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Lumbar Spine Surgery

Lumbar surgery refers to any type of surgery in the lumbar spine, or lower back, between one or more of the L1-S1 levels. Lumbar spine surgery often more predictably relieves associated pain or numbness that goes down one or both arms or legs. Many patients see and feel immediate benefits, and they need the benefits of a comprehensive rehabilitation program for several months to get the total benefit.


1.      Hospital Stay

A.     Day One

Under the supervision of a physical therapist, you may sit on the edge of the bed and stand with support. Patients are often encouraged to stand and sit (with assistance if needed) within twenty-four hours after surgery. Few walking, however, is approached gradually and in a guided manner to avoid injury and complications.


Your nurse will check the circulation and motion of your legs and feet. You may have an incentive spirometer (blue inhalation tube) to help expand your lungs and prevent pneumonia. The drain may be removed from your incision and the dressing changed. Surgical tape, sutures, or adhesive tape will have been used to close your incision. An ice pack or cooling pad may be used to help decrease swelling and increase your comfort. It is common to continue intravenous fluids for the first two days.



Your physical therapist will work with you to help you begin moving safely. Ideas will be given to help you move safely in bed and up to a sitting position. You will gradually progress to standing and walking. You may require the use of a walking aid (cane or walker) for a short time following surgery. Exercises may be given to ease soreness in your legs. You may begin static tightening of the thigh and buttocks muscles. Ankle pump exercises can help fluid from pooling in the lower limbs.


B.     Day Two

The intravenous line may be removed. If you have a urinary catheter, that is also often removed. You will probably continue using the incentive spirometer. Your wound dressing may be changed.



It is important to continue with the exercises to promote motion and prevent muscle soreness and tightness. Ice packs may be applied before and/or after therapy treatments to reduce swelling and relieve pain. With assistance from your therapist, you will gradually increase the distance you are walking in preparation for going home.


C.     Day Three and Beyond

Daily blood testing for anti-coagulation therapy may continue. If needed, the wound dressing will be changed or removed. Self-care aids may be used to reduce stress on your back, such as chair cushions, raised toilet seat, or bathing aids.



Your physical activity will continue to focus on your safety with mobility and helping you toward independence. In spite of any mild discomfort, it is important that you do the deep breathing and physical therapy exercises as instructed. Patients who breathe well and work at tightening their muscles are able to improve their lung capacity and circulation, and they often heal faster.


Preparing for Discharge Home

A.  Incision Care

1.       No baths, hot tubs, or swimming until cleared by your surgeon (normally for 4-6 weeks after surgery).

2.       Incisions without sutures or staples (only covered by steri-strips) can get wet 14 days after surgery.

3.       Do not attempt to remove steri-strips that are adherent before 14 days after surgery.

4.       If you have stitches or staples your surgeon’s office will remove them between 10-21 days post operatively. Steri-strips may be applied following the removal of your stitches or staples.

Please contact our staff 886-7-2855999 ext. 507, 607,707,807 without hesitation if you have:

(1)    Redness, swelling, or increased pain around the wound edges.

(2)    Pus or bad smelling discharge from the wound.

(3)    Opening of the incision.

(4)    Fever.


B.  For 6 weeks after surgery:

1.   No bending, extending or twisting the neck.

2.   No lifting over 10 pounds.

3.   No lifting overhead.

4.   Gradual return to prolonged sitting, standing and walking.


C.   For 3 Months After Surgery:

1.      Please schedule a follow-up meeting with your physician. You may also need to have x-rays in preparation for the visit in order for the surgeon to see your progress.

2.      To protect your low back, do not schedule routine dental work for 3 months after surgery.