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Getting Back up: Life After Spine Surgery

Dr.Zubair Mirza

2 min read

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Spine surgery is usually only recommended for correcting spinal issues and relieving chronic back pain when all other conservative treatments fail. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the outcome will worsen the condition or reduce life quality. With a few daily-life adjustments, regular physiotherapy, follow-up testing, and temporary heart monitors, most patients come out feeling better than ever before without any need of booking an appointment with a top orthopedic surgeon in Karachi yet!

Success Rate:

A patient’s overall health and type of surgery are directly correlated to recovery time. Minor procedures like relieving pinched nerves usually take between 3-6 months to heal, while spinal fusions and other complex procedures take 6-12 months. However, nearly all patients can resume daily activities within a few weeks to a month of surgery.


Although severe immediately after surgery, the pain generally subsides and fades altogether with regular use of medication and self-care.

  • Medication: Patients are initially given pain medication like Tylenol, anti-inflammatory drugs, or narcotics via direct or IVF injections, which are then switched to their oral counterparts after a few days. NSAIDS (common pain-relievers) are unsuitable for spinal fusion, however, as they interfere with new bone formation. Moreover, patients who have previously been taking high-dose narcotics develop a resistance to the medication, and must look to other sources for pain-relief.
  • Home Relief: Along with intermittent ice pack application over the surgery site for the first 48-72 hours post-surgery, breathing exercises, listening to soothing natural sounds, and frequently changing positions can help with pain management.
  • Postoperative Constipation: A common side-effect of narcotics, and reduced physical activity, laxatives or other prescription-grade medication can help control or prevent constipation in the first week following spine surgery.


Most people fully return to work 2 weeks after getting discharged, although physically demanding jobs may take months to return to. Moreover, patients who have undergone a minor surgery are generally able to drive within 1-2 weeks, while complex surgery inhibits driving for a few months after surgery.


Physical activity is imperative for a quick and full recovery. While only light walking is recommended in the first 5-7 weeks, physical therapy generally begins 7 weeks after surgery. A rehabilitative physiotherapy program generally comprises of stretches and has the following benefits:

  • Reactivates and stabilizes the spine-supporting muscles ‘turned off’ after the surgery
  • Helps with blood circulation to increase nutrient and oxygen supply, which accelerates healing and bone growth (for spinal fusion)
  • Improves range of motion and flexibility in the muscles stiffened during the short period of inactivity following surgery.

Note: Maintain proper posture and avoid sitting for over 20 minutes at a time to prevent lower back strain. Moreover, work with your therapist to understand any restricted activities like bending, lifting, and twisting, exercises to be adopted and avoided, and determine the safest ways to perform daily activities without risking a spinal misalignment.

4-Supportive Equipment:

Some patients may temporarily require back braces that limit spinal motion to facilitate healing.  These supportive braces are usually worn over clothes to avoid irritation absorb perspiration. They come as elasticized corsets and full-body jackets. Patients should consult with their doctors on whether they need braces and of what type.


Continuous sleep is necessary for proper healing. However, postoperative pain, discomfort, medications, and frequent daytime naps can disrupt the sleep cycle. The best way to sleep is either sideways or on your back. Avoid sleeping face down as it increases pressure on back discs and bones. Here are some other back-friendly sleeping habits:

  • Limit daytime naps
  • Try elevating your head, shoulders and upper back suing pillows.
  • Keep your knees and hips bent and tuck a pillow or rolled up blanket between your knees when side-sleeping
  • Avoid sleeping with your arms over your head to prevent neck and shoulder stress
  • Put a mid-firm pillow under your knees when sleeping face-up.
  • Avoid sleeping on soft, plush-y mattresses.
  • Tighten your stomach when turning in or getting out of bed to avoid twisting the spine.


Nicotine kills the bone forming cells called osteoblasts, Therefore, patients who have undergone a spinal fusion or other complex spine surgery should eliminate smoking, particularly during the first 3 months following surgery.

Spinal surgery may seem debilitating due to the numerous accounts of failed procedures, but recent innovation has greatly reduced the risks and boasts a high recovery rate. Consult with your doctor for possible options if you have chronic back pain or suspect a spinal deformity. You can also book an appointment with a top Orthopedic Specialist in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your spinal concerns

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr.Zubair Mirza - Author Dr. Zubair Mirza is among the Best Orthopedic Surgeons in Karachi. Dr. Zubair Mirza is a Orthopedic Surgeon. He has a MBBS, FRCS (England) and LMSSA (England) degree along with an experience of 50 years.
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