Preparing for Surgery

If you are going to undergo cervical spine surgery, there are many things that you should consider in preparation before going to the hospital. These include equipment, your current home arrangements, transportation, and medication.

Arranging your home

Believe it or not, there are many easy things you can do in your home to make life much easier before you have the cervical spine surgery.

These include:

  • Preparing or buying food before you go to the hospital is important. You may even want to get food catered or get a family member, friend, or caterer to drop off food for you
  • If you plan on cooking, make sure that the items that you use such as ingredients, utensils, pots and pans are moved to the kitchen counter top or in a place that does not require bending
  • Placing the telephone next on the bedside table or on a chair
  • If you live alone, appoint a friend or family member to assist you in cleaning, shopping, and with other household chores.
  • Put toiletries, clothes and shoes where you can easily reach them without the need to bend
  • If you own rugs in your home, make sure that these are secured or put them in a cupboard so you will not trip over the rug

What equipment do you need?

Before having cervical spine surgery, you will need to be fitted for your neck collar (also known as a halo brace or neck brace). This neck brace is an essential part of the recovery process as it helps to keep your neck straight. Other medical equipment may also be recommended to you by your Doctor and Physical Therapist to assist in a speedy recovery. However, you need to make an inquiry with your medical insurer as to whether you are covered for the equipment as insurance plans vary from company to company. Some companies do cover durable medical equipment, in example a walker.

Your coordinator for home care and physical therapist will surely assist in ordering the equipment for you. They will also verify with your insurer as to whether you are covered for the items. This equipment must be ordered before you are discharged from the hospital, and they will deliver it to your home so you will need someone to accept this delivery when it arrives. The equipment that will typically be delivered to your home includes a long-handle reacher, walker, toilet seat extender, and a chair or bench that you can use in the shower or the bathtub.


This is a bit of a no-brainer. You will need to arrange your own transport to get home from the hospital as it isn’t legal to drive with a neck brace on. In addition, you should not drive until advised by your Doctor as driving requires many neck movements and moving the neck around will just aggravate the issue as it will not heal as well. When you are traveling home by car, make sure that you are either lying down in the back seat or in a reclining position at the front passenger seat.

Buying medication

Before you go for surgery, you need to stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) such as indocin and ibuprofen; and aspirin. Although it may seem bizarre that you are not able to take these pain relievers, you can use alternative pain relief medicine such as extra-strength Tylenol. If you have a heart condition and take Coumadin or aspirin, you will need to inform your Doctor. On the day of the surgery, bring your regular, routine medication along with you.

Are you a smoker?

Are you a smoker and you have always wanted to quit? This is truly the perfect opportunity to quit as you need to stop smoking two weeks prior to surgery. After the surgery is completed, you will need to stop for an additional 6 weeks. The reason for this is that smoking actually interferes with the bone graft.

The night before surgery

During the night before your cervical spine surgery, you are not allowed to drink or eat after midnight. If you are schedule for a morning surgery, you must not eat any solid food after 9 pm, or drink liquids (including water) after midnight. If you permanently wear any rings such as a wedding ring, you must remove it. This is because your fingers may be swollen later.

What to bring to the hospital?

You may want to bring your own clothes and toiletries to the hospital, especially if you are not being discharged straight after surgery. Pack your underwear, loose and comfortable pajamas, a robe, and slippers. Please do not bring any valuables as they may be stolen. If you need to bring any equipment such as a walker or long-handle reacher, ask the person who is driving you back home to bring it for you. Make sure the equipment is labeled, as someone may mistakenly identify it as theirs.

Treatment After Surgery

The cervical spine treatment after surgery is a must for patients who have undergone cervical spine treatment. Our spine is made of 24 bones in that are separated by shock-absorbing discs. These discs are cushion-like that helps us to bend and move our back. This surgery is performed to relieve any pain, sore, numbness and deformation on the spine. Those who suffer from major nerve-system dysfunction are also required to receive the treatment. It will take for up to one year for a cervical spine treatment patient to recuperate after the surgery.

The most important thing that every patient of the cervical spine surgery needs to remember is to take as much rest as they can in order for their body to heal completely. After the surgery, certain sore and aches will appear all over their body especially their back. This is because the surgery is performed on our spine where our spinal cord is and since the nerves in our body are branched out from our spinal cord, it causes our body to ache all over. Since the body tires after the cervical spine surgery it is better for the patient to get a good rest especially right after the surgery.

Physical therapy

After the surgery, every patient is require to practice a certain form of exercise with every part of their body in order for them to move about like before the treatment took place. Usually, the doctors will provide a variety of therapeutic exercises for the patients depending on their stage of recovery. Patients are also required to do breathing and practice body mechanics such as walking, sitting and standing. If the patient performs the right exercise, the chances for the spine to heal faster are much better.

As it can take up to one year for a patient who has undergone cervical spine surgery, it is best to avoid vigorous sports such as basketball, football, or hockey during this time. This is because it may aggravate the issue further, or complications may arise as many sports involve a lot of movement or involve bending, tackling, or pushing opponents. What could be worse than almost recovering from the surgery, only to need it again because you were tackled and landed in a bad angle?

Nutrition after surgery

A good diet will also help to recover from the surgery. Normally, patients are not allowed to eat oily food. An approved healthy diet requires the patient to consume as much vegetables and fruits as possible. It will be hard for the patients to try and consume food because of the sore from the surgery. That is most probably the reason why doctors constantly advised their patients to consume as much ginger or beans as possible to ease out the wind inside their body. Oily food slows down healing process of the wounds on the inner and outer body. Patients are also required to consume a balance diet of protein and calcium to help strengthen their bones.

Using medication

Prescription medication will be provided by the respective doctors. Patients will be given prescription of pain killers. However certain patients will be given non-steroidal medications as it will interfere with the healing of the bones. Doctors will also recommend home remedies such as lying with a pillow under the knee to help with the nerves, as well as applying an ice pack or a warm cloth on the back or the shoulders to reduce soreness. Patients are also advised by the doctors to consume certain supplements such as calcium and vitamin supplements.

Visiting the doctor

Regular or periodic visits with their doctor are a must for every patient. This helps to figure out the healing stage of their body after surgery. X-rays and minimal reflex exercise perform by the doctor can determine the healing stages of the spine. It is much more advisable to consult the same doctor before, during and after surgery as he has a better understanding of your body. Missing a consultation might cause some complications especially at the early stages after surgery.

Cervical spine treatment has many complications and risks as it deals greatly with a persons’ spine and spinal cord. If the spinal cord is mistreated during surgery, it can cause a permanent damage and paralyzed the patients’ nerve-systems. However, the complications after surgery are much worse. Those who have undergone spinal treatment need to be patient with the healing process. A balanced lifestyle can help to achieve faster recovery.

Patients are required to exercise regularly, consume a healthy and balanced diet, consult their doctor periodically, be very careful with their medications and most importantly rest as much as needed during recuperation. Research has proven that normal spine treatment patients requires a steady mental support system so family support and love are very crucial for the patient to be able to recover faster.

What To Expect Following Your Cervical Spine Surgery

If you are going to be in hospital for cervical spine surgery, you may wonder what to expect after your operation. Post-operation procedures can vary from patient to patient as recovery speeds are different. In general, most patients stay for a day or two before being discharged from the hospital. Every patient’s recovery is evaluated, and some patients may stay at a rehabilitation facility after this before heading back to the comfort of their own home.

Before going home

If you are sent to your home, you will be visited by a Nurse or a Therapist to ensure that your recovery is going smoothly. Before being discharged, you must have some basic motor skills that show that you can look after yourself. This includes:

  • Getting in and out of bed by yourself
  • Walking around by yourself
  • Being able to bathe and other personal hygiene activities by yourself
  • Be coherent and understand all of the instructions provided for your recovery
  • Being able to climb stairs (if your home has stairs)

As the goal of being sent home is to become independent again, you will be encouraged to actively participate so you can do as many things for yourself as you can.

After waking up after cervical spine surgery, you will be in a neck brace and lying on your back. Although you will have assistance from a Nurse to get out of bed, your rehabilitation program will actually in the evening of when you have your surgery. The rehabilitation program includes walking, climbing up and down stairs, leg exercises, bathing, home management, and dressing.

Day 1 of hospitalization

With the supervision of your physical therapist or a nurse, you will sit on the bed’s edge before attempting to stand up and sit down. They may also try and get you to walk up and down a few times with the help of a walking cane or walking frame. These exercises can assist in easing the soreness in your legs and to prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. Ankle pump exercises will also help to stop fluid from building up in the lower limbs. They will also check to ensure that your feet and legs are moving properly, and that the circulation is good.

An incentive spirometer can also help to prevent pneumonia by expanding your lungs. Antibiotics may be administered via intravenous means. Surgical tape, adhesive tape or sutures would have been used to close your incision. A pack of ice will assist in decreasing the swelling. At the beginning, you will be on a liquid diet. If you have no problems with the clear liquid diet, then you will be slowly be given more solid food to eat.

Day 2 of hospitalization

Day 2 is usually when patients are discharged. The dressing of your wounds may be changed. As you can imagine after the 2nd day of hospitalization, you may feel some pain or discomfort. Medication will assist in keeping down the pain by eating pain killers instead of having it administered through an intravenous drip.

A session with your Physical Therapist will also ensue. This time, the session will focus more on your mobility and safety to help you achieve greater independence. Although you may still feel some discomfort after having the pain relievers, you need to remember to relax. Take some deep breaths, and follow your Physical Therapist’s instructions. Those who are able to breathe well and tighten their muscles will recover faster as they have better circulation and lung capacity.

Once all of your bandages have been removed and you feel much stronger, you can take a shower. Prior to surgery, you would have been fitted with 2 different types of neck braces. Take a shower with your neck brace made out of foam called the Philadelphia Collar. Make sure that the Philadelphia Collar is secure when you are shampooing your hair and towel drying yourself.

After showering, lay on your back and place the Miami J Collar by your side. You will need to take off the Philadelphia Collar by undoing the Velcro and removing the front of the wet collar while still keeping your neck very still. Try washing your neck area with water and soap before patting it dry. If you need shave, use a hand-held mirror and shaver while in this position. You may also need a hand-held mirror to inspect the surgical incision to make sure that there are no signs of infection. If you have a family member or friend present, you may want to get them to check the incision to see whether there are any signs of infection.

After this, you need to put on your dry collar. You will do this by holding the front portion of the collar firmly with one hand, before rolling like a log onto your side. Make sure that your neck is very still and then remove the back part of the Philadelphia Collar. You can then wash and dry the back of your neck before putting on the back of the Miami J by rolling like a log and putting the Velcro straps together. Skin irritation may occur, however you must not use oils, powders, or lotions while your incision is still in the healing process. Instead, wear a silk scarf.