Surgical Recovery: OK to Leave the Hospital
Getting the OK to Leave the Hospital
After spine surgery, some patients may need to stay in the hospital for one day or longer. During that time, you will gradually increase the amount of time you are up and walking before you can be discharged. Before getting the okay to go home, your doctor will also make sure you have normal vital signs and bladder function, you can eat without feeling nauseous, and there are no signs of infection at the incision site.
Recovery at Home
Upon discharge, your doctor will give you detailed instructions about what activities you can and cannot do. Follow these instructions carefully. Remember, some discomfort is normal, but pain is a signal to slow down and rest.
Once home, you will be strongly encouraged to do the following:
- Avoid sitting and standing for long periods of time. Change positions frequently to avoid muscle spasms and leg cramps.
- Get plenty of rest but do not spend all of your time in bed. If possible, take short naps during the day. Sleeping on your side, with the knees bent or with a pillow between the knees is the best way to maintain spinal alignment. Stiffness in your back upon waking is common. Try taking a short walk or a warm shower to relieve a stiff back.
- Take care of your incision by washing the area (do not scrub) and gently patting it dry. If your stitches were removed before you left the hospital, you do not need to keep the incision covered. Signs of infection like swelling, redness or draining at the incision site, and fever should be checked out by the surgeon immediately.
- Establish a daily low-impact exercise program. Walking, and slowly increasing the distance each day, is the best exercise after spinal surgery. Daily exercise is important for recovery and to build strength and maintain muscle tone. It is also a great way to control your weight. Excess weight places a lot of strain on the back and is not good for your overall health.
- Establish a balanced, low-fat diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit. Since you will be less active during your recovery, avoid heavy, fattening foods and foods that are high in calories. Eating well is essential for a successful recovery and will help keep your weight under control after your recovery is over.
- See your doctor for a post-operative checkup. At this visit, your physician will be able to tell if your recovery is going well. Talk to your doctor about returning to work, especially if your job requires a lot of bending, lifting, standing, or twisting. Your doctor will also be able to tell you if it is okay to resume normal activities such as driving or playing sports.
The healthy habits you adopt as part of your recovery are also great ways to help prevent further problems with your health. So, maintain that positive outlook on life and keep exercising, eating well, and getting plenty of rest and you can stay on that recovery road for a long time!