Recovery After Spine Surgery: What To Expect In The First Two Weeks

Anyone considering spine surgery should spend time talking with their orthopedic surgeon as well as reading as much as they can about the recovery process for their particular surgery.

Different types of procedures will have shorter or longer recovery times and various restrictions, possible post-operative concerns and important issues for the patient and family to be aware of. Typically most spinal surgeries will include a short hospital stay, and during this time additional information, support, and assistance will be provided by nurses, therapists and the orthopedic surgeon.

The First Week

Most patients after spine surgery, with the exception of some newer minimally invasive procedures, will be hospitalized for at least two to three days. Older patients, patients with complex surgeries or other health conditions may spend longer under hospital care.

The first day after the surgery will be a bed rest day for most patients. There may be some limited standing or movement required by the physical therapist, but this will be limited. Most patients will be on pain medications which may cause drowsiness.

The next few days after spine surgery will vary based on the procedure. Typically the incision site will be checked daily and may have small tubes inserted to allow for drainage of the fluid in the area of the incision. The patient will stand, walk and move around more including moving to and from the bathroom and transitioning to a lower dosage of pain medication.

Patients will also start to participate in lengthier physical therapy times, perhaps several times per day. Walking and moving will be encouraged following specific protocols; the physical therapists will work with the patient to learn and practice.

The Second Week

Most patients are discharged by the end of the first week after spine surgery. At this time, you will be provided with any necessary equipment for use at home. It is important to follow all directions including limiting movement, avoiding all lifting or twisting and only bending using the procedures taught in your physical therapy sessions.

Patients will attend physical therapy on an out-patient basis on an ongoing basis, starting the day after discharge. It is helpful to have someone staying with you to help with food preparation, dressing, and daily activities. The doctor will typically require you have this individual in place prior to scheduling your spine surgery.

During the next few weeks and months after spine surgery, you will see an increasing ability to move and return to normal activities. You will see your doctor on a regular basis and continue with physical therapy until your spine has healed, and you have recovered your strength and mobility.

At Suburban Orthopaedics, our physical therapists and surgeons are here to help answer any questions you may have about recovering from your spine surgery. To learn more about us go to or follow us on Google+.

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