Tips for Recovery After Spine Surgery

Smiling patient in hospital bed listening to physician

Spinal surgery is a major step on the road to returning to your preferred lifestyle activities. Whether it is a discectomy, laminectomy, fusion surgery, or another type of spine surgery, most methods for a speedy recovery remain the same. Treating patients in northern New Jersey, Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) specializes in in every type of spine surgery as well as non-invasive treatments to prevent the need for surgery, and the care necessary for a rapid return to work, working out, and enjoying life. Learn more about what to expect after spine surgery and how to prepare.

Preparing for Back Surgery

The length of time it takes to recover from spine surgery can vary. One of the best ways to enable a speedy recovery post-op is to prepare for it. Prior to entering the hospital or facility where the surgery will take place, be sure to have a few things organized at home to reduce the amount of stress on the back and body. These preparations may include the following but are dependent on the individual’s level of fitness prior to the surgery, other medical conditions, and extent of the spine surgery.  A one level spine surgery will not require significant preparation so ask your spine surgeon or nurse which of the below is necessary:

  • Medications: Obtain your expected post-operative medications as well as any currently prescribed medications BEFORE the day of surgery so you do not have to pick them up immediately postoperatively or anytime in the immediate future.
  • Chronic Medications to hold: Confirm with your surgeon and with your primary care doctor, if there are any medications you should hold off before the surgery or immediately after the surgery. Be sure to document how long to hold off taking the medication.
  • Groceries: Have your home well supplied with food to eat so you do not have to grocery immediately after your operation.
  • Slip-on shoes: Have slip-on shoes ready upon return to avoid bending over and exerting lower back muscles.
  • Placing often-used items nearby: While preparing for surgery, make sure commonly used household items are easily accessible.
  • Grabber/Reacher: This tool is convenient for picking things from up off the floor or farther away to eliminate the act of bending down and reaching, which might put undue strain on the surgical area.
  • Toilet riser: A toilet riser fits on top of the open commode and heightens the seat, making getting on and off the toilet easier after surgery.
  • Grab bars: These bars can be placed by the side of the toilet or bed and in the bathtub to lessen the strain of getting up and down.
  • Shower chair: It will be important to keep all stitches and sutures clean and dry after surgery. A shower chair can help ensure the surgical area stays dry and reduce the risk of falls.

These are just some of the ways to prepare for spine surgery to better ensure an easier recovery. A neurosurgeon, orthopedic spine surgeon, nurse, or physical therapist can provide other options that suit unique patient needs and circumstances.

The Road to Spinal Surgery Recovery

Just as there are many ways to plan for the recovery period before surgery, there are also several ways to foster productive rehabilitation afterward. Common recommendations include:

Medications and Pain Management

The surgical team will likely prescribe the necessary anti-inflammatory and pain reliever medications that aid in the healing process. Patients should take these on schedule and track the level of pain experienced so they can report it to the doctor at their follow up visit.  This will allow the doctors, to adjust dosages as needed.  If the pain is minimal, then the patient can choose not to take the pain medication.  But if the level of pain is medium to high despite taking the medications prescribed, then contact the surgeon’s office for advice and potentially a dose adjustment or additional medication.


It is important to minimize stress and get a good night’s rest after spine surgery and sleeping comfortably can aid in recovery. Ask your nurse or doctor if there is a preferred position recommended or any that are to be avoided.


Especially just after spine surgery, patients should avoid bending, twisting, lifting, or any other arduous activities. Following through with the prescribed physical therapy, is a doctor directed, monitored, and customized plan to rapidly return the patient back to being able to stretch, move in all directions, bend, and begin to lift weight beyond their body weight. The physical therapist first begins to stretch and strengthen the essential muscles that will set the foundation for the return to normal.  Then once strong enough to support the peripheral muscles, they will continue to incorporate them into the strengthening program. 

Driving and Sitting

Physical activity is important for recovery. For optimal healing after spinal surgery, minimize the length of time spent sitting. Also, be sure to get the surgeon’s OK to start driving.

Nutrition and Hydration

After any operation, patients should take extra care to receive proper nutrition. It is also important to keep the body hydrated as good ingestion can aid in the healing process and overall comfort of the patient.  A diet high in protein aids in recovery. Fruits and vegetables help to keep bowel movements regular as surgery and pain medications can cause constipation.

Follow-Up Care

For any type of operation, especially a spine surgery, patients must take part in prescribed follow-up appointments. For the first three months after a surgery, all follow-up visits with the surgeon are free because they are included in the global period around the surgery so cost should not be a reason not to attend. Post operative visits ensure wounds and tissues are healing well and necessary interventions or adjustments to the treatment plan can be made promptly.

Receive High-Quality Recovery Care from CNSO

The award-winning and board-certified certified neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, pain management specialists, and physical therapists at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics care about their spine surgery patients and their safe recovery. As New Jersey’s most comprehensive spine and neurosurgery center, CNSO physicians work as a team to diagnose back pain and treat it with the goal to minimize the need for surgery but maximize the speed of recovery. To learn more about CNSO brain and spine surgeries, contact us today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics