After your surgery I will come up and visit you in the ward, checking in on you and talking through how you are; making sure that your post-operative care is exactly as I prescribed. I will talk with the nurses and review your test results and medications.
Your wellbeing is important and has a big impact on your recovery.
I then come and visit you in hospital daily until you are discharged; answering any questions you have and making sure you are being well-looked after.
First two weeks
Expected levels of pain
The operative site will be sore but improving.
Leave the dressing that was applied at discharge from hospital intact. It should be removed 10 days after the day of surgery. The sutures will be buried and absorbable, so no stitches need to be removed after surgery.
It is best to keep active, but gently does it. Walking on level ground without pushing beyond reasonable discomfort is advised. Lying down all the time leads to loss of muscle tone and increased medical complications.
Tablets will be prescribed at the time of discharge and should be taken as directed. If you need more, please contact your GP.
Emotions and tiredness
It is common after an operation to be feeling low or down. So be gentle on yourself and allow for this in your plans when you leave hospital. Your spirits will naturally improve with a little time and gentle activity.
Travelling in a car
Being a passenger in a car will not harm your neck or back but may make them painful. If trips in a car are necessary, then try to make them short or break them up with stops for a walk at least every hour. It is important to sit up properly in the car seat and wear a seat-belt for safety and support reasons.
First six weeks
The first milestone in recovery is at about 6 weeks. After this time, it is good to increase activity levels in a sensible way and start resuming your usual roles at home and/or work. For those with physically demanding work, resumption of work will take longer. Some people will be able to return to work earlier.
Driving a car
Do not expect to drive any vehicle until 6 weeks after surgery for bigger operations, or 2 weeks for small operations. This is because pain in the neck or back could prevent you from controlling the vehicle safely.
Recovery of function
Full recovery often depends on commitment to regular exercise in order to build up muscle and stamina that was lost due the original condition and then the surgery.
Commonly, the need for spine surgery comes about because of a degenerative problem in the spine, which may have been exacerbated by an injury. This means that your spine needs to be looked after, even though surgery has relieved painful symptoms. The spine benefits from regular exercise and keeping down to a healthy body weight. The exercise does not need to be strenuous but should be regular and tailored to your level of fitness and strength. The basic minimum is walking for 30 minutes each day. Swimming is good for the back and some people like to visit a gymnasium. If planning to use a gym, ensure that you use a program that is safe for your back.