Life after Spinal Surgery

Published: March 20, 2019

Get back to the activities you enjoy after back surgery with three simple tips from Dr. Taddonio

By: Rudolph Taddonio, MD, orthopedic spinal surgeon, vice chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at HHS Orthopedics, and director of scoliosis and spinal surgery at New York Medical College

Live your best life when you follow Dr. Taddonio’s advice on what to do after spinal surgery.

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1. Focus on Fitness

Being as healthy as possible before surgery can help make your recovery smoother and faster. Improve your physical strength before you schedule your surgery by:

  • Strengthening core muscles with exercises that are easy on the back.
  • Strengthening leg muscles by walking, riding a bike, or doing other low-impact weight-bearing exercises.
  • Eating a healthy diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean sources of protein.
  • Losing excess weight.
  • Quitting smoking at least three weeks before surgery.

2. Keep a Positive Attitude

Recovering from spinal surgery can be a slow process. A good, positive attitude goes a long way in the healing process. Your surgeon sets expectations and outlines your recovery process, but, at the end of the day, it’s up to you to get healthy and strong.

The type of surgery you have affects your recovery. If you have minimally invasive surgery, you may be able to start back to activities as soon as three weeks after your procedure. When you have complex surgery, such as spinal fusion to address scoliosis, you may require more patience during the healing process. It may be as long as six months before you return to your normal activities.

Focus on the positive and what you can do, rather than what you are unable to do. Celebrate achievements, no matter how small. After all, every milestone gets you closer to where you want to be.

3. Get– & Stay Active

Physical activity is key to getting on the road to recovery after spinal surgery. In many cases, your care team has you up and walking the same day as surgery. The more you move around — within the limits set by your surgeon — the better your recovery is.

Your surgeon personalizes your recovery plan so it’s right for your unique needs, preferences, and goals. Your plan may include physical therapy to learn safe stretches and exercises that strengthen your back, core, and legs. Your physical therapist will share exercises you can do at home to help your recovery process.

In most cases, you’ll be able to return to your favorite activities without discomfort or other symptoms after healing and rehabilitation are complete.

Activities to Avoid
Prevent future injuries by avoiding certain activities, such as:

  • Distance running
  • Football
  • Gymnastics

Activities to Enjoy
After back surgery, you can participate in many sports, including:

  • Golf
  • Swimming
  • Tennis


Getting You on the Road to Recovery

Spinal surgery is a safe and effective way to treat and manage back pain and spinal conditions that interfere with your quality of life. A wide range of procedures is available — from minimally invasive surgeries to complex approaches — to help you return to the activities you love.  '

Talk to your doctor about whether or not surgery is right for you.

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