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

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. Listening to music can be soothing. Explore hundreds of new tunes on the radio or from your favorite music service. Many music streaming services offer free trials.
  2. Watch the movies that you've always wanted to see. Borrow some Blu-rays or DVDs from friends, or check some out from your local library. Don’t forget the classics—if you're on pain medications you may want to watch something that moves a little slower.
  3. Get lost in a good novel. Check out the latest mystery, romance, thriller, or fantasy titles. You could also consider one of the classics, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, The Old Man and the Sea, The Great Gatsby, The Call of the Wild, or War and Peace. Grab a print version or consider an e-reader.
  4. Listen to audiobooks. Sometimes it's easier to listen to a book than to read.
  5. Learn some card tricks. Many are really quite simple, and YouTube has tons of instructional videos for learning beginner card tricks.
  6. Play classic games with your visitors. Monopoly, Scrabble, Uno, and chess are a few good options. 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 with experts online and sharpen your skills.
  2. Subscribe to a streaming service. Access TV shows, movies, documentaries, and more from your Internet-connected TV, tablet, or computer. Your local library may also have an option for a free streaming service. Find a list of the top-rated shows from or other ratings sites to help you choose something to watch.
  3. Solve crossword puzzles. Explore word puzzles or try a numbers version of crosswords like sudoku or kakuro.
  4. Master a new puzzle type. Have you ever completed a Rubik’s cube? How about a peg-jumping puzzle?
  5. Make music. If approved by your surgeon, try playing an instrument that you enjoy. You could also ask a musical friend to play an instrument or help you to start learning.
  6. Peruse YouTube's top 100 subscribed channels. Several great comedians have their best routines on YouTube, as well as singers and other entertainers.
  7. Play video games. Various game consoles are available from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. You can also search for games to play on your computer, smartphone, or tablet.
  8. Try Simon, a classic memory test game. It's not too difficult, so it’s good if the pain medications are affecting your concentration.
  9. Read a joke book. It may help lighten your mood. You can also tell some of these new jokes to your visitors.
  10. Indulge in the at-home spa treatment. Give yourself a manicure or a facial, or look through magazines to find a new hairstyle you'd like to try.
  11. Order your favorite food. With the recent surge in food delivery services—such as GrubHub, UberEats, and DoorDash—it’s easier than ever to have your favorite restaurants deliver right to your door. Just remember to check with your doctor about which foods are appropriate during your recovery.
  12. Open 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.

You'll need emotional care and support.

  1. Soak up the sun. Sit outside for a while each day to get some sunshine and fresh air. The sun’s rays can help promote vitamin D production—needed for bone health—and may also help release endorphins for a mood boost.1Juzeniene A, Moan J. Beneficial effects of UV radiation other than via vitamin D production. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012; 4(2):109-17. doi: 10.4161/derm.20013
  2. Get free therapy online. Make friends with other people who are in similar situations on Spine-health's Back and Neck Pain Support Group on Facebook. One member noted: "...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. Keep a private journal. Some studies have found that regularly expressing your thoughts and emotions, such as in a daily journal, may help reduce stress and improve cognition.2Klein K, Boals A Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2001; 130(2): 520-33.,3Langens TA, Schuler J. Effects of written emotional expression: the role of positive expectancies. Health Psychol. 2007; 26(2): 174-82.
  4. Chronicle your recovery. Use a social media account or start a blog, such as at Share the parts of your recovery that you want others to know, and with each post your network of friends and family will be automatically notified.
  5. Join a Facebook Group. Reading about and interacting online with others who are going through similar experiences can be beneficial. Many groups are available for people recovering from surgery, such as the Back and Neck Pain Support Group on Facebook. You can also recommend groups to a loved one who is trying to better understand what you’re going through.
  6. Connect with an old friend. Try sending a card or letter via old fashioned mail to an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch. Or find your friend online and reconnect.
  7. Learn to meditate. Meditation is great for reducing stress and producing an overall feeling of calm and well-being, all of which can help during recovery from surgery.
  8. Enjoy a relaxing massage. Massage is a great way to relax and reduce stress. Ask your doctor about the type of massage that is suitable for you and the right time to get one.

    See Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain

  9. Visit Spine-health’s wellness sections. You can find more tips about massage, nutrition, exercise, and other ways to maintain wellness.

    Read more in our Wellness Health Center

Feeling productive and getting things done will help you along.

  1. Make a photo album. Take this time to put all those old pictures in an album, or to turn your digital prints into physical photos. Consider learning how to create a photo scrapbook or online photo album with all your digital prints using,, or any other online photo service.
  2. Plan a future getaway. Research and plan ahead for your next vacation.
  3. Become an expert on a specific subject. Watch documentaries, read books, and perform online research. Ancient Greece? Bird watching? History of golf? Research and learn all about the topics that interest you.
  4. Set up a digital picture frame. Load your best pictures and videos onto a digital frame, such as a Nixplay or Aura, 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-upload into the digital picture frame, keeping the images up to date and fresh.
  5. Search for articles relating to your condition. Read up on postoperative recovery related to your surgery. Start your search here
  6. Make useful 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 music or an audiobook can be truly relaxing.
  7. Plan out your home chores. Make a list for all those odd jobs that need to get done around the home.
  8. Organize your home. Inventory all the stuff you want to get rid of around your home or garage. Donate it or sell it on eBay or Craigslist.
  9. Write creatively. Get started on that short story or novel that you've always wanted to write.
  10. Create a Wikipedia page. Help build the online encyclopedia Wikipedia by editing or starting any topic where you have expertise.
  11. Learn origami. Create beautiful origami gift boxes or figures.
  1. Plan your meal prep for later. Create a list of recipes that are easy to prepare that you can make once you're up and around but still recovering. You can also keep track of them online with Pinterest.
  2. Start learning a new language. Maybe you’ve always wanted to know another language, or perhaps you’re planning an international trip. Various software programs are available for learning languages. Many libraries carry the Rosetta Stone program, or you can download language apps to your phone or tablet.
  3. Research health professionals. Look up the health professionals that you plan to consult once you are ready to get out and moving, such as massage therapists, physical therapists, or personal trainers. It’s also a good idea to call your insurance and check your coverage and the in-network practices.

    See Specialists Who Treat Back Pain

  4. Order personalized stationery. Personalized address stamps or stickers can be useful if you plan to send out annual cards. You can also design your own card and update your address list.
  5. Learn calligraphy. Amaze your friends and family when addressing this year’s greeting cards with creative calligraphy writing.

Doing good for others will also help you feel better.

  1. Write a short thank you (or love note). Express your feelings through written notes to the person who is caring for you and put it in the same place for them to find each day.
  2. Appreciate your hospital staff. Go on the hospital's social media sites and comment on the positive experiences you had.
  3. Help a local animal shelter’s pets find their forever homes. You can share pet photos and stories on your social media accounts, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or others.
  4. Encourage others. Send an email or note of encouragement to someone you know who might also be going through a difficult time.
  5. Take time to listen to your visitors. If you have friends and family visiting during your recovery, encourage them to talk about themselves and their lives. It will go a long way to help take your mind off the pain.
  6. Teach someone about 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 in our Back and Neck Pain Support Group on Facebook.
  7. Consider donating to charity. You can research charitable causes online. Websites like GoFundMe let you give money to support someone in need.
  8. Acknowledge the service of people in your community. Consider emailing thank you notes to anyone in a service role, such as your local police, your country's service personnel, or your children's teachers.
  9. Volunteer from your home. See if you can volunteer for 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.
  10. Plan future volunteer opportunities. Think about a cause you might want to volunteer for after you’ve recovered and have more energy. You can research volunteer opportunities near you at,, and

Getting mobile again will do you a world of good

  1. Try to walk regularly. Start with short walks, as tolerated, and gradually work up to longer walks as your recovery progresses. For encouragement, consider using a Fitbit or other wearable device that tracks your steps, or walk with a friend. Only walk on flat ground and clutter-flee floors to reduce the risk for a fall.

    See Exercise Walking for Better Back Health

  2. Go to a store. If you can't walk much yet, have someone drive you to Walmart or Target for items that you may need. You can ride one of the motorized scooters to get around the store.
  3. Perform gentle exercises and stretches. While it is important to avoid any movements that your surgeon has prohibited—such as bending, lifting, or twisting after back surgery—some exercises and stretches may be helpful in your recovery.

    See Easy Exercise Program for Low Back Pain Relief

  4. Sign up for water therapy. Water exercise can be gentle on your back, as the water supports you while you exercise and prevents any jarring motion.

    See Water Therapy Exercise Program

Consult with your surgeon and health care team before choosing a new activity while you recover from surgery. Also, many of these ideas require a laptop/tablet and Internet access. If you don't have a laptop/tablet, you can buy an inexpensive one or borrow one from a friend or family member. Wireless Internet is a good idea so you can access the Internet from your bed, a recliner, or wherever you're most comfortable.

Learn more:

Rehabilitation After Spine Surgery

  • 1 Juzeniene A, Moan J. Beneficial effects of UV radiation other than via vitamin D production. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012; 4(2):109-17. doi: 10.4161/derm.20013
  • 2 Klein K, Boals A Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2001; 130(2): 520-33.
  • 3 Langens TA, Schuler J. Effects of written emotional expression: the role of positive expectancies. Health Psychol. 2007; 26(2): 174-82.

Dr. David DeWitt is an orthopedic surgeon practicing at the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin, where he specializes in spine surgery. He has more than 15 years of experience evaluating and treating spine diseases and trauma.