After you’ve made the decision to have spine surgery, your doctor or the nursing staff will likely give you instructions about things like post-op care and medications and maybe make arrangements for physical therapy or rehab. While it’s good to have these basics covered, there are some other important steps to consider as you prepare for spine surgery, some of which will make the transition from the hospital to home as smooth as possible.
1. Arrange for Some Help at Home
Prior to your surgery, reach out to friends and family members for help with things like more demanding cleaning duties, grocery shopping, and transportation to follow-up appointments. Further ease your return home by:
- Making some meals in advance you can store in the freezer for easy preparation
- Removing potential obstacles from your home (loose rugs, clutter from common pathways)
- Temporarily setting up a bedroom or sleeping area downstairs
2. Use Assistance Devices/Products
It’s going to be awhile before you can safely bend, stretch, lift, and twist after spine surgery, especially if you’re going to have fusion surgery. Minimize the need to make such movements by considering some handy assistance devices or products designed to minimize strain, including:
- Shower chairs
- Comfortable shoes
- Toilet risers
- Slip-on shoes
- Hand-operated grippers or reachers to get stuff on higher shelves
- Water bottle with a lid and attached straw to make it easier to stay hydrated
3. Prepare Yourself Emotionally
It’s understandable to have concerns about how your surgery will affect your ability to return to work and other aspects of your life. Consider psychologically preparing for spine surgery by meeting with a therapist if you’re overly stressed about your operation and what may happen afterward. Being mentally relaxed and prepared will also allow your body to heal better.
4. Commit to Embracing Spine-Healthy Habits Post-Surgery
Minimize the risk of future issues with your spine by committing to making positive lifestyle choices and adjustments after your surgery. Set realistic goals with your physical therapist to determine what activities you can safely incorporate into your daily routine. Gentle forms of exercise like yoga and water therapy can stimulate circulation and help you regain your flexibility. Also consider:
- Permanently quitting smoking (patients are typically asked to, at least, temporarily stop prior to surgery)
- Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
- Paying more attention to your diet
- Being mindful of your daily posture while sitting and standing
Further prepare yourself for spine surgery and recovery by scheduling a separate appointment with your spine surgeon prior to having your procedure. Doing so will give you an opportunity to ask questions you may not have thought to ask during prior appointments, and make sure that you and your surgeon are on the same page with expectations. It’s extra steps like this that can make your spine surgery a productive and positive experience.