Recovery Guidelines Following Spine Surgery

These are some tips to consider during your recuperation from spine surgery. Your activity following back or neck surgery will initially be restricted to activities related to self-care and daily living. Increase your activity gradually within the limits prescribed to you by your neurosurgeon.

Driving and Getting In and Out of a Vehicle

  • You will need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home after surgery.
  • It is recommended not to use a vehicle too high or low to the ground to prevent bending and twisting as much as possible.
  • Please check with your physician regarding the length of time you can ride in a car as a passenger.
  • Your neurosurgeon will inform you when you are cleared to drive again.
  • To get in the car: Back up to the seat and slowly begin to sit down while reaching back for the seat. Do not grab onto overhead bars to pull yourself into the car.
  • Remember to keep your back straight and move your hips and shoulders as a unit to prevent twisting the spine. Bring your legs into the car one leg at a time.
  • Sitting in the front, passenger seat with the back reclined will most likely be the most comfortable riding position.

Brace

  • Your neurosurgeon will determine if you are required to wear a brace as well as which type of brace best suits your needs.
  • Braces are designed to protect the spine during healing.
  • If a brace is needed you will be fit for the brace in the neurosurgeon’s office prior to surgery, or after surgery while in the hospital. If you are fitted for a brace before surgery, please bring this brace with you to the hospital.
  • The amount of time you wear the brace will be determined by your neurosurgeon.
  • It is recommended that you wear a snug fitting t-shirt under the brace to improve comfort and reduce friction.

Lying Down

  • Your Spine Camp team will teach you how to get in and out of bed utilizing the “log roll” technique to turn to your side.
    • Move the upper part of your body, including head and shoulders, as a unit with your lower body when rolling to your side.
    • It is very important that you do not twist your body when rolling.
    • It may be helpful to place a small pillow between your knees for this process.
  • Change positions frequently using pillows to maintain proper posture while lying.
    • When lying on your back, a pillow should just fill the space between your head and the curve in your neck. Your head should not tilt up or down. Knees should be slightly bent with a small pillow under your knees.
    • When lying on your side, use a pillow between your legs to increase comfort. It may also help to have someone place a pillow behind your back.
  • Use a firm mattress.

Getting Into Bed

  • Slowly sit on the edge of the bed. (see Log Roll video)
  • Scoot your bottom back so that your knees are against the edge of the bed or the surface of the bed.
  • Slowly lower yourself down to your elbow using your hands as support, and then down to your side.
  • Bring your legs up onto the bed.
    • You may need assistance with this.
  • Roll on your back using the “log rolling” technique.
    • Be extremely cautious.
    • Do not twist your back at any time.

Getting Out of Bed

  • Your Spine Camp team will teach you how to get in and out of bed utilizing the “log roll” technique to turn to your side.
    • Move the upper part of your body, including head and shoulders, as a unit with your lower body when rolling to your side.
    • It is very important that you do not twist your body when rolling.
    • It may be helpful to place a small pillow between your knees for this process.
  • Change positions frequently using pillows to maintain proper posture while lying.
    • When lying on your back, a pillow should just fill the space between your head and the curve in your neck. Your head should not tilt up or down. Knees should be slightly bent with a small pillow under your knees.
    • When lying in your side, use a pillow between your legs to increase comfort. It may also help to have someone place a pillow behind your back.
  • Use a firm mattress.

Sitting and Getting In and Out of a Chair

  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time.
  • Change positions/activities frequently
  • Sit in a firm, high-backed chair with armrests.
    • Armrests will allow you to sit and stand more easily.
  • Avoid chaise lounges, soft sofas, chairs on wheels, rockers, and gliders.
  • You may wish to put a small lumbar roll/pillow behind the small of your back to minimize back discomfort when sitting.
  • Do not sit with the level of your knees higher than your hips.
  • Do not bend forward beyond 90 degrees.
  • Do not sit in a slouched of slumped position.
  • When getting out of the chair, scoot to the edge of the seat and push down against the armrests of the chair, using your arm strength to lift you up out of the seat while keeping your head up and back straight.
    • If there are no armrests on the chair, push with your hands against your thighs, keeping your head up and back straight.
    • Make sure your legs are firmly supporting your weight before stepping away from the chair.

Walking/Standing

  • Walking is one of the best forms of exercise.
  • You may need the assistance of a wheeled walker for a short time.
    • Your Physical Therapist will give you tips for use and instruct you about walker safety.
  • Pay attention to your posture and stand straight as you walk.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good arch support.
  • Avoid prolonged standing.
    • If you have to stand for long periods of time, it may help to shift your weight from one leg to the other. Your Spine Camp team can help you to learn this technique.
  • Adjust work heights to avoiding having to bend and reach.

Stairs

  • Use a handrail or the help of another person to go up or down stairs.
    • Your Physical Therapist will instruct you on the correct techniques for using the stairs after surgery.
  • When going up stairs, lead with your stronger or less painful leg.
  • When going down stairs, lead with your weaker or more painful leg.
  • Be sure to do one step at a time until you are stronger and you are experiencing less pain.
  • Once you are able to safely climb stairs, it is recommended that you limit stair climbing to one or two times per day.
  • Avoid placing items on the steps in order to keep the stairs safe.

Good Body Mechanics

  • Proper body mechanics should be used to protect yourself from re-injury to your operative site.
  • Good body mechanics may also help to decrease discomfort and prevent future injury to your back.
  • Try to maintain awareness of correct body mechanics during activities of daily living.
    • Adjust heights to avoid bending and reaching.
    • Maintain the normal curves of your back while, sitting, standing and walking.
      • Proper posture and body mechanics put less strain on your spine.
      • It is important not to underestimate the impact that correct body mechanics has on your spine surgery recovery and continued back health.

Have Questions?

Need help or have questions about your upcoming surgery or Spine Camp class? We can help answer all your questions.

Brittany Kuehnl, B.S.N., R.N.
MSSIC Clinical Data Abstractor
(989) 794-3002
brittany.kuehnl@midmichigan.org

Kara Haskins, B.S.N., R.N., M.P.H.
Spine Care Program Specialist
(989) 794-0340
kara.haskins@midmichigan.org