To the content

Spinal Surgery: General Advice and Recovery

If you're considering spinal surgery, it's essential to understand the specifics of your procedure and what to expect during your post-operative recovery. This guide offers some general advice and tips to help you plan and prepare for a smoother recovery.

Planning Ahead for After Surgery

It's crucial to start planning your post-operative recovery before you have your spinal surgery. The fitter you are before surgery, the better for your recovery. Discuss with your surgeon and the hospital team issues such as going up and down stairs, return to driving, return to work, and exercise. Every patient is different, and the specifics of what you should know to speed your post-operative recovery depend very much on the condition you have and the operation you have. Surgeons vary a lot in their views about what you should and shouldn't do, so make sure you ask.

General Guidance

Early Movement

Early movement is good for you. It stops you getting too stiff, and it reduces the risk of complications such as blood clots in the legs. After the operation, you will be quite sore, and so good pain control, as directed by your health professional, will help you move around more easily.

Hospital Stay

Time in the hospital will be longer or shorter, depending on the surgery and the patient. Most operations for nerve compression pain do not destabilize the spine, so there is no reason to worry about harming yourself by moving around and getting back to normal. In common operations such as a discectomy or decompression, you may only be in the hospital for a short time, such as overnight or a day or two. Generally, the bigger and more complex the surgery, the longer your hospital stay will be. You need to discuss this with your Doctor and the hospital team, such as the physiotherapist. They are there to help you get better as soon as possible.

Returning to Driving

A return to driving is generally safe once you are walking well and confident in movement. That will vary from patient to patient and also depends on the surgery. A fit younger patient having a simple discectomy operation might well be safe to return to driving and work, depending on the job, by two weeks. An older patient having a more extensive procedure will take longer, more often between 6 weeks and 12 weeks.

Preparing your Discharge

Before discharge, make sure you have had all the advice you need. Usually, before hospital discharge, the health care team will prepare you for safe discharge home. This may involve assessments of walking, going up and down stairs, and the use of walking aids and toileting aids if needed. Physiotherapy is often not needed for everyone.

Persistent Symptoms

Complications after hospital discharge are fortunately infrequent but they do occur. Increasing wound pain, redness of the wound and a temperature might indicate an infection and you should seek medical advice and reassurance as soon as possible. If you have a new or very different nerve pain after surgery you should seek medical advice. A new onset of difficulty in passing urine, particularly if associated with numbness around the anus or back passage should be medically assessed with urgency- try to get to your doctor within 24 hours. If you develop pain or swelling in your calf or leg this could be a sign of a blood clot (Venous thromboembolism) and may require treatment. You should seek medical advice. With some types of pain, symptoms can persist after surgery. If nerve pain was present before the operation, it may take longer to improve. Generally, it is clear if surgery has helped by about 6 weeks. Nerve pain doesn't always completely recover. Symptoms of 'numbness' may take many months to improve and sometimes will persist.

EUROSPINE is a society of spine specialists of various disciplines with a large knowledge of spine pathologies. All well-known and accepted treatment modalities for spine pathologies are represented by the members of the society. However, the Society cannot accept any responsibility for the use of the information provided; the user and their health care professionals must retain responsibility for their health care management.

To the main navigation