What To Expect After Spinal Surgery
Post-operative pain, soreness and stiffness are to be expected after spinal surgery. Recovery times vary depending on the extent of your surgery, the severity of your condition and how well you follow your post-operative care plan. While you may feel ready to get back into your everyday routine, you will need to take certain precautions until you’re fully recovered.
What To Do After Spinal Surgery
Your doctor will work with you to create a custom recovery plan. Prioritizing your post-operative care plan will encourage a quick, optimal recovery.
Common post-operative care plans include recommendations such as:
- Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Stay hydrated, consuming at least eight cups of water per day
- Take your medications as prescribed
- Manage your pain properly
- Attend all follow-up appointments and physical therapy sessions
- Get plenty of rest
- Continue to manage other medical conditions
- Abide by all guidelines and restrictions specified by your healthcare provider
Restrictions After Spinal Surgery
Your limitations after spinal surgery will depend on your unique needs and your specific procedure. Some spinal surgeries are minimally invasive and call for fewer limitations during recovery, while other procedures require extensive restrictions and more time before you can resume normal activity.
Most patients are discouraged from lifting items that weigh 10 pounds or more, driving, strenuous activity such as aerobic exercise and twisting or bending over. You should also refrain from using tobacco products as they can delay healing and increase the risk of infection and complications.
Your care team will create a custom recovery plan for you and provide a list of individual restrictions. View our services to learn more about specific spinal surgeries including their recovery processes, success rates, risks and more.
Pain Management After Spinal Surgery
While it’s normal to experience pain after spinal surgery, you shouldn’t have to suffer through it. There are several ways you can find relief.
Take your prescription or over-the-counter pain medications as instructed. Reposition yourself frequently to avoid stiffness. Use hot and cold therapy by alternating between a heating pad and an ice pack — be sure to protect your skin and keep your incision dry. Your surgeon may prescribe a back brace or walking assistance devices to provide support and minimize strain.
Discuss post-operative pain management recommendations with your surgeon to ensure you recover comfortably.
How To Sleep After Back or Neck Surgery
The way you sleep after spinal surgery will depend on the type of surgery you have and where it’s located. You want to find a position that lowers strain, minimizes pain and enables you to get the most rest possible.
Many patients choose to sleep on their side with one pillow behind their back and another between their knees. Others find comfort sleeping on their back with a pillow placed under their knees. Some patients sleep on their back with the head, shoulders and upper back slightly elevated. Discuss what position you should sleep in with your doctor.
What To Look Out For After Spinal Surgery
Post-operative pain is to be expected following spinal surgery, however, there are certain red flags to watch for.
- Worsening pain
- An incision that’s hot, swollen, red or starts to open
- Increased bruising around your incision
- Fluid draining from your incision
- A foul-smelling incision
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Numbness or tingling in your extremities
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
If you experience these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
Consult with your spinal specialist for further information regarding what you should do to prepare for spinal surgery and how to optimize your recovery.