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3 Cs to Keep an Eye on After Back Surgery

Published May 16, 2017
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff  
Tags:  Recovery

Before you scribble your John Hancock onto a series of discharge papers from your hospital or surgical center, you’re going to want to have a handle on the sorts of things you need to have a great home recovery. While back surgeries range in complexity, each requires a level of recovery time. That’s why it’s best to talk to your surgeon before you’re wheeled out to your car to know what to expect during your back surgery recovery so that you and your caregiver have a game plan.

Unfortunately, constipation may be a consequence of your back surgery recovery or come in conjunction with the medications that you’re prescribed. Either way, you’ll need to eat a diet rich in whole foods and fiber. Have your caregiver locate fiber-rich foods like apples, pears, whole-wheat or rye bread, almonds, and beans. These foods will help to eliminate constipation so that you’re not putting additional strain on your back while emptying your bowels. Aim to drink plenty of water which is a natural stool softener (you can also sip on prune juice) and keep over-the-counter constipation aids close at hand if all else fails.

Sleeping is paramount to a good recovery. Sleep helps your body heal, so be sure to have sleep aids to ensure that you can rest peacefully and comfortably. Before you arrive at home, have your caregiver purchase a body pillow or procure extra pillows from around the house. These will keep you comfortable and body pillows can be moved around and molded to best suit and support your preferred resting position. When it’s time to eat or if you want to read or watch television, you may want to have a denser back rest pillow for sitting up. These will support your back and not compromise comfort. Encourage your caregiver to line your bed with several weights of blankets. This way you can control the level of warmth you feel against your body.

Care (Hygiene)
Being dependent on someone to take care of your personal hygiene can feel like an invasion of personal space. Unfortunately, you’re going to need the help and toilet and shower aids can help take the edge off of the embarrassment while allowing some personal privacy. Failure to keep up a standard of hygiene can have many implications, like infection.

Things you will want to have on hand for good hygiene during recovery include:

  • Reachers for grabbing items you may drop
  • A raised toilet seat (and rails, if appropriate)
  • A clamp-on rail for your bathtub for showering
  • Portable grip bars for showers (if you don’t have a bathtub)
  • Bed support rail for sitting upright to apply any necessary ointments, ice backs, change bandages, or for sitting up to brush your teeth or wash your face.
  • A bell. Sounds old school, but you may be in high-level pain or slide into an uncomfortable position and your phone may be difficult to access. A bell is a loud unmistakable call for help.

Recovery is the first leg of the process. Eventually, you’ll take baby steps (quite literally) toward a full recovery and with the right care and treatment, you’ll make a complete recovery. But like anything, how you start determines your outcome. Take care of your body early on and your chances of a healthy recovery will increase.

Updated: February 20, 2020

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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Contributors and Experts

Jerry Nichols, MD is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with Carilion Clinic.