Recovering From Spine Surgery: Tips For A Smooth Rehabilitation

Apr 11, 2024

After any back surgery, from spinal fusion surgery to a microdiscectomy, there will be a period of time dedicated to recovery. It’s important to maintain realistic expectations; recovery isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t always happen quickly.


With that in mind, there are several back surgery recovery tips that can help you improve the speed and quality of your recovery. Following your doctors’ recommendations for pain control, rest, and post-operative care is just the beginning—here are some of the many things you can do to improve your recovery:

Make Things Easy– Prepare Your Home

The preparations for your spinal surgery recovery should begin well before the surgery itself. Many patients spend the majority of their recovery time at home. By making some simple modifications to your home, you can improve both the speed and quality of your recovery. Here are a few tips:


Bedroom: Stairs are a challenge after a spinal surgery. We recommend moving your bed to the first floor if it is on a higher or lower floor. An adjustable bed is ideal, but supportive pillows can also help you keep your upper back, shoulders, and head elevated. You can also use a pillow to help keep your knees or hips bent—the more supportive pillows you have, the easier it will be to find the right configuration. Keep clothing, a cane or walker, your phone charger, and a laptop or television close to your bed. Have a bedside table with your medication organizer at the ready. Slip-on shoes can make moving around comfortably much easier. 


Bathroom: We recommend purchasing a raised toilet seat as well as a shower chair. These items can make using the bathroom much easier after surgery. Set your bedroom up as close to the bathroom as possible to limit the need to move around during the initial recovery phase.


Kitchen: For the first phase of your recovery, it’s unlikely that you will want to cook complex meals. Keep things simple; have someone assist you with meal preparation in order to ensure that you have healthy, well-balanced nutrition that you can heat up with ease. Keep appliances like microwaves on low shelves for easy access. 


Always Watch for Infections

Though uncommon, infections can occur after back surgery. There are several different signs of infection, including:


  • A high temperature, both in the region of the wound and throughout your body. Fevers are a sign of infection.
  • Persistent pain and swelling around the incision, especially if it gets worse over time or if you start to feel sharp or shooting pain.
  • Spreading redness, blotches, and streaks
  • Coughing and shortness of breath
  • Abnormal discharge—your incision will stop draining after a few days. Should draining persist or if discharge smells bad, has an abnormal color, or if you begin bleeding excessively, there may be an infection.

Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Post-operative pain is normal—infections are not and should be addressed immediately. 

Participate in Physical Therapy

Compliance is key when it comes to recovery, and when patients don’t follow it properly, it could lead to postoperative issues. We’ve seen this from time to time, and it’s definitely a a problem that can be avoided. Physical therapy is an essential part of the back surgery recovery process. By participating in physical therapy, you will:


  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Decrease stiffness
  • Improve spine stability
  • Improve posture
  • Reduce pain and inflammation over time
  • Help you heal faster and resume normal activities sooner


Your physical therapist is an essential part of your medical team. They may guide you through techniques like range of motion exercises or give you other exercises that will help you recover. Physical therapy can be difficult, but it’s absolutely essential. Don’t worry—you’ll have plenty of time to rest and recover. 

You Must Move Regularly

Your doctor will tell you when you can begin moving around after back surgery. While you shouldn’t be engaged in strenuous activity, moving around on a regular basis can help improve your recovery prospects. At first, the exercises you do will be as simple as short walks around your home; anything that gets you out of bed and moving will be helpful. To lessen pain and improve your focus when moving around, it can be useful to do breathing exercises—pain relief through pain medication can also help. We also recommend gentle stretching—talk to your medical team. 


Be Sure To Ask About Bracing

Your surgeon may recommend a back brace; these braces can lead to less back strain and discomfort. Talk to your doctor about the kind of back brace you’ll need after back surgery, as well as how to wear it. 


New Jersey Spine Institute is ready to help with your back issues and more. Contact us today!

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