Back Surgery: What to Expect

If you have any questions, feel free to ask your surgeon, staff or clinical coordinator.

Will I be hospitalized?

This depends on the type of surgery you have. The usual stay for spine procedures is one to three days. Many factors can affect the length of time you stay, such as the type of problems you have, your general health and the type of surgery you need. If complications arise, your stay may be longer. Some spine procedures are outpatient procedures, and you may go home the same day as the procedure.

Are complications possible because of the surgery?

As with any surgical procedure, there is a possibility of complications. Some examples include bleeding, problems swallowing, infection, blood clots, hardware or mechanical problems, heart attack or loss of bladder or bowel control. Nerve root damage may also occur, which could result in numbness and/or weakness in the leg or arm. The possibility of any of these complications is very small.

How long will the surgery last?

Depending on the type of procedure you are having, the length of time normally ranges from two to five hours. These times vary, and a surgery time may be much shorter or longer. Some surgical procedures can last up to eight hours.

When will I start to see improvement in my pain?

Most patients experience almost immediate improvement in the degree of pain post-operatively. Sometimes, during the first two months after surgery, you may have episodes of pain similar to the pain you felt before surgery because of inflammation around the nerve. As the tissue heals, this residual pain will pass.

When can I walk after surgery?

The Spine Center staff will have you up and walking within one hour after surgery.

Will I need to use a walking aid?

This will depend on you and how well you maintain strength and balance. Physical therapists will evaluate your mobility prior to discharge and recommend any necessary equipment. Equipment arrangements will be made before your discharge home.

How long will it take me to recuperate?

Approximately two months. Recovery requires two to four weeks at home and at least six weeks without any strenuous activity.

When can I drive?

Usually in two to four weeks or when released by your surgeon. Make sure you can get in and out of your car comfortably. Do not drive if you are taking any type of pain medication other than over-the-counter medicines.

When can I return to work?

Healing times vary from person to person. It also depends on the type of surgery you had.

What will my limitations be after surgery?

Limitations vary. You will be given written instructions to take home. Generally, you should not lift anything that weighs more than five pounds (a little less than a gallon of milk). Avoid twisting or bending. No push/pull movements such as vacuuming. Do not sit for more than 30 minutes at a time if you have low back surgery, unless your surgeon tells you otherwise.

Will I have to wear a brace?

That depends on the type and extent of the surgery. Your surgeon will provide instructions on how and when to wear a brace.

Make an Appointment

Call (662) 377-BACK (2225).