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Care after Spinal Cord Operation

It is important to keep your spine aligned correctly after surgery in order to minimize its workload and reduce the risk of disrupting the healing process. Patients work with physiotherapists after operation to learn the safest ways to carry on with their routine tasks and take part in other activities without putting added stress on the back. In some cases depending on the patient, the physiotherapist may advise the patient to use a walker for stability - there may be other medical equipments too that might be suggested for patient's home use.

Exercise and Activities:

The doctor will advise you to take short walks as often as you can, and gradually increase your distance each day. Daily exercise is important for recovery and to build strength and maintain muscle tone. Do not stand or sit for too long.

Activities that might require bending, twisting, lifting more than 2.5 Kg, or push/pulling should be avoided. If you have had a spinal fusion, avoid lifting objects above your head until the fusion is fully healed.

Talk to your surgeon about whether you can go up or down stairs. For some people, stair climbing may be restricted for the first week or two after surgery.

Pain Management

Take your prescribed pain medicines as directed and make sure to keep the refills ready in time. Don’t take more pain medication than instructed. Call your surgeon if your pain is not well controlled by your prescribed medication.

Other pain relief treatments include moist heat (not directly on an unhealed incision), gentle exercise, massage, short rest periods, and frequent re-positioning.

Pain in the area of the incision is expected immediately after surgery and should subside as healing progresses. Follow your surgeon’s instructions on when to have sutures or staples removed. Some incisions are closed using dissolving stitches or strips that fall off on their own.

Healthy Eating

Establish a balanced, low-fat diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit. Since you will be less active during your recovery, avoid heavy, high calorie, or fattening foods. Eating well is essential for a successful recovery and will help keep your weight under control after your recovery is over.

Bathing and Incision Care

Your surgeon will guide you on when you can start to bathe and what all precautions you need to take. Surgeons typically recommend keeping the skin around your incision clean and dry for at least 4 days after surgery. Avoid tub baths until the incision has healed and your surgeon clears you.

How to Lay in Bed after Spine Surgery

laying on the bed after spinal injury

  • Good deep sleep helps you recover faster. Ask your surgeon regarding the best sleep position is for you and how to get into and out of bed. The following steps may take stress off of the spine and back, but make sure to check with your surgeon first: Sleep on your back with your upper back, shoulders, and head raised slightly, using an adjustable bed or using a wedge/supportive pillows.

  • Place a pillow or rolled up blanked under the back of your knees so your hips and knees are slightly bent.

  • When getting out of bed, use the “log roll method.” While laying on your back, bend your knees and keep them together. Roll onto your side keeping your hips and shoulders in line and turning at the same time, so your spine doesn’t twist. Push yourself up using your arms (lead with your top arm) and let your legs bend over the side of the bed so that you end up in a seated position.

How to Sit After Spine Surgery

Sitting puts a lot of stress on your back. Your surgeon may give you suggestions on how long you can sit after surgery. For instance, you may be asked to get up every 30 minutes to stand or walk around for 10 minutes.

Avoid taking long car rides as much as you can while you are healing. The general rule is to never sit with your knees higher than your hips. Put a wedge or firm pillow on your car seat, sofa, and chair.

Purchase a commode raiser to assist you when sitting and getting up off the toilet.

Post-Operative Bracing

bracing for spinal injury

If your surgeon prescribes a back brace for your recovery, make sure to wear it as instructed. The brace is designed to support/stabilize your neck or back and limit movement of the spinal levels fused during surgery. Some back braces are simple corset-like supports, while others are more rigid and are fitted to your body.

Some patients use a back brace to limit motion in the spine for better recovery. Wearing a skin-fitting t-shirt or tank top under the brace helps make it more comfortable against the skin and also prevents skin irritation.

Ask for Help

Have a list of chores that friends and family can help you with to make it easier to ask for help. Your visitors can look at the list and see what is most helpful to you, such as doing a load of laundry, taking out the garbage, washing dishes, and grocery shopping. The bathroom and the kitchen are the 2 places where patients have the most falls. To avoid slipping and falling while recovering from back surgery - ask for help as much as possible. For the first couple of weeks, get someone to assist with getting in and out of the shower or with cooking, which requires a lot of standing.


Physiotherapy is an important part of recovery because it helps you regain and build strength, flexibility, and physical endurance. After your operation - you will be advised by your surgeon to start a physiotherapy program. A physiotherapist will guide you with your recovery. As you progress in your recovery, the types of exercises and repetitions will be adjusted to help you continue to progress.

When to Call Your Surgeon

Notify your surgeon immediately if you have fever or chills, night sweats, persistent drainage from your incision, opening of your incision, new onset/worsening pain or weakness, chest pain or shortness of breath, calf pain, or sudden loss of bowel or bladder function.

After Recovery

The healthy habits you adopt as part of your recovery from spine surgery are also great ways to help prevent future or additional spine/health-related problems. So, maintain that positive outlook on life and keep exercising, eating well, and getting plenty of rest, and you can stay on that recovery road for a long time!

Here is a summary for you to keep in mind:

  • Posture: Instead of bending at the waist, try to bend the knees and squat down when trying to pick something up.

  • Lifting : Do not lift more than 2.5Kgs; be aware of even normal activities requiring lifting, like picking up young children or a laundry basket.

  • Sitting: Sit for only 20-30 minutes at a time to avoid spinal compression.

  • Walking : For the first two weeks after surgery, only take short walks; slowly increase the amount of walking

  • Wearing brace: Some patients will need to wear a back brace when walking or sitting; the physician determines how long the brace is necessary.

  • Activities: Do not do strenuous activities, like jogging or golfing; do not indulge in household duties that put a strain on the back, like gardening and cleaning.

  • Physical therapy: Attend all physiotherapy sessions as prescribed by the physician.

  • Driving : Do not drive for the first two weeks after surgery

  • Medications: Be sure to take any medications prescribed to you

  • Wound / Incision care : Take proper care of the surgical incision

    1. Keep the wound dry for 5-7 days

    2. Cover the incision with plastic material while showering

    3. Do not soak the wound with water from a showerhead

    4. Be alert for signs of infection, like fluid drainage, swelling or redness

Medical Equipments you may need for Spinal Cord Surgery:

  • Hospital Bed : Hospital Beds provide the elevation and support that patients need. Hospital beds can be broadly categorised in two types - manual or motorised.

Hospital Beds come also be divided according to their functionality:

1 Function : Head Elevation

2 Function : Head Elevation, Foot Elevation

3 Function : Head Elevation, Foot Elevation, Bed Height Adjustment

5 Function: Head Elevation, Foot Elevation, Bed Height Adjustment, Trendelenburg, Reverse Trendelenburg

  • Wheelchairs : For easy movement - either self propelled or attendant pushed. Needed for mobility and carrying out everyday routine tasks. Can be dived based on if it is motor driven or not motor driven. Commode wheelchairs, Transfers wheelchairs, and special bariatric wheelchairs also come in handy for spine surgery patients.

  • Oxygen Machines: BiPAP, CPAP, Oxygen Concentrator - all are required in different situations for the patient. If the oxygen level isn't stable - your doctor might prescribe one of these machines to maintain oxygen levels.

  • Suction Machine : A suction machine is used to remove gases or liquids such as mucus, vomit, serum, blood, saliva or other secretions from a patient’s body cavity. The cavities include the lungs, mouth or the skull.

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