Guidelines Following Surgery 

Patients will be given specific discharge instructions from their surgeon at the end of their hospital stay. The following is a list of general guidelines to help direct patients through the activities of daily life following back surgery.

Take your medications as prescribed by your physician. Do not increase or decrease the dosage without your physician's consent. If you should experience inadequate pain relief, or any unexpected side effects, contact your physician. You can also try cold packs, walking, relaxation techniques and exercises (if your physician has approved) for pain relief.
Caring for your Incision
Follow your surgeon's instructions regarding your incision and any dressings. If you see any signs of drainage, increased swelling, redness or if you have a temperature, notify your physician immediately.
A well balanced diet is necessary for proper healing. Include foods from the four food groups: dairy, fruits & vegetables, breads & cereals, and meats. Since you will be less active during your recovery process, avoid foods high in calories or low in nutrition.
If you cannot put on shoes, socks or pants without feeling pain in your back, you may want to use a reacher and a sock aid. Ask your therapist for ideas to make these tasks easier and less painful. Try crossing you ankle over your knee.
Do not twist to clean yourself after toileting. A toilet aid may be helpful. Do not strain when you are trying to have a normal bowl movement. Remember to breath and relax. An elevated toilet seat may make sitting and standing easier.
Instead of leaning toward the mirror to see better, use a hand mirror. Instead of leaning forward to spit after brushing, spit into a cup.
A shower seat may be helpful if you tire easily or are unsteady on your feet. A hand held shower hose may make showering easier. Try soap on a rope, soft soap or a soap mitt to avoid dropping the soap.
Carry light loads and/or buy small quantities. Ask the clerk for assistance. Balance the loads equally in your arms.
Clean small areas at a time. Clean close to your feet and keep both hands on the handle to avoid twisting. Don't clean the whole room or house at one time. Re-evaluate your priorities.
When bathing your child, keep him/her close to the side of the tub. When putting your child in a car seat, move the seat to the center of the car so you can sit or kneel rather than bend.
It may be easier to hand-wash dishes and let them dry on the top shelf of the dishwasher than to load the dishwasher. If standing bothers your back, try opening the cupboard under the sink and place your foot and knee just inside the cupboard. Consider storing your dish soap and frequently used dishes at a more convenient level.
Drive only after you have recovered the strength and coordination to keep your spine neutral at all times and only with your physician's approval. Use care not to twist or bend while getting in and out of the car. You may need to have wide-angle side and rear view mirrors attached to help you avoid twisting to see your car's "blind spot". Scoot the seat closer to the steering wheel and use a towel roll behind your back. Avoid driving while taking pain medications.
Desk Work
Evaluate the height of your desk or table and the height of your chair in relation to it. You should not have to lean over or reach above your chest height. Ask your therapist for more guidelines if needed.
Rest when you feel fatigued, but do not spend all of your time in bed. Initially, try to get out of bed in short intervals. Then gradually increase the time and frequency out of bed without increasing your pain. Waking up with back discomfort is not uncommon. Remember, a good night's sleep speeds the healing process.
Sexual Relations
Resume only when your physician approves. Only use positions that allow your spine to be neutral without movement. Your therapist can discuss this with you.
Whatever your activity, be sure that it has been approved by your physician following surgery. Remember, if the activity causes you pain, there is probably a better alternative. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Take care of yourself now so that you can resume normal activities once your healing process is complete. Contact your physician's office if you have further questions or problems.

The Spine Center at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center