Preparing for Spine Surgery FAQs

While not all aspects of post-operative care can be foreseeable, there are many ways patients and their families can aid the recovery process before the surgery even takes place. Some recommendations for planning for a smooth recovery include:

• Working with the spinal surgeon to order and obtain pain medication prescriptions in advance, since many jurisdictions have regulations in place that make accessing certain pain medications a lengthy process. It will be important for pain management to have the necessary medications on hand immediately following the spinal surgery.

• Deciding whether to use a pain management device to deliver pain medication intravenously, in addition to oral pain medications.

• Discuss with the surgeon when patients are typically able and allowed to resume climbing stairs. Patients may choose to prepare accessible accommodations — such as planning to recover in a first-floor bedroom or renting a bed for the main floor from a medical supplier – in advance.

• Taking concrete steps to quit smoking or using other nicotine products, if applicable.

• Lining up a friend, relative, nursing service or other caretaker to help post-surgery, and consider who will take over household duties, such as preparing meals, doing laundry and cleaning.

• Planning for a gentle exercise or physical therapy program as recovery progresses.

It is important to raise any concerns about your post-operative care with your spinal surgeon as soon as possible.

Post-Op Recovery Home Preparation

Your mind is likely preoccupied with your upcoming back surgery, but it is crucial to prepare your home ahead of time for optimal post-op recovery.

Preparation depends on the type of surgery you will undergo and the design of your home. Plan to avoid climbing stairs. Another tip: Do not be shy about asking family, friends, and neighbors for help if you need it. Knowing that you followed essential home preparation regulations for your post-op recovery will help tremendously following surgery.

First Floor vs. Subsequent Stories

If you live in a one-story home or apartment you may not need to move furniture around to any great extent. If you have a bedroom on the second floor and a bathroom on the first floor, it is easier to arrange to have a bed installed temporarily in your living room or other first-floor room.

Bathroom Changes

You will need to make some changes to the bathroom you intend to use during your recuperation. These include elevating the toilet seat with a cushioned seat or something similar and installing grab bars so you can lift yourself on and off the toilet. Do not try to substitute towel racks for grab bars – they are not created for this purpose and could break.

Purchase a bath chair to use when taking a shower and add non-skid mats to the shower stall or tub and to the bathroom floor. Make sure all bathing needs – soaps, shampoo, conditioner and the like – are within reach so no excessive movement, such as bending or twisting, is necessary.

You may opt to take sponge baths rather than deal with showering, especially if you live alone or have limited help available.

Protect Yourself at Home

Take a good look at your home before you go in for surgery. Are there a lot of throw rugs? Remove them until you are fully recovered to avoid a tripping hazard. The same holds true for furniture that may impede you when using a walker, crutches, or wheelchair.

Install night lights so you can see clearly if you must get out of bed in the dark. If there are any dark areas in your home, place a lamp in them for good nighttime illumination.

Stock Up on Necessities

Stock up on everything required for your daily needs prior to surgery. That includes filling the freezer and pantry, and buying enough toilet paper, paper towels, hygiene products, and other necessities.

For the time being, consume healthy meals that only require microwaving so you are not spending a lot of time trying to prepare food or wash dishes.

Buy paper plates and plastic cutlery so you do not have to bend over and put items in the dishwasher or try to put dishes or pots and pans in cabinets or shelves.