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Setting Expectations for Your Recovery

Recovery should be a slow but steady process of building strength and restoring movement. Knowing what to expect as you are recovering from back surgery will help to keep you from becoming frustrated or doing too much too soon. Patience and persistence are the keys!

During the First Few Weeks:
During your first few weeks at home, you are likely to feel weak and tired. Your incision may be sore. You may also feel some pain, tingling or numbness in your back, legs, neck or arms. All of these feelings are natural and to be expected as your body heals and grows stronger. They should decrease as your nerves heal. Do not become frustrated. Keep moving as much as you can without causing your pain increase.

Get Walking:
Walking is the best exercise for you after back or neck surgery. It strengthens your back and leg muscles, increases your endurance and relieves stress. Begin by walking around the house. Build up to several walks per day. You may find it helpful to set a goal. Talk to your doctor or PT about setting a safe, realistic goal for yourself.

Don’t Overdo It:
Increased pain for more than 2 hours after an activity means you have done too much too soon. When you feel pain, slow down and pay more attention to your posture and movements. By approximately week six after your surgery, you should be well on your way to healing. But continue to let pain be a warning to slow down.

Know When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Persistent or severe pain, weakness, or numbness in your back or legs (if you had back surgery); or neck or arms (if you had neck surgery)
  • Drainage, swelling or increased redness around your incision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Problems controlling your bladder or bowels