Back surgery scheduled soon? Prepare ahead of time so you can take control of your recovery and increase the odds of a positive surgical outcome. Consider these post-surgery essentials:
- Plenty of water. Staying hydrated is important for your recovering back. It allows nutrients to flow properly, helping with joint and organ maintenance. Take your body weight (in pounds) and divide that number by two—that is about how many ounces of water you should drink each day.
- High-protein and whole foods. Your body may heal much more efficiently if you eliminate processed foods from your diet, sticking instead with high-protein and whole foods. Some ideas include whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, chicken breast, and salmon.
- High-fiber food. Post-surgery constipation is uncomfortable, so eat high-fiber foods, such as pears, berries, broccoli, avocado, bananas, lentils, beans, and artichoke. Women should try to get 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams per day.
- Convenient or pre-prepared food. Use a grocery delivery service, or look for a nearby grocery chain that will do the shopping for you if you do the pickup. Consider a meal kit delivery service that brings healthy pre-portioned food to your door. Or make a big batch of soup before your surgery and freeze it.
- Pain medicine. You will most likely be sent home after surgery with a prescription for pain medicine. Get detailed instructions from your doctor and pharmacist. Make sure you know in advance who is going to fill your prescriptions (a family member, a neighbor) for you once you get home.
- Ice packs and heating pads. Heat and ice therapy can be helpful ways to alleviate pain. Applications should be limited to 15 or 20 minutes at a time, with at least 2 hours of rest in between, to protect your skin.
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- Pill organizer. You may be on several different medications after your surgery, and you may be foggy, so organize your current medications before your surgery. Immediately after surgery, ask someone to help you add your pain medications or any other prescriptions your surgeon has ordered to your organizer.
- Laxatives. Consider taking non-prescription laxatives prophylactically after surgery.
- Cane or walker. A cane or walker can help add support and security as you take your first steps around your home and neighborhood.
- Grabber device. A grabber device, sometimes called a reacher or gripper, can help you pick up and reach for items without bending or twisting.
- Toilet riser. A toilet riser is a rounded piece of molded plastic that fits securely around an existing toilet seat, raising its height and making it easier to get on and off the toilet.
- Shower seat/mat. The warmth of a shower can help you relax, so take advantage of the therapeutic effects by spending extra time in the shower without worrying about falling.
- Recliner. Sitting on a recliner, with your legs raised and upper back propped up, may help ease some of your discomfort. If you do not have a recliner, you can create a similar effect using pillows underneath your legs and behind your back.
- Body pillow. Everyone will have a different position they feel most comfortable in after surgery. A body pillow may help you find different sleeping or reclining options.
- Silk pajamas. These are comfortable, and the smooth material may make it easier to slide in and out of bed.
- Back brace. Ask your surgeon if he or she recommends using a back brace once you are up and about. The brace may additional support to your spine and muscles as you become accustomed to moving around.
- Back scratcher. In the early days after surgery, you may be in too much pain to stretch enough to scratch your back. Just try not to scratch too close to the site of the surgery.
- Mini fridge. Before your surgery, set up a mini fridge next to your bed so you can keep snacks, drinks, and any refrigerated medications nearby and in reach.
- Movies and TV. Enjoy a little diversion and splurge on a streaming subscription so you can watch movies on your television, laptop, or tablet. Or, check out the pay-per-view selections on cable.
- Books and magazines. Stock up on books and magazines you have been wanting to read. Most likely you can renew library books over the phone or the library’s website, so get as many as you can.
- Music and podcasts. Use a free music-streaming service to make a playlist of all your favorite music or to discover podcast shows.
- Crosswords and adult coloring books. Crosswords help keep your brain sharp while you recover from surgery, and coloring books (made for adults) offer stress-relieving patterns to fill in.
- Video games. Check out some new games on your smartphone or tablet.
- Someone to check on you in the early days after surgery. If you live alone, make sure you have people scheduled to check in on you.
- A friend or family member who likes to talk on the phone. Sometimes you just need to hear someone's voice on the other line. Take this time to check in on loved ones you do not get to connect with often.
- A friend or family member who likes to text. Sometimes you may not be in the mood for a full conversation, but just chatting with someone via texting can help you feel more connected.
- Company. Once you are feeling a little better, invite friends and family over for short visits. Anticipating their visits can be just as rewarding as the actual time you spend with them.
- Help around the house. Arrange for extra help cleaning the house and taking care of the yard.
- A ride to appointments. Ask a friend to drive you to your follow-up appointments, or consider using a ride-sharing service. This is especially important if you are on pain medications.
- Online sharing. Sharing your health journey on a blogging platform or on Spine-health's Back and Neck Pain Support Group on Facebook can be a helpful outlet that allows your loved ones to stay up to date on your progress.
- Help with your pets. A "doggy door" can be a real lifesaver if you have a fenced-in backyard, allowing your pet to come and go as he or she needs. Or enlist the help of friends, neighbors, or a professional service.
General wellness plan
- A good pain doctor/physical therapist. Make sure you know who to call if you are still in pain after surgery. Use the Internet to research all the health care professionals you plan to see once you are ready to leave your home.
- Sleep. Your body will do most of its healing while you sleep. So consider investing in a sound machine, blackout curtains, and a comfortable mattress or pillow. Ask your surgeon before the surgery what he or she is willing to prescribe if you have trouble sleeping.
- Walks. Discuss ahead of time with your doctor about how soon you should start walking. Consider starting with short walks and try to gradually work up to 10,000 steps each day.
- Patience. Everyone's body heals at different rates. Try not to get frustrated if you feel you are not back to your old self as soon as you want to be.
- Massage therapy. Massage therapy can be extremely beneficial to the healing process. Even if the therapist only focuses on your feet and legs, the benefit will be to your whole body as you relax and release tension.
- Good attitude. Even if you are not feeling well, try to be grateful for the little things. Write down what you are thankful for, pray, or meditate on the special relationships in your life.
A good recovery plan is key to a successful surgical outcome, so strategize ahead of time with your surgeon and consider some of these ideas if you think they will help your recovery.