Lifestyle Factors That Can Affect Spinal Surgery Success

The lifestyle choices you make daily directly affect your overall health. Generally speaking, positive lifestyle choices are associated with being healthier, while negative lifestyle choices are associated with various health conditions. Of course, there are always exceptions to this, and the definition of positive vs. negative can vary slightly depending on the individual. Regardless, your lifestyle choices affect your body in many different ways. 

When it comes to spine surgery, there are certain lifestyle factors that have been found to potentially affect surgical outcomes. Some of these factors may increase the risk of spinal surgery complications, while others may disqualify a potential candidate entirely from being able to have spinal surgery. While considering spinal surgery, it is important that you are aware of what lifestyle factors can increase your chances of risk and which can potentially prevent you from being able to undergo spinal surgery. Here are some lifestyle factors that can hinder spinal surgery success: 


pile of cigarettes

Smoking is one of those lifestyle choices that most healthcare professionals deem as being negative to your overall health. While much of the detrimental effects of smoking are based on the damage done to the heart and lungs, smoking can also cause problems in the spine. This is because smoking increases the rate of disc degeneration while simultaneously slowing the body’s ability to grow new bone. Ultimately, people who smoke are more likely to have problems with their bones fusing properly. In some cases, this means fusion will take longer than usual, while in other cases, the bones may completely fail to fuse together. People who smoke are also more likely to experience postoperative infections and longer recovery periods since smoking weakens the immune system. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to quit smoking prior to having spinal surgery. In fact, some surgeons require you to quit before they will perform surgery. 

Alcohol Use

Although some people use alcohol as a way to manage their back pain because it acts as a muscle relaxer, alcohol use is not recommended leading up to or immediately after surgery. This is because alcohol acts as a blood thinner, which can increase risks during surgery. Additionally, alcohol also causes serious problems when it interacts with certain medications that may be used during or after spinal surgery. Finally, alcohol has been found to be fattening, which can increase your weight.


overweight person with back pain

People who have a BMI of 25 or higher are at an increased risk of complications, while those with a BMI of 40 or higher are at a significantly higher risk. Spinal surgery complications associated with obesity can vary, but generally include wound infections, pneumonia, heart issues, and prolonged intubation. Obesity and back pain are closely related since our spines are not designed to carry excess weight. Losing as little as 15% of your total body weight can decrease back pain and may even eliminate the need for spinal surgery in some cases. Even if you still need spinal surgery after losing weight, it is recommended to work on maintaining a healthy weight prior to having spinal surgery by exercising and eating a balanced diet. 

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