What to Expect with Back Surgery?

Back surgery can be intimidating, but the more you know the more you will be prepared and ready for your journey to recovery!

What to Expect with Back Surgery

Having a timeline of expectations tends to help put patients' minds at ease. At your pre-operative appointment, ask questions to your back surgeon.

Questions to Ask Your Back Doctor Before Back Surgery:

1. How can I prepare my home for after surgery?

2. Will a certain diet help me in recovery?

3. How long will I be unable to perform my daily tasks?

4. What kind of medications will you prescribe me?

5. Will I be doing physical therapy after surgery?

6. Do I need someone to take care of me after surgery?

7. When will I be able to shower? How can I prepare my shower at home?

Once you have those questions answered, knowing a timeline could help your prepare your occupation and your support system for what is to come.


Post-Op Expectations: The first day(s) after surgery

It may be frustrating at first not being able to walk or perform your daily activities, but by knowing what to expect you can be aware of the risks and prevent any further injuries from happening.

Depending on the back surgery, you could be in a hospital for a day or a couple of days after surgery. Your team of medical professionals will help monitor your levels and make sure things are going well for you and your surgical site.

You may be able to do basic tasks like showering, combing your hair, etc. after 48 hours. Listen to your team and do not perform these tasks unless you have specifically been given the green light.

Once you are home and depending on the surgery, you may be able to lift up to 8 pounds, get out of bed, and lift your arms above your head. Some surgeries have much shorter and longer recovery times for the first few days. After one week to three weeks, your abilities may increase.

Post-Op Expectations: The first few weeks

Some of the most significant recoveries happen at this stage. Up until this point, your body has been focused on healing the surgical site and getting back to very basic tasks. You should see some of your first major milestones in recovery! New tissue is being formed and your body is working the hardest during this time to recover.

Depending on the operation, you may be prescribed light walking during this time. It is important to only do what is prescribed, no more and no less!

Post-Op Expectations: The first few months

At this point, you may see more consistent recovery and have gotten through some of the toughest parts of back surgery! From here, it is important to keep up with your physical therapy as prescribed. One to three months after surgery tends to be the starting time of physical therapy. Depending on the type of surgery, you could be prescribed a couple of sessions a week or several. If at-home physical therapy is a part of your physical therapist's treatment plan, it is crucial for your recovery that you complete it! 

Your activity level will gradually increase over the course of several months. Throughout this journey, you should have post-operative appointments with your back surgeon. During these appointments, be prepared to come up with any questions you may have had, and ask if there is anything else you can be doing to speed up your recovery!


Remember, everyone's journey is different. There is no straight line to a full recovery. There will be setbacks and challenges, but the most successful patients are the ones who are determined and focused on their well-being and recovery.


If you are looking for a back doctor in Nashville, call our office at 615.624.1600 and ask for a back pain specialist near you.

Cassie Whittaker Cassie is the Communications Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/cassie-whittaker-802a3b173

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