Your spine is a strong column of 33 vertebrae beautifully designed to support you throughout your life. As we get older, unfortunately, damage to our spine may result in fractures in our vertebrae. If this occurs, kyphoplasty can help heal the damage. If you’re considering this treatment, here’s what you should know about the procedure, as well as kyphoplasty recovery time and process.

Want to learn more? Our Raleigh area pain management team at Wake Spine & Pain is always here to answer your questions.

What is the kyphoplasty procedure?

Kyphoplasty is an interventional pain management procedure that can restore the stability of your spine after a vertebral fracture. These fractures may cause significant back pain. They occur most commonly due to the following conditions:

  • Osteoporosis: Thinning bones that can lead to fractures over time
  • Injury: Trauma to the spine that compromises the vertebrae
  • Cancer: Some cancer treatments can make our bones more vulnerable

If you experience a vertebral fracture due to one of these conditions, your doctor may recommend kyphoplasty. With this procedure, they’ll insert a medical balloon into the vertebrae to restore height and space in the spine. Specialized cement is then injected into that balloon space. The cement creates stability in your individual vertebrae and the spine as a whole.

During the procedure, your doctor will use X-ray guidance to ensure proper placement of the balloon and the cement. The whole process takes about one hour (per vertebrae).

The basics of kyphoplasty recovery

The recovery process varies from patient to patient. It’s important to follow all of the specific kyphoplasty recovery instructions provided by your doctor, as they’ll have a better understanding of your unique health history and risk factors.

That being said, these are the most frequently asked questions with general answers about the recovery process.

What happens after kyphoplasty?

Because kyphoplasty is performed under general anesthesia, you will rest and be observed during recovery for a period of time following the procedure. For some patients, this may only be a few hours while others may stay overnight.

Depending on your doctor’s guidance, you may be able to get up and walk around an hour or so after surgery. You may feel lingering soreness where the needle entered your back, but ice and over-the-counter pain medication can provide relief.

A friend or family member must drive you home the day of your procedure. Take the rest of your day off to rest.

What’s the typical kyphoplasty recovery time?

You may be up and around, resuming normal activities within just one day, but your kyphoplasty recovery may take longer if your health is poor or the procedure involve multiple vertebrae.

The typical kyphoplasty recovery time will vary depending on a few factors, including:

  • The number of vertebrae involved: More vertebrae treated often means a longer recovery time
  • Your overall health: Generally healthy people recover more quickly
  • Complications during the procedure: Complications are rare but increase recovery time

What are the risks and potential complications?

Kyphoplasty is a minimally-invasive procedure that results in reduced pain and an improved quality of life. As with any interventional procedure, though, there is the potential for risks and complications. These can include:

  • Infection
  • Increased back pain
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Allergic reaction to the cement
  • Cement leaking

The risks are significantly reduced when this procedure is performed by trained and experienced physicians using X-ray guidance. Look for pain management specialists with dedicated experience performing this procedure.

Are there any restrictions after kyphoplasty?

As with all of these guidelines, restrictions after kyphoplasty may vary depending on your doctor’s guidance, your overall health, and the procedure itself.

Some of the basic restrictions after kyphoplasty typically include the following:

  • Do not drive for 24 hours after your procedure (or until your doctor gives the go-ahead)
  • Avoid lifting anything that causes you to strain your back for the first 24 hours
  • Minimize heavy lifting and vigorous exercise for four to six weeks
  • Resume taking your regular medications as directed by your doctor

Many patients return to their daily activities within a few days following their procedure. If your job or leisure time features heavy lifting or repetitive motions in your back (i.e., twisting to play tennis or stooping down to garden), talk to your doctor about how to do that safely.

When will I experience pain relief?

Generally speaking, many patients experience almost instantaneous relief from pain after kyphoplasty. For some, it may take longer to experience pain relief—usually within 48 hours.

If you are not completely pain-free immediately, this is not a cause for alarm. Each person’s recovery process is unique to them. Talk to your doctor if you are still experiencing pain a week after your procedure, or if you experience any severe or sharp pains.

Should I do any at-home kyphoplasty care?

The kyphoplasty recovery process continues at home after your procedure. Take care to keep the bandage covering your injection site clean and dry.

Further, it is normal to feel minor soreness at the injection site. Use ice to reduce swelling and pain, applied in a 20-minutes-on and 20-minutes-off cycle to find relief. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also help relieve pain and inflammation.

It’s important to rest and take care of yourself. Pay attention to what your body needs. If your back becomes sore after moderate activity, for example, take a break.

An important part of kyphoplasty recovery is resuming your normal activities when you feel ready. This includes stretching and strengthening exercises to help support the spine. Ask your doctor for guidance on which exercises or physical therapy regimen will best support your kyphoplasty recovery.

Learn more about kyphoplasty

At Wake Spine & Pain, our North Carolina pain management doctors are board-certified and fellowship-trained in both anesthesiology and physical medicine/rehabilitation. Due to this multi-disciplinary approach, our physicians have dedicated experience in diagnosing and treating a variety of pain conditions.

We work hard to help our patients reclaim their lives from pain. For kyphoplasty procedures, we perform them in our comfortable and affordable outpatient clinic. There is no need to visit an interventional radiologist, ER, or hospital for your kyphoplasty procedure, with the related costs that these visits can incur.

At Wake Spine & Pain, we’re committed to delivering timely care to help you get back to your life. Most patients are scheduled within 48 hours, and we also offer telemedicine consultations.

It’s time to relieve your pain and reclaim your life. Contact Wake Spine & Pain today to schedule your appointment