Recovering from Surgery

Peer Reviewed

Occupational Therapy

llustration depicting a road traffic sign with an occupational therapy conceptPost-operative precautions and wearing a back brace can make some self-care activities and activities of daily living difficult, if not impossible. For this reason, your doctor may prescribe occupational therapy to assist you in learning alternate methods to perform these tasks. The occupational therapist will work with you and address any concerns of how to perform bathing, dressing, toileting, cooking, or light chores safely and independently at home. Training in compensator techniques and assistive equipment may be included in your treatment. Adaptive equipment prescribed to you by your therapist will depend on your ability to transfer out of bed, your mobility, your ability to use the equipment safely and correctly and your home environment. Your therapist will ask you many questions about your home environment to assure you are given equipment you can use safely at home as well as the hospital.

Due to decreased flexibility and postoperative restrictions of back movement, it may be necessary to use some of the following aids for putting on underwear, pants, shoes and socks.

  • long handled reacher
  • long handle shoe horn
  • elastic shoe laces
  • dressing stick
  • pants puller
  • sock donner



 portable toilet lenke Low toilet seats can make regular toileting very difficult and unsafe for patients who have had back surgery. Depending on the type, location and surrounding area of your toilet, you may be instructed in using a raised toilet seat and/or toilet rails. Your therapist will discuss with you which type of seat and rails are easiest and safest for you to install at home. (Installation requires no permanent changes in your home or bathroom fixtures.)

The bathtub and/or shower stall are potential sites for accidents because of wet surfaces. Transferring safely to these areas while adhering to post-operative precautions may require safety equipment including bath rails or bath chairs depending on your bath area at home. To make washing easier, long handled bath sponges and hand held shower hoses are available. Your therapist will instruct you in proper transfer techniques and equipment to increase independence in bathing.

For some patients it may be difficult to determine the safest equipment for you due to architectural barriers or environmental structures at home. If necessary, a therapist can visit your home for evaluation while you are still in the hospital.

For those patients who live alone or who are left alone, certain activities in the kitchen and the home need to be performed independently. Those can include independent light meal preparation and some light chores. Some Occupational Therapy Departments have a simulated kitchen and home setting on location to practice safe maneuvering in the kitchen and home. Your occupational therapist will also instruct you in energy conservation techniques to make these tasks simpler.

The goal of occupational therapy is to work with you to provide the training and equipment to perform all of your daily activities as independently as possible. Usually you will work with the occupational therapist 2-4 sessions, or until you feel comfortable with your training. Occupational therapy will be closely coordinated with physical therapy and nursing to allow you to return home as quickly as possible.

Updated on: 03/21/16
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Immediately After Surgery
Edward C. Benzel, MD
The authors provide useful ‘pearls’ for all patients recovering from spine surgery. This information, hopefully, will enlighten those who are considering surgery so that they are not caught ‘unaware’ during the post period.
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Immediately After Surgery

Post-operative nurses will attend to the patient's every need following surgery. This includes monitoring vital signs and providing pain management.
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