You were in the hospital for spine surgery. You probably had a problem with one or more disk, a cushion that separates the bones in your spine (vertebrae).
You may have had one of these surgeries:
Recovery after microdiskectomy (diskectomy) is usually fairly quick.
After diskectomy or foraminotomy, you may still feel pain, numbness, or weakness along the path of the nerve that was under pressure. These symptoms should get better in a few weeks.
Recovery after laminectomy and fusion surgery is longer. You will not be able to return to activities as quickly. It takes at least 3 to 4 months after surgery for bones to heal well, and healing may continue to happen for at least a year.
If you had spinal fusion, you will probably be off work for 4 to 6 weeks if you are young and healthy and your job is not very strenuous. It may take 4 to 6 months for older patients with more extensive surgery to get back to work.
The length of recovery will also depend on how bad your condition was before surgery.
You will need to change how you do some things. Try not to sit for longer than 20 or 30 minutes at one time. Sleep in any position that does not cause back pain. Your doctor will tell you when you may become sexually active.
You may be fitted for a back brace or corset to help support your back:
Do not to bend at the waist. Instead, bend your knees and squat down to pick up something. Do not lift or carry anything heavier than around 10 pounds (nothing heavier than a milk carton). This means you should not lift a laundry basket, grocery bags, or small children. You should also avoid lifting something above your head until your fusion heals.
Take only short walks for the first 2 weeks after surgery.
Your doctor may or may not send you for some physical therapy after you leave hospital. You will need to learn how to move and do activities in a way that prevents pain and keeps your back in a safe position. These are:
You will also learn certain exercises that help make muscles in your back stronger, and keep your back safe and stable.
Your doctor and physical therapist can help you decide whether or when you can return to your previous job.
Riding or driving in a car:
Your bandages (Steri-strips) will fall off within 7 to 10 days. If not, you may remove them yourself after this time.
You may feel numbness or pain around your incision, and it may look a little red. Check it every day to see if it:
Keep the incision dry for first 5 to 7 days. When you begin showering again, cover the incision with plastic wrap. Do not allow water from the shower head to beat down on the incision. The first time you shower, have someone there to help you. Make sure you check with your surgeon about when you can shower.
Do not smoke or use tobacco products after spine surgery. Avoiding tobacco is even more important if you had a fusion or graft.
Overall, make sure your bathroom is safe.
Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicines. Get it filled when you go home so you have it available. If the pain is becoming worse, take your pain medicine to help before the pain becomes very bad.
During the early recovery period, consider taking pain medicine about a half an hour before you are going to increase your activity.
Call your doctor or nurse if you:
Also call your doctor if:
Diskectomy - discharge; Foraminotomy - discharge; Laminectomy - discharge; Spinal fusion - discharge; Spinal microdiskectomy - discharge; Microdecompression - discharge; Laminotomy - discharge; Disk removal - discharge; Spine surgery - diskectomy - discharge; Intervertebral foramina - discharge; Spine surgery - foraminotomy - discharge; Lumbar decompression - discharge; Decompressive laminectomy - discharge; Spine surgery - laminectomy - discharge; Vertebral interbody fusion - discharge; Posterior spinal fusion - discharge; Arthrodesis - discharge; Anterior spinal fusion - discharge; Spine surgery - spinal fusion - discharge
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Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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