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Home Health What to expect after a spine surgery?

What to expect after a spine surgery?

Spine surgery is a major surgical procedure that is usually performed to treat back pain due to herniated disc, stenosis, or other condition and spinal defects in people. Spinal surgeries are major operations which is generally recommended other non-invasive methods such as physical therapy and pain medication does not improve the symptoms. The recovery period after the surgery depends on of the type of surgery and technique used. The latest techniques such as minimally invasive spine surgery have reduced the recovery period and hospital stay as it involves faster healing and less post-operative discomfort. 

The surgery aims to improve the pain and other symptoms of a spinal problem, providing a long-term solution to the disease. Patients who undergo spinal surgery are known to have an improved quality of life and be more active. 

Some common spinal surgeries are :

Disectomy – involves removal of all or part of the intervertebral disc 

Foraminotomy – involves widening the opening in the spinal column at the area where nerve roots leave 

Laminectomy – this surgery is done to remove the lamina, a pair of small bones that consitue the vertebra, or bone spurs in the vertebra. This helps decompress or remove the pressure from the spinal nerves or spinal column

Spinal fusion – this involves fusion of two vertebra bones to correct spinal problems. It can be done using minimally invasive techniques such as TLIF, PLIF, OLIF and others. 

Indian hospitals offers all kinds of spinal surgeries at an affordable price, in comparison of the cost of treatment in European countries and the USA. The reasonable cost of spinal surgery in India can help a foreign patient can save more than 50-70% on the overall expense. 

Recovery period 

The length of recovery period depends on the severity of the condition before surgery, type of surgery and kind of technique used. 

With a discectomy or foraminotomy, patient may feel numbness, pain, or weakness along the nerve path that was pressurized due to the condition. The symptoms will get better over a few weeks.

After a laminectomy and fusion surgery, recovery period is longer. It will take more time to return to normal activities as these are more complex procedures. It may take 3 to 4 months or more after the surgery to recover properly and bones to heal well. The complete healing may even take a year.

In case of a spinal fusion, it might take 4 to 6 weeks to get back to work if the patient is young and healthy. Also, the nature of the patient’s job also influences this time period. Recovery for older people may take 4 to 6 months to get back to work and normal activities.

Post discharge 

After the surgery, the patient is shifted to the post-anaesthesia care unit where a health care team monitors the patient periodically. Hospitalization of one to three days in a normal room can be anticipated, depending on the kind of procedure performed. 

Recovery phase and rehabilitation starts from the first day after surgery. The doctor will prescribe pain medication so that the patient can comfortably perform all the activities. They will also advise to use a spirometer to help with deep breathing. Physical therapists and occupational therapists will work with the patient to guide them through the basic movements and light exercises to promote the recovery process.

Usually, the patient is able to walk 20 to 40 feet with minimal assistance on the first or second day post-surgery. Most people get discharged home after they are able to do so. Sometimes, a longer stay may be required to ensure stability and recovery to the spine. 


Regular physical therapy and exercise has to be followed after getting home from the hospital. It will help the patient’s ability to walk and move comfortable over a period of time. It will gradually increase ability to perform all the daily activities. The doctor will provide you necessary medications and discharge instructions that have to take care of at home. Also, the doctor will keep monitoring the healing and recovery at follow-up appointments. 

Depending on the type and need of spine surgery, you may or may not require a brace. The brace has to be worn while sitting or walking. 

Things to remember: 

  • Avoid bending at the waist – instead bend your knees while picking up something
  • Avoid lifting heavy weights (heavier than 4.5 kg) and also lifting something above the head in case of fusion surgery recovery. 
  • For the first 2 weeks post-surgery, take only short walks. Then gradually increase the distance over a period of time. 
  • Avoid activities like swimming, running, golfing, or other strenuous activities until the doctor advises so. Also, avoid vacuuming and other household cleaning activities that are strenuous.
  • Avoid driving for the first 2 weeks after surgery. Start with short trips if the surgeon allows it.
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