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Have you recently been scheduled to undergo spine surgery in New Jersey or the Tristate area? It may seem as though the surgery itself is the biggest aspect of your journey to a healthy spine. While the procedure itself is pivotal, many people don’t realize that the recovery is just as important.

You’re probably wondering what to expect when contemplating a spine surgery recovery timeline. While each individual’s recovery is different, the recovery path tends to follow the same general timeline for most people.

The Spine Surgery Recovery Timeline

Spine surgery is a broad term used to describe a wide range of procedures that are surgically performed on the spine. As such, the spine surgery recovery timeline for each surgery will vary. Following are the general timelines for Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy & Microdiscectomy, Cervical Discectomy and Fusion/Arthroplasty and Minimally Invasive Lumbar Microdiscectomy.

It’s important to remember that these are general averages. Your recovery from any of these procedures may be longer or shorter, depending on factors such as your current health status, whether you require implants such as rods or plates and the involvement of surrounding structures.

Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy and Microdiscectomy

A posterior cervical foraminotomy and microdiscectomy surgery involves both the bones and the soft tissues (disc) of the spine.

The cervical region of the spine spans the length of your neck. A foraminotomy involved removing the rear portion of a vertebra (the bones that make up your spine) to create more room for your spinal cord and nerves. This is a common surgery when there is spinal stenosis present, or an injury or bone changes have started causing issues.

A microdiscectomy is the removal of the rubbery disc between the vertebrae. This is done if the disc is damaged or has begun to break down.


Following your surgery, you should be able to return home after one to two days in the hospital. Prior to returning home, you’ll be transitioned from intravenous to oral pain medications.

Once home it’s important that you heed the recommendations of your surgeon and physical therapist in properly moving. You’ll need to be able to walk, do basic tasks such as brushing your teeth and hair and getting in and out of bed without putting a strain on your neck.

You’ll need to avoid too much bending or twisting of your neck, as this can cause damage to your new surgical site. After the first couple of weeks, you will gradually be allowed to turn and bend your neck more as the muscles strengthen and the surgical wound heals. A soft brace may help provide comfort and support for the first week while the muscles and tissues recover.

You can expect the incision itself to be healed within two weeks. In most cases, your surgeon will not have you cover it. It is essential to keep it dry; basic showering is okay but soaking in the bath should not be done until the wound is completely healed.

Lifting restrictions will be outlined for you. Most people are allowed to lift no more than five pounds for the first four weeks. Your doctor may adjust this depending on your rate of recovery.

If you work in a low-impact occupation, you may be able to return to work as soon as one to two weeks following your surgery. If you have a more strenuous job, you may have to wait as long as one to two months to return to work.


Be sure you attend all follow-up appointments that are scheduled for you. At around one week to 10 days following surgery, you will need to return to your surgeon so he or she can assess your incision and take x-rays or other imaging, if necessary. If warranted, you may also be instructed to begin physical therapy.

Cervical Discectomy and Fusion or Arthroplasty

Cervical discectomy and fusion involve your surgeon removing the offending disc from between the vertebrae in your neck. A graft of bone is then used to create a bridge between the bones on either side of the disc space, essentially resulting in a column of bone that protects and supports the void where the disc was. There can be a small loss of movement but the stability far outweighs the inconvenience for most people.

In the case of cervical arthroplasty, the damaged disc is removed. A manmade disc is then inserted into the space. The advantage of an arthroplasty is that it restores range of motion.

The spine surgery recovery timeline for cervical discectomy and fusion or arthroplasty is somewhat similar to that of a foraminotomy and microdiscectomy.


Once you’re out of surgery you can expect to spend anywhere from 1 – 3 days in the hospital. You’ll be transitioned from intravenous pain drugs to oral drugs. You may also be taught by a physical therapist to learn how to properly carry out regular activities such as getting in and out of bed, getting up from a chair, showering and other tasks that might accidentally put a strain on your neck.

Once home, you should take your pain medications as prescribed.

A soft cervical collar or even a more rigid neck brace may be recommended to help stabilize your neck and allow the bones to heal properly in the first few weeks following surgery.

As with many neck surgeries, you will likely be able to return to a light-duty job within a week or two following your surgery. You’ll be restricted from lifting (typically five pounds is the limit) for the one-to-two months.

If you work in a higher-impact occupation that requires a lot of heavy lifting, bending or strenuous work, you can expect that you’ll have to wait anywhere from eight to twelve weeks before returning to your normal duties.

If you’ve had a fusion, it’s imperative that you continue to abstain from smoking. Smoking can negatively impact the healing process of your bone grafts.


When you’ve been out of the hospital for anywhere from 8 – 12 days, you will need to return to see your surgeon. He or she will inspect your incision, take x-rays and establish the progress of your healing.

During your second or third follow-up, you may be given a prescription for physical therapy. Be sure to also attend all of these appointments, as they will help ensure the strength and the restored range of motion in your neck.

Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy

A minimally invasive lumbar discectomy allows your surgeon to remove a lumbar disc through a small incision using specialized instruments and an endoscope. The advantage to a minimally invasive lumbar discectomy is that you will have a shorter recovery time, as a minimal amount of tissue will be disturbed during the procedure.


A minimally invasive lumbar discectomy is often performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning you get to go home the same day.

Once home, be sure to take it easy. You’ll feel more tired than usual; this is normal. Your back will be sore where the incision was made and you may feel some small twinges of pain. Be sure to take any pain medications you’re sent home with as directed.

Lifting restrictions must be heeded. You will likely be limited to five pounds or less. As you begin to heal your doctor may clear you to start lifting more weight.

Many people are able to return to a light-duty job as early as one week following surgery. If you work in a high-impact occupation, you may have to wait a few weeks before you receive the okay to start back to work.


After a week you’ll need to return to your doctor for a follow-up. You’ll be assessed and your incision will be checked. It’s important to report any discomfort or unusual sensations if you’re experiencing them.

Around six to eight weeks, you’ll return for another follow-up. During this appointment, you may be released to return to your normal activities, including working in a more strenuous job.

Due to the nature of spine surgery, the above are rough guides only. Factors such as how complicated the surgery was and your willingness to follow your surgeon’s instructions can all play a major role in the success of your spinal surgery recovery.