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Preparing Yourself for Back Surgery

If you are scheduled for back surgery, you may be a little worried about how it will turn out. Fortunately, we are here to offer our assistance to you, and you will be happy to note that there is a lot you can do to ensure your operation and recovery are both successful. Before proceeding with your surgery, it is important that you fully understand the surgery and what you should expect in the weeks or month following. It is our goal to help you feel more comfortable with your back surgery and how it may impact your life afterward.


During your initial consultation, you and your doctor will go over all of your medication that you may be currently taking or have taken recently in the past. This is important because you should avoid NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. These common over-the-counter pain relief medications can thin your blood which may increase your risk for complications during surgery and recovery. Your doctor will go over your medication and advise you on what you should and shouldn’t take in the weeks before your procedure.

Prepare Your Home 

Many patients have found it beneficial to prepare their homes beforehand to make their recovery after surgery as safe and convenient as possible. Some recommendations we have for preparing your home include:

  • Place frequently used objects in convenient locations within easy reach. This includes dishes and cookware that you may typically store in upper or lower cabinets. You should avoid bending or reaching during your recovery.
  • Consider purchasing a “reacher” or “grabber” as it is a favorite item among patients who are restricted from bending or reaching. There are several styles, but all are lightweight and handheld devices with a grabbing mechanism at the end. They are about 3 feet long and have the ability to pick up even small objects such as napkins or pencils. These tools can be purchased at local department stores, pharmacies, rehabilitation stores, and online.
  • To avoid spending lengthy amounts of time on your feet, think about food preparation. Some patients find it helpful to prepare meals in advance or stock their house with frozen and easy to make foods to save time and energy after surgery.
  • A toilet riser can come in handy if you anticipate any difficulty getting on or off the toilet after surgery. They are usually 8 inches tall and are secured onto your existing toilet seat.

The Night Before

As with many surgeries, your doctor may advise you to avoid eating or drinking anything after a certain time the night before your surgery, regardless of what time your surgery may be scheduled. If you eat before surgery, there is an increased risk of you vomiting while under anesthesia which may cause lethal choking.

Home Transport

It is important to note that you will not be able to drive yourself home after surgery, so be sure to make arrangements beforehand. Please note that it may be a while before you can drive. If you are going to travel, even as a passenger, be sure to take frequent breaks and ask your health care provider for tips on how to minimize irritation and discomfort during long-distance travel.

Ask for a Helping Hand 

Depending on the type of surgery, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a family member, close friend, or home nurse to assist you around the house. Some patients may need help with physical care, light chores, errands, and cooking.

Educating yourself is key to enabling you to feel confident and comfortable about what to expect and all the potential outcomes of the procedure. Understand that surgery may not fix everything. It can make a difference in how you feel and function, but it should not be considered a “cure-all”. Building up your core, maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise, and avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking are all beneficial to improving your condition, helping you to heal faster, and avoiding discomfort in the future.

For more information on how best to prepare for back surgery, please contact Paul M. Brisson, MD Orthopedic Spinal Surgeon.

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