56 Things to Do While Recovering from Surgery

Scheduled for surgery? With a little planning, you can make the most of your recovery period. Here is a list full of ideas we compiled from our Spine-health.com forums and social media community to help get you started.

ALIF (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) VideoSpinal surgeries come with a lot of at-home recovery time. Watch: ALIF (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) Video

This list was written specifically for people having back surgery, but many of these suggestions apply to most types of surgery.

You'll need some pure entertainment to pass the time

  1. Discover new music from the Internet: Fill up your iPod from iTunes, or join Spotify and Pandora to discover thousands of new tunes.
  2. Borrow some DVDs from friends, or check some out from your local library, and watch a bunch of movies that you've always wanted to see. Don't forget the classics—if you're on pain medications you may want to watch something that moves a little slower.
  3. Sharpen your thinking skills with online games from luminosity.com. You can sign up for the free version to see if you like it.
  4. Read a great classic: To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, The Old Man and the Sea, The Great Gatsby, The Call of the Wild, or War and Peace. Invest in a tablet reader such as a Nook, an eReader, or a Kindle to have instant access to almost any book in the world. If you have a smart phone or tablet, download the Kindle or iBooks app. Be sure to check Bookbub.com for free or discounted ebooks.
  5. Listen to books on CD or your iPod. Sometimes it's easier to listen to a book than to read.
  6. Learn some card tricks. Many are really quite simple, and Youtube has tons of instructional videos on learning card tricks if you're a beginner.
  7. Play classic games with your visitors like Monopoly, chess, Scrabble, or Uno. There are many online versions of classic games that you can play with friends even when they're not with you. You can also play experts online and sharpen your skills.

Playing board games during surgery recovery Brush up on your chess strategy skill while you recover from surgery.
See
Practical Advice for Recovering from Back Surgery
  1. Subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Videos, or Hulu to watch a season of a TV series that you've always wanted to see. You can get a list of the top-rated shows from rottentomatoes.com or other ratings sites to help you find something to watch. Or watch an older series, like 24, Cheers, or The Dick Van Dyke Show.
  2. Do crossword puzzles. Or try a numbers version of crosswords like sudoku or kakuro puzzles. You can find free kakuro puzzles at Kakuro.com and free sudoku puzzles at Livewire Puzzles.
  3. Play the guitar (or learn to), or ask someone to play an instrument or sing for you.
  4. Peruse YouTube's top 100 subscribed channels—you might find a few that truly interest you. Several great comedians have their best routines on YouTube, as well as singers and other entertainers.
  5. Enjoy Xbox or Nintendo, Gameboy, Sony PSP, or any handheld electronic games. Try some of the new games on your smart phone or tablet. Download the Touch Arcade app to keep up to date with the hottest new games.
  6. Try Simon, a classic memory test game. It's not too difficult, so it’s good if the pain medications are affecting your concentration. You can get a small version of it from Amazon.com.
  7. Get wrapped up in a long, complicated novel series. Here’s a great list to get you started.
  8. If you prefer, read the original magical book series, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
  9. Give yourself a manicure or a facial, or look through magazines to find a new hair style you'd like to try.
  10. Open up a Pinterest account and start pinning away. Pinterest allows you to create collections of your favorite ideas on different boards. Visit Spine-health’s boards while you’re at it.
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You'll need emotional care and support

  1. Sit out on your deck or porch for awhile each day and get some fresh air and sunshine. The vitamin D from the sun will help get your endorphins flowing.
  2. Get free therapy online and make friends with other people who are in similar situations on the Spine-health.com Discussion Forum: "...finding this site and spending time here was a great help during recuperation—both in regard to having something to do but also for learning and understanding about our surgeries and recovery, and also being able to help and assist others here—that's why I am still active here 7 months after surgery."
  3. Chronicle your recovery on Facebook, or start a blog—an online diary that allows you to chronicle your recovery and automatically notifies your network of friends and family each time you update it. Wordpress.com offers free blog sites.
  4. E-mail a loved one who is having difficulty empathizing with your condition and invite him or her to view the Message Board so they can see what you and others in your condition have to go through.
  5. Connect with an old friend with whom you've lost touch. Try sending a card or letter to him or her via old fashioned mail. Or find your friend on Facebook and reconnect.
  6. Learn to meditate and practice, practice, practice. Meditation is great for reducing stress and producing an overall feeling of calm and well-being, all of which contributes to healing.
  7. Start to plan your rehabilitation by visiting Spine-health’s wellness sections. Pick out exercises you think you’d like to try, and spend time mapping out your exercise plan. Massage is also a great way to speed recovery—ask your doctor when you are able to get a massage.
  8. See Can Massage Help Your Back Problem?

Feeling productive and getting things done will help you along

  1. Take this time to put all those old pictures in an album, or to turn your digital prints into real photos. Consider learning how to scrapbook or create online photo albums of all your digital prints with Shutterfly.com, Snapfish.com, or any other online photo service.
  2. Research and plan ahead for your next vacation.
  3. Become an expert on a specific subject: rent documentaries, read books, and use Google Scholar to do free online research on a certain subject. Ancient Greece? Bird watching? History of golf? Research and learn all about whatever interests you.
  4. Set up an digital picture frame, like a Nixplay, and load your best pictures and videos onto it so that you can enjoy them day in and day out. Tell your loved ones to email pictures they take as well - they can auto-load into the digital picture frame, keeping the images up to date and fresh.
  5. Search Spine-health.com for articles relating to your condition. Read up on postoperative recovery related to your surgery.
  6. Make some gifts the old fashioned way. Knit or crochet a baby blanket for someone who's expecting a baby soon, needlepoint a gift, or make advance holiday gifts. Doing something with your hands while listening to an audiobook can be truly relaxing.
  7. Learn the almost-lost art of lace making.
  8. Learn to write left handed (or right handed, if you're a lefty) to exercise a new part of your brain.
  9. Inventory all the stuff you want to get rid of around the house and garage, and donate it or sell it on eBay or Craigslist.
  10. Get started on that short story or novel you've always wanted to write.
  11. Make a honey-do (or handyman) list for all those odd jobs that need to get done around the house.
  12. Help build the online encyclopedia Wikipedia by editing or starting any topic where you have expertise.
  13. Learn origami and create beautiful origami gift boxes or figures.
Learn origami during back surgery recovery Learning origami can be something to do to help take your mind off of the more painful portions of back surgery recovery.
See
Practical Advice for Recovering from Back Surgery
  1. Learn calligraphy and make your handwritten notes gorgeous! This is especially valuable if you have horrible handwriting like mine…
  2. Create a list of recipes that are easy to prepare that you can make once you're up and around but still recovering. Keep track of them online with Pinterest.
  3. Learn a new language using Rosetta Stone. Many libraries carry the Rosetta Stone program, or you can download language apps. Or, learn sign language.
  4. Research the health professionals you plan to see once you are ready to leave your home: massage therapists, physical therapists, personal trainers, etc.
  5. See Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain

  6. Order personalized stationery or address stamps or stickers. Or, if you send out an annual card, get to work designing it and updating your address list.

Doing good for others will also help you feel better

  1. Every day write a short thank you (or love note) to the person who is caring for you and put it in the same place for them to find each day.
  2. Write thank you notes to everyone in the hospital who was helpful to you. Go on the hospital's social media sites and comment on the positive experiences you had.
  3. Help a homeless animal find a home by sharing their stories and pictures from rescue groups on Facebook. Start here.
  4. Pray in your own way. Research new prayers and devotionals. Read online verses from the Bible about healing and related topics.
  5. Teach someone something you know. Whatever your expertise, there is someone you can help out by passing it on. If you have learned a lot from your health experience and surgery, share what you've learned with others on our Forums.
  6. Research volunteer organizations and events that you might be able to get involved in. Many websites, like DoSomething.org, aggregate volunteer opportunities and make it easy to find something in your area. You could also donate—websites like GiveForward let you give money to support someone in need.
  7. Email thank you notes to anyone in a service role—your local police, your country's service personnel, your children's teachers.
  8. Anytime you reach out to help someone else in need, you will feel less lonely and less depressed. Volunteer with an organization that allows you to call and talk to people who are lonely, such as people in nursing homes or people confined to their house.
  9. See Depression Guide

  10. If you don't yet have a cause that you're passionate about, research one online (start here) and make a plan to start donating your time and energy to something you care about once you can get around.
  11. Be an excellent host or hostess. Send out invitations to your friends and family, schedule visits, greet your visitors enthusiastically even when you're in pain, and encourage them to talk about themselves and their lives. It will go a long way to help take your mind off your situation, and will make it a pleasant visit all around.

Getting mobile again will do you a world of good

  1. If you can't walk much yet, have someone drive you to Walmart or Target and ride one of the scooters.
  2. Schedule appointments with the professionals you researched in list item 42. Put the appointments in your calendar, and mentally prepare for them.
  3. Try to walk regularly. You can start with short walks and try to gradually work up to 10,000 steps a day. For encouragement, consider using a Fitbit or other wearable device that tracks your steps, or walk with a friend.
  4. See Exercise Walking for Better Back Health

    Get comfortable shoes for walking that are easy to get on and off. Crocs are a favorite – they're lightweight, slip on so you don't have to bend over to get them on or off, and have some traction to help avoid slipping.

    Walk on a treadmill and set a progressive goal (e.g. go for 2 minutes longer each day) that is OK'd by your doctor. Chart your progress each day so you have a visual confirmation of how far you've come!

  5. Sign up for a water therapy—it's very gentle on your back, as the water supports you while you exercise and prevents any jarring motion.

Of course, check with your doctor first before doing any of the above. Many of these ideas do require a laptop/tablet and Internet access. If you don't have a laptop/tablet, you can buy an inexpensive one (starting at $150) or try to borrow one from a friend or family member. Wireless Internet access is a good idea so you can access the Internet from your bed, a recliner, or wherever you're most comfortable.

Learn more:

Successful Recovery from Back Surgery - Patients' Advice: Part I

Rehabilitation and Exercise Following Spine Surgery

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