Your Guide to Neck or Back Surgery Recovery

Your recovery from spine surgery will depend on many factors, including your overall health before surgery, and the type of procedure you have. We also now offer the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program for all spine surgery patients at Littleton Adventist Hospital. The benefits of ERAS include faster recovery, reduced complications, and decreased opioid use. Read more about ERAS.

Before your surgery at NeurosurgeryOne, formerly South Denver Neurosurgery, our spine surgery care team will discuss what you can expect during the days and weeks after surgery and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Every patient’s experience with recovery and rehabilitation is different, but in general, most patients are able to go home between one and a few days after surgery. Before leaving the hospital, you may work with physical therapists and occupational therapists so that you will be comfortable getting in and out of bed and walking after going home. Typically, patients return to NeurosurgeryOne for a follow-up visit within two weeks of surgery.

Expectations for Neck and Back Surgery Recovery

After most types of neck and back surgery, you may expect to:

  • Return to work three or four weeks after surgery.
  • Resume driving three to six weeks after surgery, if you’re able to turn your neck, and no longer need pain medications that could impair your driving.
  • Be advised to avoid bending and twisting the spine for several weeks.
  • Be advised to avoid lifting heavy objects in the first four to six weeks.
  • Resume low-impact sports in six to eight months.

If you experience an increase in redness, pain, or discharge at your incision site, and a fever of 101 degrees or higher, it may be a sign of infection. Contact your surgeon immediately.


Preparing In Advance for Neck or Back Surgery Recovery

Before your neck or back surgery, you will want to discuss your recovery with your neurosurgeon. Questions you may want to ask your care team include:

  • What kind of pain should I expect after my surgery, and for how long?
  • If a hospital stay is required, how long will I likely be in the hospital?
  • May a family member spend the night with me in the hospital?
  • How do you manage the pain in the hospital?
  • Which pain medications will I be sent home with? What are possible side effects of these prescriptions?
  • Will I will need a neck collar or back brace afterward? If so, will I be fitted for one before the surgery?
  • Will I need any other medical equipment (like a walker) when I go home?
  • How soon after the surgery can I start physical therapy?
  • When should I be able to walk unassisted?
  • Will I be able to lie flat to sleep, or should I get an adjustable bed or sleep in a recliner?
  • Will I need a friend or family member to care for me the first few days after I go home?
  • Whom can I call if I have questions after the surgery? What is the process for communication?
  • When and how often will I see you after my surgery?
  • What symptoms would warrant a call to your office?
  • What symptoms would warrant immediate medical attention?
  • What limitations will I have after surgery and for how long?
  • When will I be able to take a shower or bath?
  • When will I be able to return to work?
  • What kind of help will I need when I return home?
  • When can I drive again?
  • When can I resume normal (light) household chores?
  • Should I avoid lifting heavy objects after surgery, and if so, for how long?
  • What expectations do you have for my recovery?
  • When is it safe to exercise again?
  • When is it safe to resume sexual relations?
  • When can I expect to be back to normal, without limitations?


For more information, read our blog article about what to expect during recovery from spine surgery.