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Deciding to undergo lumbar spinal fusion surgery may feel like you’re submitting yourself to a process you can’t control. But you have more power than you think!

There are many things you can do to make yourself feel more comfortable before the operation and help with your spinal fusion surgery recovery. If you have doubts or questions, never hesitate to ask your doctor about your condition and the procedure.

Spinal fusion surgery can be a temporary setback, but by following the advice below, you can have a faster and less painful return to activity.

Undergo Preoperative Testing

In order for your surgeon to know exactly what your issue is and where it is located, you may need to undergo some imaging tests before the operation.

Depending on your surgeon’s preferences, they may require an MRI, a CAT scan or an X-ray. Following the testing recommendations you are given will make the operation safer and more efficient.

Get a General Health Check

In addition to imaging tests, it’s important for your surgeon to have a clear idea of your overall health; a state of good health prior to the operation improves your chances of a smooth spinal fusion surgery recovery.

An evaluation from a medical doctor can help point out any precautions that may be important before or during the surgery. If there are any concerns, your surgeon may suggest further assessments, depending on your condition. These may include, for example, visiting a cardiologist or a pulmonologist.

Avoid Certain Medications

One of your surgeon’s goals during the operation will be to minimize blood loss.

Some common over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen can actually increase blood loss, so it’s very important that you stop taking them for a short period of time before the surgery.

Your surgeon can provide a precise time frame, but it’s usually advisable to discontinue the medication for around two weeks prior to your operation.

Quit Smoking

Smoking has no health benefits and a long list of harmful effects. If you are a smoker, there are many ways in which your health will improve if you quit. Surgery recovery happens to be one of them.

In spinal fusion surgery, a bone graft is placed in your spine, where it gradually fuses with pre-existing bone over the course of a few months. Smoking can slow or even disrupt the healing process, which will delay your recovery and possibly set you up for a second operation.

The habit is also associated with back pain, so the sooner you quit, the faster you will be on your way to a healthier, more comfortable lifestyle.

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Exercise is an important part of having a clean bill of health prior to your spinal fusion surgery.

Being well-conditioned before an operation makes you more durable and allows you to bounce back more quickly, so try to regularly engage in physical activity.

Not only will it benefit your durability, but it can also strengthen your back muscles. Strong back muscles can reduce the strain on your spine and improve your body’s ability to heal after spinal fusion surgery.

For these reasons, your doctor may prescribe physical and occupational therapy. Your physical and occupational therapists will teach you exercises to strengthen your back muscles before your operation.

Make Arrangements at Home

The items above are steps you can take to improve your overall health and facilitate your spine surgery.

What follows, on the other hand, are some arrangements that will make life easier for you during your recovery from spinal fusion surgery and help you return to normal activity levels.

  • Notify People

    Make sure that at least one friend or family member knows that you are undergoing an operation. Not only might you need someone to drive you home from the hospital, but having someone who is both aware of your condition and available should you need help is an important safety measure.

    You should also let your workplace know about your operation well in advance so they can accommodate you appropriately when you return to work.


  • Make Common Items Accessible

    Before your spinal fusion procedure, think of things you might often need during your recovery process and put them in easily accessible places. For example, it may be helpful to put things like dishes and toiletries at or above waist level so that you won’t need to bend over to reach them.


  • Get a Toilet Riser

    Some patients may have difficulty getting themselves on or off the toilet for a brief period after their operation. Toilet risers are pieces of plastic that fit onto most toilet seats and make it easier to sit and stand. They may even be available through your insurance, depending on your coverage.


  • Prepare Food

    Stocking your freezer and shelves with pre-made food before your spinal fusion surgery can save you a lot of time and energy after the operation. Lengthy food preparation can put stress on a healing spine, so taking care of it ahead of time will allow you more time to rest.


  • Use Slip-on Shoes

    Bending over may be difficult for a while after your operation, so consider using slip-on shoes to avoid having to tie your shoes.

Final Thoughts

Spinal fusion surgery can be a complicated procedure, but recovery doesn’t have to be.

There are many steps you can take to make sure you have a fast, smooth return to activity. You may use this list to complement discussions with your doctor about how best to approach your operation.

Please call today to schedule a consultation with me. (551) 284-3265

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Dr. Michael Kaiser

About Dr. Michael G. Kaiser


Dr. Michael G. Kaiser is a nationally recognized neurosurgeon in North Jersey and is a proud member of Neurosurgeons of New Jersey, practicing out of their Ridgewood office conveniently located on East Ridgewood Avenue. Dr. Kaiser specializes in complex and minimally invasive spine surgeries.

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Please call today to schedule a consultation with me. (551) 284-3265

Request a consultation with Dr. Kaiser

Request a consultation