Q. My doctor recommended back surgery, but I’m worried that I’ll still be in pain. Is there anything that can be done after surgery to help my recovery?
A. Surgery for degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis has come a long way in recent years. Yet nearly 40 percent of patients continue to have pain and disability even after the operation.
Physical therapy and home exercise after surgery can help speed recovery and improve quality of life. But getting patients to follow through is a challenge.
Findings from a recent study in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation show that a single behavior change counseling session may be an effective way to motivate patients.
The study compared 63 patients who received counseling with 59 patients in a control group. The counseling consisted of a one-hour telephone consultation sometime before the operation.
During the call, counselors stressed the importance of physical therapy and home exercise and tried to boost the patients’ sense of self-confidence in their ability to follow through.
The coaching worked. Patients who received counseling were significantly more likely to participate in rehabilitation and physical therapy and had better recovery three and six months after the operation.
The findings illustrate that you must take an active role in rehabilitation, communicate with your healthcare providers, and make necessary behavioral changes.
You can be proactive by asking to speak with your physical therapist before you undergo surgery, so you can know what to expect afterward.
Peter Jaret is the author of several health-related books, including “In Self-Defense: The Human Immune System” (Harcourt Brace), “Nurse: A World of Care” (Emory University Press), and “Impact: On the Frontlines of Public Health” (National Geographic). A frequent contributor to National Geographic, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Health, More, AARP Bulletin, and dozens of other periodicals, Jaret is the recipient of an American Medical Association award for journalism and two James Beard awards. He lives in Petaluma, Calif.