About 313 million surgeries are performed worldwide each year, with 500,000 lumbar spine surgeries performed in the US annually. Up to 80% of spine surgery patients experience post-surgery discomfort. Unfortunately, 20% experience persistent post-surgical pain (PPSP).

PPSP is associated with greater healthcare costs, depression, and increased risk for medical complications. Before your spine surgery, develop a surgery recovery plan using these tips.

With these tips, you can minimize your risk of PPSP and complications. Read on to learn more.

1. Ask for Help

You don’t have to use these post-surgery recovery tips alone. Instead, ask for help. Consider finding a caregiver you can trust to help you as you heal.

A caregiver can:

  • Help you get into and out of chairs/bed
  • Help you bathe/groom
  • Complete household chores (cleaning, laundry, etc.)
  • Grocery shop and prepare meals

Take the time to develop a post-op plan with your spine surgeon, too. Listen to their instructions and ask questions about your recovery plan.

They can help you maintain realistic expectations during the recovery process.

For example, you’ll need to determine which medications you need to take for pain control, as well as how often you’ll take them.

Having a loved one or caregiver will help you remain on track with your recovery plan. They can also help you celebrate small victories as you heal. Their support can help you remain positive during the recovery process.

2. Prepare Your Home

Before your surgery, prepare your home. Otherwise, you’ll likely lack the strength to make these changes after the procedure.

For example, you can:

  • Place frequently used items within reach to avoid bending/lifting
  • Invest in a toilet seat extension or handrail
  • Install a non-slip mat in the tub/shower
  • Clear a walking route indoors
  • Adjust your bed

Make sure your bed is on the first floor. Otherwise, navigating stairs could prove challenging while you heal.

Use a toilet riser or shower chair to make bathing routines easier. Make sure to have plenty of toilet paper on hand, too.

Make sure the dishes and silverware you’ll use daily are within reach in the kitchen. Stock the fridge or freezer with easy-to-prepare meals, too.

Have a plan for managing your post-op pain. For example, heat and ice packs can minimize pain symptoms. Remember to have your pain medications on hand as well.

Otherwise, wear a brace to keep your back in the proper position. A back brace can alleviate discomfort and keep you from slouching.

Bathing and Grooming

Remain cautious when bathing and grooming, too.

Don’t submerge or wash your incision for two weeks following your spine surgery. Instead, clean it with a washcloth and keep it dry.

Your spine surgeon will inspect the incision during your first post-op appointment. They’ll give you additional instructions for caring for and cleaning the incision site.

Remain aware of wound risks. As you heal, the area around the incision site can become surrounded by dead tissue. Necrotic tissue won’t carry blood to the wound to help it heal.

Keep an eye out for discoloration, inflammation, or aggregation around the incision site. Let your spine doctor know if you experience these complications. Your caregiver or loved one can help you inspect the incision.

3. Adjust Your Diet

Adjusting your diet can provide your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to heal. You can strengthen your immune system to speed up the healing process.

First, look for foods that are rich in antioxidants, including fruits and vegetables. Choose lean proteins to help your body repair muscle.

Try to minimize your intake of sugary foods and processed carbohydrates. Both can increase inflammation, leading to back pain. Instead, choose anti-inflammatory foods like:

  • Berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries)
  • Fatty fish (anchovies, sardines, salmon, herring)
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Green tea
  • Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Grapes
  • Turmeric
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Dark chocolate and cocoa
  • Tomatoes

Remove foods that can trigger inflammation, including processed meats, trans fats, fried foods, and junk food.

Instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, drink more water during your recovery period.

4. Plan Movement

Talk to your spine doctor or physical therapist to gather mobility tips. They can teach you how to sit down, sit up, or turn in bed. These movements will require you to tighten your stomach muscles.

Consider wearing a customized back brace for additional support.

Otherwise, learn which movements might cause additional damage, slowing your recovery time. For example, you shouldn’t bend, lift, twist, stoop, or squat.


After your back surgery, it’s best to avoid aggressive exercise. However, some exercise can help decrease your back pain. It can also boost circulation to decrease your recovery time.

As a bonus, exercising can improve your mood!

Walking can help minimize pain symptoms while preventing muscle atrophy or blood clots. Plan to get up and out of bed the day after your surgery. Get moving as soon as you can.

Walk around six or seven times a day to remain mobile.

Consider consulting your spine surgeon and a physical therapist to develop an exercise plan that suits your recovery schedule. Try including a combination of:

  • Low-impact aerobic activity
  • Stretching
  • Strength training

Your spine doctor might recommend you use this time to work toward a healthier weight. Losing weight will reduce the amount of stress on your spine, and benefit your long-term recovery.

5. Cut Bad Habits

Bad habits like smoking can slow down your recovery time. Consider giving up the habit this year.

Otherwise, smoking will lead to faster degeneration of the spine. Your back pain could increase as a result.

Avoid drinking as you heal, too. Alcohol can interact with your pain medications.

Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep as well. Sleep will help your body heal.

Avoid bad posture. Use low back support pillows and sit upright. Otherwise, you could experience a delay in your recovery process.

Start Healing: Reduce Your Surgery Recovery Time

A strong surgery recovery plan can help improve your recovery time. Use these tips to heal from your upcoming back surgery. Otherwise, consult your spine doctor.

They can help you develop an effective post-surgical plan with your needs in mind.

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