Reader Roundup: Tips for Back Surgery Recovery

Preparing for back surgery and post-op recovery requires preparation to make it less stressful. Aside from the pre-operative appointments and mental preparation is the task of organizing the logistics of your recovery.

  • Who is going to transport me to and from the hospital?
  • Who is going to grocery shop and cook?
  • How am I going to get around the house?
  • How will I take care of my pets?
ALIF (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) Video Make sure you fully understand your condition before you have surgery. Our Spine-health Video Library is a great way to get started.

To help ease the stress, we have compiled a list of tips from our readers, many of whom have undergone back surgery themselves. Making a checklist and taking care of certain things before surgery will help ensure that the recovery process goes as smoothly as possible.

A few weeks in advance

  • Join Spine-health forums. Connect with people who are having surgery the same month as you on our Spine-health Surgery Buddies Forums. You'll get lots of great ideas, and enjoy support from people who know what you are going through.
  • Appointments. Make sure to schedule other appointments such as the dentist or a hair cut prior to your surgery. Getting to appointments after surgery can be difficult, and sitting in a dentist chair will likely be very uncomfortable.
  • Post-op assistance. Arrange for care following your surgery. Find someone to transport you to and from the hospital, and someone willing to stay with you at least for a few days following surgery. Also arrange care for pets if necessary.
  • Compile a list of important phone numbers, including doctors’ offices, family, and friends. Give one copy to your caregiver and keep another next to your bed in case of emergency. Also make sure the caregiver has all necessary keys for the car and house.
  • Check with your doctor to see if you can obtain a temporary handicap sticker.
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A few days in advance

  • Stock up. Take a trip to the drugstore and stock up on toiletry items such as shampoo, toothpaste, lip balm, Kleenex, and wound dressings. A pedometer can also be a great tool for post-op walking programs.
  • Groceries. Many patients report nausea and difficulty with digestion post-surgery, so stock up on soft foods like yogurt, pudding, Popsicles, and Jell-O, and soft drinks like ginger ale and Gatorade. Quick, easy meals are also important, so things like cereal, microwave dinners, and sandwich fixings are a great option.
    • Consider buying paper plates and plastic utensils as well so you don’t have to worry about dishes. Straws are also helpful for minimizing the difficulty of drinking post-surgery.
  • Be sure to have loose, comfortable clothing that will not irritate your incision. Also have comfortable slip-on shoes or slippers with good support and traction.
  • “Surgery proof” your home. Clear all major pathways, especially to the bathroom and bedroom. Leave nothing that could become a tripping hazard. Make sure that all frequently used items are at waist height, and set up a table next to your recovery chair where you can keep books, magazines, water, remote controls, and a telephone.

Some unconventional tips

  • Trash bags. Slip an oversized trash bag over the car seat to make sliding in and out much easier.
  • Hand towels. Place bedside table items on a small hand towel. Instead of reaching for individual items, just pull the towel toward you.
  • Satin. Consider purchasing satin sheets and/or pajamas for easy movement in and out of bed. Some readers also suggest lying on a piece of heavy fabric that can be pulled to help you turn over when necessary.

And don't forget your tablet or laptop, so you can stay connected while you recover in bed or on the couch. If you join our Surgery Buddies Forums, you'll want to check in and let everyone know how you are doing.

Regardless of the type of surgery you are having, post-op recovery can pose some unexpected challenges. Check out more great post-op recovery tips from Spine-health readers in Back surgery post-op recovery tips.

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