FAQs: Spine Surgery

FAQs: Spine Surgery

While CRMC’s specialists emphasize a preventative and conservative approach to spine care, some conditions are best treated by surgery. When surgery is appropriate, our highly skilled surgeon provides the safest and most advanced surgical techniques, specializing in minimally invasive techniques that reduce postsurgical pain, shorten recovery time, and provide the best possible surgical outcome.

When can I return to work after surgery?  

We will likely keep you off work for six weeks. This depends on what type of work you do. If you have a low-intensity job, such as a desk job, we may be able to send you back as soon as two weeks postoperatively. Contrarily, if you have a high-intensity job, such as construction or semi trucking, we may keep you off for up to 12 weeks.

When can I drive after surgery?

You may not drive for 24 hours postoperatively, at minimum. This is due to the anesthesia used during surgery. Additionally, if you are taking narcotic medications to manage your pain, you may not drive until you have completed using these medications. Upon completion, you may begin driving 24 hours after your last dose of narcotic medication or any other medication that impacts alertness.

When can I shower after surgery? 

If your incision was dressed with a Prineo dressing (this is the most common dressing we use, but your nurse in the hospital will tell you what dressing was used during your surgery), you may begin showering the day after your surgery. You do not need to cover the dressing because it is waterproof. If your incision is dressed with any other dressing, you can begin showering the day after your surgery, but you should cover the dressing with clear plastic wrap. You can do so by taping a square of plastic wrap over the dressing or wrapping the area with plastic wrap.

When can I take a bath or go swimming after surgery? 

You should not submerge your incision and/or dressing until the skin is completely healed, which should be at least six weeks following surgery.

When can I resume strenuous activities after surgery? 

You should follow all activity restrictions in the education materials for your surgery. Strenuous activities such as boats, lawnmowers, roller coasters, big vehicles like semis, dump trucks, and other construction-type equipment, golf, horseback riding, and other similar activities all cause jarring motion on the spine. This inhibits proper healing and can cause complications such as screw loosening or failure of fusion. We recommend not participating in these activities for 3 to 6 months following surgery.

When can I resume taking over-the-counter medications or supplements? 

You may begin taking all over-the-counter medications and supplements, except NSAIDs and vitamins that cause blood thinning, the day following your procedure. If you had a decompression procedure, you may continue NSAIDs and vitamins that cause blood thinning three days following your procedure. If you had a fusion procedure, you should resume taking NSAIDs and vitamins that cause blood thinning three months after your procedure.

Will I need physical therapy after surgery? 

Most spine surgeries do not require physical therapy. However, if you experienced weakness before surgery, we may have you participate in physical therapy after your procedure. Regardless of pre-operative symptoms, we will not have you begin physical therapy until, at minimum, six weeks following your surgery. We will discuss the need for physical therapy at your 6-week follow-up visit.

When and how will I follow up with my surgeon after surgery? 

You will follow up with someone from our office either in the clinic or via the telephone two weeks after your surgery. We will see you in our clinic six weeks, twelve weeks, six months, and one year after your surgery. Depending on the type of procedure you have undergone, we may obtain X-rays during your clinic visits.

How long can I expect my incision to drain after surgery? 

It is normal for your incision to drain up to one week after surgery. The drainage should move from bright red to pinkish over time and lessen in amount. If you have any concerns regarding the drainage from your incision or need to change your bandage more than two or three times a day, you should contact our office.

Do I need antibiotics before dental visits after surgery? 

You do not need antibiotics before dental visits following any spine surgery. We recommend you either get dental work taken care of before your scheduled surgery or wait one month after surgery before doing any dental work.

Will I need special clearance for the airport after surgery? 

The instrumentation in your spine will not set off alarms at the airport. If you plan to travel within the first three months following your procedure, we recommend you discuss this with a clinician at our office. We may be able to provide you with medical documentation for assistance at the airport.

Will I need a handicap parking permit after my surgery? 

Following your surgery, there is a significant risk of falling, and you may require the use of assistive devices for walking. If you feel you may benefit from a handicapped parking permit, please discuss this with our office.