The recovery period is critical to the success of spine surgery. Your body needs time to heal and return to normal. Recovery time varies for each patient, so it is important to follow all instructions given to you by your doctor before and after surgery. As you heal, you may need to modify your daily activities, particularly in the early stages of recovery. Taking the time to prepare yourself before you go into surgery will make it easier on you when it’s time to go home. These tips will help you to prepare for your recovery at home.
1. Put commonly-used items within reach.
In the early stages of recovery from spine surgery, it may be recommended that patients avoid excessive bending and lifting of heavy items. Before you have surgery, it is helpful to place items you use often on countertops or shelves where you can easily reach them. Make sure your toiletry items are kept near the sink. If you keep your dishes in very high or low cabinets, you may also want to put those on the kitchen counter. You may even want to get disposable plates, cups, and cutlery to avoid the need to wash dishes for the first few days after you return home.
2. Arrange for someone to stay with you.
If you live alone, you may wish to have a friend or family member stay with you for the first few days after surgery. You may need help with errands or getting around the house, as well as everyday things like preparing meals. If you will require more extensive assistance after surgery, your doctor may work with you to arrange for home health care services.
3. Prepare meals ahead of time.
It is important to keep up a healthy diet, but it can be difficult to prepare healthy meals when you’ve just had back surgery. If you can, prepare your meals ahead of time that you can keep in your freezer. If you freeze your meals in individual portions, you’ll have everything you need ready to go when it’s time to eat. You should also stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy snacks so you aren’t tempted to reach for unhealthy convenience foods.
4. Items like slip-on shoes and grabbers can help to avoid bending.
Bending may be restricted after surgery, particularly for patients who undergo a fusion procedure. You may want to have shoes that you can easily slip on to avoid bending over to tie your shoes. However, if you purchase slip-on shoes, you’ll want to make sure they fit well and have good traction, as you will be encouraged to get up and walk around often. If you are doing physical therapy exercises or walking for a longer period of time, you may want to have someone help you lace up your shoes rather than wearing slip-ons. Some patients also find reachers or grabbers helpful when bending must be avoided. These hand-held devices are generally about 2 – 3 feet long, and have a grabber on the end to pick up small items. They can be purchased at stores that sell rehab equipment, but can often be found at larger department stores and pharmacies.
5. Take precautions to avoid slipping.
Patients are generally encouraged to get up and walk around after spine surgery to avoid stiffness. For that reason, you’ll want to make sure to avoid any slipping hazards in your walking path. Before you go into surgery, make sure that the areas where you will be walking are clear of tripping hazards. Make sure any electrical cords in your home are secured and out of the way, and that any rugs that may slip are removed or taped down with rug tape. You may also want to get a shower mat to avoid slipping in the shower.
6. Make sure you have extra pillows for support when sitting or lying down.
When lying on your back, a pillow placed under the knees can help to take pressure off your lower back. If you prefer to lay on your side, you can place a pillow between your knees. Sitting can be uncomfortable for some patients, but reclining chairs and donut pillows can sometimes help to increase a patient’s comfort while sitting.
Take the time to prepare yourself and your home before you go into surgery. It will help to put your mind at ease to know that everything is in place for you when you return home from surgery.