cost per medical procedure
- Speedy recovery
Preparing for a back surgery
Ask your surgeon in detail about what exactly will be done during your surgical procedure. Enquire about the equipment they will use, sedation technique and other aspects that may be worrying you. Know that you are allowed to ask and your surgeon is supposed to tell you.
If you wish to read about your specific issue, ask the doctor to recommend articles or websites from where you can get the information. But do not read negative news or horrific stories about back surgeries online.
Information is meant to make you feel better not worse.
Pain tends to be more in spine-related surgeries, especially in the neck area. Lower and middle back can restrict movement and make you feel very uncomfortable. This level of pain if you have endured for a long time, can result in stress and anxiety. In fact, the more stressed you are, the more pain you will feel.
If you feel stressed, your back hurts and when your back hurts, your stress levels shoot up!
It may lead to a helpless, disheartened and frustrated state. We understand…
But high stress levels will only result in further physical ailments and symptoms such as increase in blood pressure, shallow breathing, palpitations and more.
To break this unending loop, stop, sit in a position that is most comfortable and close your eyes. Start breathing in from the nose and breathing out from the mouth. Repeat this a few times. In a minute or so, you will realise that your negative thoughts are fading. Do this a few times a day, whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.
The other technique is to stop discussing the pain or talking about the surgery. Don’t focus on it too much. Instead watch a movie, read a book, take a nap or go for a slow walk.
We will talk more about this technique in the next point.
Cognitive Behavioural Coping Method
Cognitive behaviour therapy believes that stress is a result of our interpretation, evaluation and behaviour.
This means that we get worried only because of what we feel not because the situation warrants it. Let’s take your back surgery for example.: The doctor may have reassured you of the operation and how it’s a common thing that is happening to you. Even if it’s not that common, the doctor has the expertise. Yet, your mind keeps telling you that it’s a dangerous procedure and anything could go wrong! Hence, your stress is entirely due to your perception of the situation. Cognitive behaviour therapy seeks to change this perception.
It can help you in two ways.
The first way is to directly decrease preoperative anxiety and stress and secondly it helps to develop a post-operative coping mechanism.
But how can you stop your mind from thinking in a particular direction or along a specific pattern of thoughts?
- Distract yourself with something other than your back! As mentioned earlier, do something you like such as listening to music or sitting in a garden.
- Stop negative thoughts in their tracks! Every time you are aware of your mind drifting to a bad place, stop that train and bring it back to happy thoughts. Recollect your last holiday or any good time that you had. Focus on things in your life that are working.
- Employ a coping mechanism such as talking to a positive friend, keeping a gratitude diary, stopping mind chatter or just talking a walk.
And remember, worse situation scenarios rarely happen.
Staying motivated is a vital element in pre and post surgery recovery. It will assist your body to take the procedure well and heal quickly after.
Motivation does not happen on its own. You need to find it. Make plans about what you will do once you are healed. Take the time out to pursue your writing or reading. When you are back on your feet, begin that project you’ve been postponing. You have no more excuses left!
It’s all in the mind
Hence, prior to your back surgery, understand the facts and trust your doctor. Post surgery, follow medical instructions and stay happy for a rapid recovery.
To help you along, do all the things you love and can do in your current state. Control your mind and perceptions. This type of purposeful preparation is known to have a huge effect on patients worldwide.
If it works on them, it will surely work on you.