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Spine surgery and treatment

Diagnosis of spine surgery and treatment

Your doctor will advise you on what to expect before and after your procedure. However, here are some steps you can take to get ready:

  • Asking your surgeon any questions you have about the procedure
  • Not eating or drinking for at least 12 hours before surgery
  • Quitting smoking at least two weeks before surgery
  • Speaking with your surgeon about your current medications, allergies, and medical history
  • Making a plan for recovery, including deciding who will drive you home after surgery and making sure you have food at home that you can prepare without bending or lifting


Depending on the type of surgery you have, you may spend a night or several nights in the hospital while you recover and come out of anesthesia.

After you return home from spine surgery, you can expect to be in recovery for some time. Depending on your procedure, your age, and your physical health, recovery can take three to four months.

As you recover, you may notice lingering symptoms such as numbness if you underwent surgery to relieve nerve pressure. These symptoms should go away as the swelling decreases and your body heals.

During the first few weeks after surgery, you will likely need to avoid activities such as rigorous exercise, climbing stairs, lifting or carrying heavy items, and some household chores like vacuuming. You may also need to learn new ways of completing daily activities, like getting dressed and standing and sitting, in the days and weeks immediately following surgery.

You should not drive a car while on pain medications following surgery. Only ride in a car for short trips during the first few days after surgery. 

Starting a few weeks after your surgery, your doctor will let you know when to return to gentle activities such as walking. In general, the more you can get up and move around, the faster you will recover.

When to call a doctor for side effects after spine surgery

Your doctor will likely establish a plan for follow-up care. Outside of these visits, you should also contact your doctor if you experience serious side effects after surgery.

Complications after surgery are rare but can be cause for concern. If you notice any of the following signs and symptoms, call your doctor right away:

  • Fever or chills
  • Increased pain at the surgery site more than 24 hours after the surgery
  • Increased bleeding or seeing fresh blood at the surgical site
  • Your back pain increases over time and doesn’t respond to pain medications
  • You experience new numbness in your hands or feet
  • You lose bladder or bowel control or have difficulty urinating
  • You notice more drainage or green or yellow-colored drainage from the surgical site
  • You notice increasing swelling around the surgical site
  • You have calf pain

If you notice any possible signs of a stroke or heart attack, such as slurred speech, drooping facial features, or chest pain, call 911 immediately.


The desired outcome for a spinal procedure is to reduce or eliminate pain, or to fix a structural injury such as a slipped disc or fractured vertebra.

You may notice a loss of flexibility following some types of spine procedures, such as spinal fusion. In many cases, you will find you are able to move more easily due to the reduced pain.

Back pain can be one of the most challenging conditions. Relieving that pain often significantly improves mood, quality of life, and physical fitness.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.