The Ins and Outs of Recovering from Spine Surgery

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Preparing for recovery from your spine surgery is just as important as getting ready for the surgery itself. Start by having realistic expectations. The recovery process, detailed below, is going to involve commitment on your part coupled with realistic expectations and active participation.

Understand Your Post-Op Care

Immediately following your surgery, hospital staff will be looking for signs of infection at the surgery site and monitoring your overall awareness. With most spine surgeries, you’ll be encouraged to walk or move to recondition your back muscles. Typically, you won’t be permitted to leave the hospital until you can walk with little or no support. Recovery is surprisingly quick, with the initial hospital stay usually lasting a few days.

Follow Any At-home Care Instructions

Before you leave the hospital, your board-certified spine surgeon will give you instructions to follow when you return home. These instructions (usually given to you in written form) frequently include:

  • What types of pain medications to take (other than what will be prescribed to you)
  • How to clean your surgical site (sometimes includes initial restrictions on showering)
  • Side effects to look out for (some patients experience postoperative constipation from decreased activity or reactions to narcotic pain meds)

Achieve Optimal Pain Control

It may be difficult to find adequate pain relief following your spine surgery as some patients develop a tolerance to high doses of pain medications given post-surgery. The following pain management methods may be beneficial if this occurs:

  • Application of heat or ice
  • Wearing comfortable clothing (to avoid pressure on the surgical site)
  • Finding comfortable sitting or resting positions
  • Light exercise (to reduce muscle weakness that can aggravate pain)

Be an Active Participant in Your Rehab

Take an active role in physical therapy sessions by letting your therapist know what exercises seem to be helping you the most so they can adjust your therapy based on your input. You can further facilitate recovery by performing recommended exercises at home between sessions, or simply making an effort to get out and about as much as possible.

It’s also important to have the necessary support at home to help with cleaning, errands and other tasks until you reach a point where you can safely resume previous activities. Report any renewed discomfort or increased pain to your doctor.

Before committing to spine surgery, it’s important to understand all your options, including spinal fusions, minimally invasive spine surgery, and non-fusion spine surgeries. To learn more about the treatments available to you, reach out to The Spine Institute at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation.