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Helpful hints to help during recovery ???

jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Recovering from Surgery

I am having lumbar fusion surgery in 2 weeks.
I know that I am in for a difficult and long recovery. If it turns out to be better than I think, so much the better, but I hope that I am prepared for the worst.

I am interested in people's experiences of things that helped them.
I have already learnt some of them on here (Satin sheets, logrolling etc.), but there are probably some that I don't know yet.

How do you get into and out of bed?
How do you manage in the shower and washing your hair?
How about toilet hints?
How do you deal with the constipation, that sounds like it is inevitable after surgery?
How about travelling home from hospital?
Comfortable positions to sleep in?
Comfortable positions to eat in?
Ways to try to relax when in pain?

There must be lots of other areas where people have experiences that have helped them, that may help those of us about to have surgery.



  • Things I found the most helpful after my fusion surgery, mine was as L5-S1

    How do you get into and out of bed?
    The physical therapist at the hospital showed me how to do this the morning after my surgery. My husband and I have a very high bed in the master bedroom so I arranged to do my recovery in the spare bedroom. The bed in that room is standard height and the frame has really great sideboards, which help me get into bed, as I'm very short and my feet barely touch the floor. It's also been helpful to have my "own" room because I can rest undisturbed as can my husband, who is working and I've tried hard not interfere with his schedule too much.

    How do you manage in the shower and washing your hair?
    We installed safety rails on the tub and purchased a shower stool prior to surgery. My home physical therapist helped me with how to step into and out of the tub. I made sure either my husband or mother were with me the first few times I showered.

    How about toilet hints?
    I highly recommend a toilet seat riser with safety arm rails if your surgery is for lumbar fusion. I didn't realize how much of a big help that was until I had to use the facilities at my mother's house. I was glad I had the walker with me or may not have been able to get back up on my own. I know some people have recommended tongs for the TP problem but I didn't have any problems with that luckily.

    How do you deal with the constipation, that sounds like it is inevitable after surgery?
    I was prescribed Senna Plus for that problem, which usually stems from the pain medication. I believe you should check with your surgeon and if they don't prescribe something, ask about OTC stool softeners and stimulators.

    How about travelling home from hospital?
    I had no problems getting home from the hospital in our Chevy Blazer. I believe I was fortunate enough to have just had my medication before being released. Also, my husband made sure to really take it easy on potholes and turns.

    Comfortable positions to sleep in?
    I have had a really hard time getting comfortable in the bed, no matter what position I'm in or how many pillows I use. I'm most comfortable on my side, with a pillow between my knees. I can usually make it about 4 hours in that position. I have been more comfortable in my recliner. My surgeon called me the evening I first came home from the hospital to see how I was doing and I double checked with him about spending so much time in the recliner, which I was also doing at the hospital. He said he had no problem with it and to be where I was most comfortable.

    Comfortable positions to eat in?
    I usually sat on the straight backed kitchen chair, with a cushion, but only for short periods of time.

    Ways to try to relax when in pain?
    I had a really hard time with this as my pain tolerance is very low. Deep breathing and picturing being able to walk a block without pain usually did the trick for me.

    Everyone is different but I also found that walking helped with pain and stiffness and doing my exercises that PT taught me helped as well.

    I was also lucky enough to have had the time to prepare where I would be spending the majority of time in my house as well as a ton of help from family and friends at the hospital and the first two weeks home. Also, a grabber, a couple of them strategically placed, were essential. I also found a medium lunch cooler essential as I spent the majority of time on the 2nd floor and the kitchen is downstairs. It saved a lot of trips up and down steps for others and myself.

    Good luck to you and will keep you in my prayers that your experience is better than you anticipate.
  • Hey, Jellyhall. I hope your surgery goes well.

    Gretchen is right on with the toilet riser, and all the other stuff. However, I haven't had too tough of a time sleeping in my bed. A wedge pillow helps some people - I think I used mine once or twice.

    One thing that I had to have my caretaker find in a hurry that I hadn't thought of was a walker. I has such bad nerve pain down one leg the first two weeks after surgery that I couldn't walk on my own. It also helped because the toilet riser I bought didn't have any railings, so I used my walker to help get me up off the toilet.

    You won't be released from the hospital until the PT person is satisfied that you can do certain functions on your own. My hospital had this really cool room that my PT took me to that had a car to practice getting in and out of, a mini-grocery store, a mini-front porch with a mailbox, a bathroom to practice getting in and out of the tub, a kitchen, etc. It was just the coolest room. Too bad I didn't feel up to walking all around and investigating.

    Relaxing with the pain - good question. The first couple of weeks were the most difficult, then things got a bit easier - but I still have pain two months out. Not as bad as the beginning, of course, but this is a long recovery. Sorry, I digress - I'm hoping that your surgeon will prescribe some valium for you for muscle spasms. Those really help to calm you down and they helped me tremendously the first couple of weeks.

    Many people have a hard time with recliners after a lumbar surgery mostly because it's hard to get out of. I love mine, though, as I put a big pillow on the back so I sit more forward than without it. I like to recline just a little bit to get my feet up off the floor, but not all the way.

    Anyway, like I said, I hope your surgery goes well and that you have a good recovery. Feel free to PM me if you need to talk or have questions. It's great to have so many spiney friends.

    Take care,

  • Your comments are so helpful. It would be impossible to prepare for surgery without the help of spiney friends who know what is going to be needed.

    I'll let you know if I think of any more questions. :)
  • Cath is absolutely correct about the walkers and I forgot to mention that. I was fortunate enough to have my in-laws lend me 2 walkers (my mother-in-law has had hip replacements) and I kept one on each floor. I did need them to get around for the first 2 weeks and to pull myself up out of chairs or sofa. I can walk on my own at this point but still have my cane with me in case I feel wobbly or encounter uneven surfaces.
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    On my first surgery, my wife picked me up from the hospital in a Grand Prix. I had a hard time getting down and into the seat, But made it by kind of falling in there.........OUCH!!!.... When we got home, rather late, I tried to get up out of the seat. NO GO! She tried to help me, we tried 2 times....OUCH, OUCH!!! And I had her call my son(and it was late on a work night) He came over, and fortunately, he's a body builder, cause he had to get his arms under my arm pits and pull this 6 footer up and out of the car!After that, the next surgery, she picked me up in a Trail Blazer SUV. You can slide right in.No up, No down!
    And your most important friend (after your meds) will Be ice. You can buy 3 bags of peas. 2 refreezing while you use the other. And just rotate. They told me you can go as much as 20 min. on and 30 min. off. It really helps keep the inflammation down!
    Good luck, Jim :? :D
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    I can lend you my ruby red pumps. They are a must! =))
    Good luck,Jim image:)" alt=">:)" height="20" />
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!

  • I love the idea of your ruby red pumps! I feel honoured that you will let me borrow them. :D

    They may even enable me to go home sooner after surgery too.
  • Hi Jelly,

    A lot of great suggestions were given, what works to help relax me when I'm in pain is accupressure, see this link:


    It's simple to do and helps w/ headaches too.

  • Don't forget to get at least one grabber tool. I have one upstairs and one downstairs. They're life savers after surgery for picking things up off the floor or grabbing the remote control off the table while you're still sitting.

    AND - Most importantly: Every spiney MUST buy new underwear before surgery. It's a spiney rule. :-)

    Take care.
  • Cath,

    I don't know if you were kidding about the underwear but I made a comment to a co-worker right after surgery that I needed to get some "granny" underwear because all of mine hurt my incision. She so kindly sent me a big box of granny panties and I have worn them ever since!
  • I will give you one tip, instead of miralax or colace or other stool softeners, I have enjoyed making pseudo-smoothies in a blender. They are fun, and give you something to do. Basically yogurt and kefir and ground flax and then build to your likings. I use vanilla yogurt(some taste better than others). Next I throw my calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, zinc pills in. Of course you could skip the pills. If you are lucky and can find green frog or ruby red powder super food supplements that is what I would use! The ruby red is sweet tasting, and the green frog smells and tastes of spirulina. Then I add kefir(plain or flavored). Sometimes I use frozen fruit(usually strawberries),or canned cherries(sweet only), but not always(use your imagination). Bananas are almost always included. I like coconut milk from the can, but I always buy the lite,because it is mostly liquid and has a lot less fat. I also use the coconut milk that is a milk substitute, like silk or rice milk(we keep it around because I prefer it to cow milk). Almond butter usually is included. I also throw vanilla extract in. Shredded sweetened coconut is also good. Pineapple is a regular inclusion. I use honey to bring the sweetness to where i like it. The V-8 strawberry banana juice is a good addition(sweet potato and carrot juice among others are the main ingredients). Sometimes i do yogurt and pomegranate kefir and pomegranate juice with flax and sometimes shredded coconut w/ no frozen fruit(call me lazy, but dealing with fresh pomegranate is too much trouble, but there is a lot of fiber in those kernels). you might add honey, but I like the way it is kind of bitter. The ingredients I listed were chosen for dietary reasons(vitamins and minerals). I also just didn't have an appetite when I first came home. You can use ice cream if you can afford the calories! That is how I started, cause a milkshake is hard to resist even if you just had back surgery! After a while I just left the ice cream out. What I found out was that I was also cleaning my G.I. tract out and having the easiest, best movements of my life(despite all the opiates). I do at least one blender full of these a day and maybe one solid meal, but a lot of days I skip the solid food.It can be expensive, but if you pay attention you can get the cost way down, we may buy one thing at one store and something else at another. Mostly we get everything from the regular grocery store and avoid "health food $tore$(hint).
  • I think everyone pretty much covered the important things. I've had two 2 level lumbar fusions (L2-S1). Neither time did I need a walker, guess I was lucky.

    The first PLIF I needed a cane for a few weeks, this time didn't need it at all (ALIFs are so much easier).

    I did install a shower handle to help get in & out of the shower/tub easier, works good for my 5 year old too. The grabber is also an essential tool. With the PLIF I needed help for the first 2 times showering, with the ALIF I did everything myself.

    One of the other things is to get your house ready: meals in the freezer, stock up on non-perishables, etc. Keep often-used items at waist height (use the dining room table, your dresser, etc.)

    You are smart to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. You'll do just fine!

    Take care,

  • Thanks to all for lots of good suggestions.
    I have 2 grabbers, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. We are having great fun 'practicing' with them. I say 'we' because all the family are having a go. They have caused so much laughter. My 3 year old granddaughter loves them. I lay a course of obstacles on the floor for her to pick up. She can build a tower of bricks with them.

    Then my husband suggested that I could tie my shoe laces by using 2 grabbers. We laughed so much when my daughter tried to do it. She couldn't manage it! but she did manage to put on a sock by using 2 grabbers. I think we may have a grabber winter olympics!!

    Any other ideas of what they could be used for??

  • factoryrat - those smoothies sound delicious and healthy too. I love fruit, so I'm sure I'll love them. What is kefir? I'm in the UK so haven't heard of some of the things you mention, but I get the general idea. I think I'll give it a go.

    Lisa - I have got a couple of shower handles, because our shower is in the bath tub, so I expect climbing in and out will be hard. I was wondering if having a step to climb onto when getting out of the bath, would make it easier. I have been told that getting out is much more difficult than getting in, because the level you are stepping onto is lower. I thought if you climb out onto a step, it would be at a higher level, then you can step down onto the floor. What do you experts think??

    I have a raised toilet seat, but without handles. I hope that I'll be able to manage without them.

    I don't have a walker, and wonder if I'll need one. My husband will be home for the first 2 weeks, so he will be able to help me. If I find I need one, he could always buy one for me. They are quite expensive, so I want to be sure that I do need it. I don't have a cane either.

  • I do not remember what procedure you are having.I did a 2 level 360 fusion(L4-S1).

    It would be easier for you to look up kefir on the web, than me try to explain what it is. Basically it is a super yogurt, and has a lot more beneficial bacteria and yeasts also. Some of these actually penetrate the mucus lining of your intestines and also grow there. I think plain yogurt and kefir taste bad. Kefir is thinner than yogurt. It is not like it cures Cancer, but as for maintaining your G.I. system you can't do much better. I do believe it came from Europe to here so I bet you can find it!

    I got a stool for the shower, I really do not think I needed it! You do absolutely need a nonslip mat or those stick on do-ma-hickeys! for the tub floor!

    I had a a raised toilet seat w/out handles. I had no issues and only used it about a month.

    As i said I do not know which procedure you are having, but I could not have done without my walker! It also kept people at a safe distance and even crazy children knew to not bump into me. You need to buy a bulb horn(ah-ew-gah) and tape it to the walker. I also put a cup holder on mine. I kept a small cloth book bag tied to my walker with small bungee cords.I wanted a bicycle basket, but did not want to waste the cash. If I wanted something and the wife was not close and blowing the horn did not get her I would unroll the bag and hang it on the front of the walker. You are going to love the reaction you get when you blow that horn! I started walking almost the day after I got home. wore the back sliders off of walker and they sell ski style replacements, that work so much better if I had know I would have out them on the first day. I walked at least an hour a day usually more.

    I wish you the best of luck. Honestly, it has been hard on me. Worse than my doctors prepared me for. I do not have any regrets, hopefully you will do even better than I have done.
  • You may or may not need the walker and I didn't have one when I got home either. I was ok until a couple of days when the leg pain started. My MIL (who flew in from AZ to take care of me but had lived here a long time previously and has lots of friends here) found a friend who had one that we could borrow. Hopefully, you know someone who can lend you one or you can rent one inexpensively.

    I also found that many are right here that having a trash bag on the seat in the car for your ride home is very helpful. It's very slippery and will help you turn and slide out of the car. Just have whoever is taking you home from the hospital to bring one.

    You should be ok with the riser without handles. I did fine before and after my leg issue. My hubby LOVED it and thought we should have one for every bathroom in our house. LOL Just remember that if you have visitors that might use the bathroom that has the toilet riser to keep the box in the bathroom so they don't have to use it. I don't know why, but we found it embarrasing to have in on the toilet when people came over.

    Norm - LOL on the horn. I can't imagine having that - what a crackup. We just had a grocery bag hanging from the front, but I never used it because my MIL what "Johnny-on-the-spot" and I never had to worry about needing anything and not having help. Maybe I should consider renting her out...

    Lisa, as for the bathtub thing - just be careful with the step so you don't miss it and fall or it gets slippery with your wet feet. If you find getting in and out of the tub difficult, an option is to have your hubby help you every few days or so and inbetween use those bath wipes that you can get at the drug store. I personally found showering more difficult when I had my ACDF than after my TLIF. With the TLIF, at least you can bend your head backwards when you wash your hair and rinse.

    Take care, Lisa and I'm hoping your surgery goes very well and you have a smooth recovery.
  • Thanks for all your advice and good wishes.

    I am having a decompression and fusion at L4/L5 with cage and pedicle screws and rods.

    I have a nonslip bathmat and have borrowed a raised toilet seat, without handles.

    I love the idea of the horn on your walker!

    It sounds like you are now doing well on your road to recovery. It is so good to hear that you don't have any regrets. I know that at the beginning, you were finding it hard.

    Thanks for spending the time to share your experiences.

  • for all your advice and wishes.

    Our granddaughter has a special toddler seat which she uses on the toilet, so I'm sure that she will think the raiser is Nanny's toilet seat like hers.

    She has completely accepted my reduced mobility and follows me like a shadow while I do my exercices, and thinks nothing of me lying on the floor. She is becoming quite adept with my grabber, and I lay an obstacle course of things for her to pick up.
  • This is a great list of suggestions, and a have a couple more to add. First one is a shower bench. I started out with a stool, which works great (if no complications) for lumbar surgery. Because your not allowed to bend, and legs have a hard time standing that long. There sometimes a little week, and it helps with leg shaving. You put your foot on stool, giving you easier access to your leg without bending. Making it safer.

    Was told by NS (and it was true) you need help showering, and makes it easier for the person helping you. Stools are cheap about $20.00 If you need to use longer then a month. I would recommend a X-Long bench. Makes it easier to slide in and out of shower, without fear of slipping and falling.

    Also have a bath mate, or no skid rug down when you get out of the shower on the floor. Slipping on wet floor is not fun. It causes lots of pain, and you also increase chances of falling.

    Also having shower bar helps a lot. If you don't have one, and like me unable to install one. Buy the ones that suction to the wall. They work very well, and are easy to install. They really hold lots weight, and force from falling or slipping.

    As someone else mention. When you leave the hospital in a higher type vehicle, and in loose baggy comfy cloths. Put a plastic bag on the seat. The plastic bag makes it easier to turn to get in, and out the seat.

    And last but not least. Wear slippery clothes to get in, and out of bed. It makes it easier, and faster to get in and out of bed.

    I hope some of these help. I know some are geared more towards lumbar patients, but that was the fusion I had. lol

    Bobbi Jo

  • for your ideas and helpful hints. I feel like I am quite well prepared for this surgery BUT if only someone knew how to take away the fact that I am TERRIFIED.

    I know it is quite normal, but I wish there was some way of avoiding it!!

    I just hope that, as some people say, the anticipation is worse than the surgery.

  • You might call your surgeon and tell them about how nervous you are about the surgery and ask if they can prescribe something to help you. My surgeon never had any problem prescribing me xanax before both surgeries. It really can take the edge off the scary feeling we have before surgery.


  • I've got my pre op appointment tomorrow, so I'll see how that goes. I haven't got much experience of surgery (or any medical intervention), as all I've had is my tonsils out when I was 3. That was a VERY long time ago. I know that I can ask for something when I get to the hospital the day of surgery. I think my surgery will be in the afternoon, because that is when I think the surgeon's list starts. I hope that he might do me first, as I don't think he will have any other decompression and fusions on the same day. If I was a surgeon, that is what I would do, but what do I know!

    I'm so glad that I found this site, it has helped me so much.
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