A doctor explains the spine

Recovering from Spinal Stenosis Surgery

Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes the spinal column to narrow, shrinking the space required for the spinal cord and nerves. This can cause pain, numbness, weakness, and a generally lower the quality of life. Although there are several alternatives to surgery, none of them are a cure.

In fact, even surgery isn’t a guaranteed cure. But when all the other options have been investigated, a surgical procedure may be necessary. Although spinal surgery can be frightening, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a look at what recovering from surgery for spinal stenosis entails. 

Immediately After Surgery

The success or lack thereof of such a surgery is highly dependent on following your doctor’s instructions. Expect to spend at least a day in bed. Because of the invasive nature of back surgery, you may be on medication to control the pain for up to a month. Once you are allowed out of bed, it’s important to take things slow.

Your doctor will guide you on proper posture, how to sit up and lay down, and what you should and shouldn’t do. In general, anything that is too stressful on the spine (twisting, lifting, etc) should be avoided until your doctor says you’re good to go. 

Dos and Don'ts 

Some other important things to remember during recovery are being aware of what you are and aren’t capable of at that particular time. Follow your doctor-recommended series of exercises, as it’s important to provide muscles and flexibility to keep your back healthy. Smoking cigarettes can make recovery time longer than it might have been—it also decreases bone density and increases problems with the cushioning disks between vertebrae. Alcohol should be avoided as well. 

Post-Recovery Life

Once your recovery period is complete, you can begin to take on more intensive tasks. Still, it’s important to wear proper equipment when playing sports and to practice good body mechanics—proper posture, sleeping in a position that’s good for your body, and lifting heavy objects the right way. Practicing prevention techniques after surgery can not only help make sure you’re one of the 80% to 90% of successful spinal stenosis surgeries, it can keep symptoms from returning. 


Last Updated: January 19, 2016