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Patient HelpBook

After your Back Surgery or your Lumbar Fusion

(Return to Table of Contents for Patient HelpBook)

  1. Eat what you can tolerate but avoid overeating. Normal exercise is reduced following your surgery and, therefore, weight gain is possible. If your pain medications include CODEINE or any other narcotic, you may want to consider eating bulky foods such as bran, fruit, etc., and drinking plenty of fluids. Some narcotics tend to cause constipation.
  2. Remove your back dressing (either gauze or clear plastic dressing) 1 to 2 days after discharge from the hospital and then leave wound open to the air. Remove steri strips from the wound in 4 to 5 days if they have not come off yet. Wear non-constricting clothes.
  3. Start with walking two times a day, about one block each time. Increase the distance as you can tolerate.
  4. Do not sit for prolonged periods of time. It is okay to sit while eating and for half an hour at a time. Recliners are better than soft-backed chairs.
  5. Do not lift more than 10 pounds for the first 4 weeks after surgery.
  6. It is okay to climb stairs. It is also okay to bend but not excessively. Bend from your knees. Remember to use your legs and not your back.
  7. You should be driven home carefully from the hospital. If you are not taking narcotics medication, in a few days you can drive short distances to go to the grocery store or to do other shopping. It is best for you to do the driving so you are prepared for stops, etc. If you must go out of town, limit the trip to less than an hour for the first six weeks after surgery.
  8. Both water beds and mattresses are fine.
  9. You may resume your normal sexual activity, within reason. It is preferable to use the bottom position for the first few weeks after surgery.
  10. The pain relievers recommended by your doctor may include TYLENOL, TYLENOL with CODEINE, DARVOCET, or VICODIN (Hydrocodone), or other prescription pain medications.
  11. You must be alert for a possible urinary tract infection if you have had a catheter (a tube in your bladder) inserted. Notify your doctor if you notice any burning when urinating or if your urine has a foul odor. Remember that constipation may occur due to a decrease in activity and due to the pain medications you may be taking. Varying your diet and using a laxative of your choice, or an enema, will be helpful. Drink plenty of fluids.
  12. Your doctor will determine when you can return to work and will generally encourage you to return as soon as possible, depending on your type of work and type of surgery. If a work release is required, please ask for one at the time of your first postoperative visit.
  13. If you have increased numbness or weakness (more than before your surgery), you must call your physician. You must also call your physician if you experience loss of bowel or bladder dysfunction. You should expect normal muscle pain, residual numbness, or residual weakness if it is present preoperatively.

Other post-surgical care situations:

After your carpal tunnel surgery

After your ulnar nerve transposition

After your back surgery or your lumbar fusion

After your lumbar fusion

After your cervical surgery

After your craniotomy


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