Dos and Don’ts After Spinal Surgery

September 22, 2021

There are many types of spine surgery, and the decision to seek a specific treatment largely depends on the condition you have. Most professionals recommend trying non-surgical treatments first, especially if the required surgical procedure is complex and has a prolonged healing period. If you proceed with spinal surgery, you must adhere to some dos and don’ts to ensure a quick and thorough recovery. But first, what does spinal surgery really entail?

Spine Surgery To Treat Leg Pain

If you experience severe pain in the leg, also known as radiculopathy, you may have a pinched nerve to thank for it. When you have leg pain, medical professionals usually recommend 4 to 6 weeks of conservative treatment. If the pain does subside within this time frame, they may recommend an MRI scan or similar imaging study to determine the presence of nerve pinching and its cause.
Most back surgery procedures for a pinched nerve are minimally invasive and can take one to three weeks to fully recover. We may recommend lumbar decompression spine surgery or injections to take pressure off the pinched nerve when you come to us. Decompression spine surgery has an impressive success rate, with most patients experiencing significant pain relief afterward.

Spine Surgery For Low Back Pain

Spine surgery in Nashville, TN is used to treat low back pain is usually more complex than other types of back surgery and carries a longer healing time. Also, it is crucial to note that the success rate for surgery for low back pain is lower than that for leg pain. Fusion surgery may be recommended after conservative treatment of 6 to 12 months without significant pain relief.

Recovery After Spine Surgery

Patients often experience symptoms for years before seeking medical help and may overlook the pain because it progresses very slowly. Symptoms of lower back pain and leg pain in persons older than 55 years usually stem from osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis which causes the spinal canal to narrow and destabilizes a vertebral segment. Basically, the pain caused by these back conditions is aggravated by walking and can be improved with sitting. A professional may recommend lumbar decompression with spine fusion or without if a patient’s low back pain progresses so much that it impedes their ability to function.
It can take anywhere between three to twelve months to fully recover from spine fusion surgery. Depending on your condition, some spinal surgeries have a pain relief success rate of up to 90%. People suffering from persistent low back pain may also be able to receive artificial disc surgery or total disc replacement as a treatment option.

Emergency Spine Surgery

Most spine surgeries to treat severe leg pain or low back pain are not necessarily an emergency. However, some symptoms indicate a more serious medical condition and may necessitate emergency medical attention. They include:

  • Severe, persistent back and abdominal pain, which could be a sign of an abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Sudden bladder or bowel incontinence (the inability to hold waste), or both. Also, persistent weakness in the legs. These could be symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome, a condition where nerves at the end of the spinal cord swell due to extreme pressure.

If you or a loved one exhibits any of the symptoms above, it would be best to seek immediate medical assistance.

Dos and Don’ts After Spine Surgery

The thought of undergoing spine surgery may be quite intimidating. However, you will find that many pain complications can be relieved or treated successfully with minimally invasive surgical procedures with short recovery periods. Whether you undergo a straightforward procedure like laser spinal surgery or a more complex treatment such as spinal fusion, taking special care afterward to ensure recovery and prevent injury is crucial.

Dos During Spine Surgery Recovery

  • Be patient with yourself

You must manage your expectations regarding what your body can and cannot do after your surgery. For instance, you may not be able to perform basic cleaning right after the procedure, and you shouldn’t try to. Instead, you should get lots of sleep at night and try to move about regularly but cautiously during the day to promote gradual healing.

  • Follow doctor’s orders to the latter

When it comes to your health, the doctor knows best. As such, it would be in your best interest to follow all doctor’s orders including prescribed medication and medical equipment such as back or neck braces. These braces aid in supporting and stabilizing your body as you recover. Without them, you may put unnecessary strain on your spine and impede recovery.

  • Ask for help

We recommend seeking help with errands and meal preparation after spine surgery, whether you live alone or with someone else. You can even hire a private healthcare provider if you need more assistance.

Don’ts After Spine Surgery

  • Don’t bend over

Professionals recommend that you refrain from bending over for at least several weeks after your spine surgery. As such, you may need to place items you often need within arm’s reach to avoid straining your back. Flip-flops come in handy as an alternative to shoes that need tying, and you can buy an easy-to-use “grabber” to help too.

  • No Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant that can trigger a bad mood and make your recovery more difficult. Also, alcohol can react with your medication, causing adverse body reactions.


  • No Exercise

Save for gentle movements recommended by your doctor, you should refrain from any exercise or strenuous activities that might affect your recovery or lead to injury.
While spine surgery is an effective treatment for low back and leg pain, it is not always the answer. If you or your loved one has any spinal issues, book an appointment with us at

Dr. Juris Shibayama
300 StoneCrest Boulevard #300
Smyrna Tennessee 37167
615 267 6600

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In Short Words

Dr. Juris Shibayama is an orthopedic surgeon in Smyrna, Tennessee and is affiliated TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center. He received his medical degree from University of Illinois College of Medicine. He did his orthopedic residency training at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL. He then completed a one year fellowship dedicated exclusively to spine surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL. He has been in practice 13 years.

© 2022 | Juris Shibayama, M.D., Orthopedic Spine Surgeon