Inside: This guide from my personal experience will teach you how to prepare for and recover from spine surgery in the best way possible. Make sure to order these must-haves after back surgery prior before your surgery date.
The last thing that you thought you would need in your life was spine surgery.
Well, I completely understand that feeling.
I am a spinal fusion survivor.
So, why I am writing about it on a money blog?!?!
Recently, a friend and I were talking about health and wealth.
You can’t have wealth without having your health.
That is a lesson I learned.
After being diagnosed with a double pars fracture of L5 and spondylolisthesis, my options were very limited and the pain debilitating. I choose an active life – not one in a wheelchair.
Your results may differ from mine as each spine case and personal health history are different.
However, after helping many friends and their families through a spinal recovery, I decided to tell you exactly what I needed most during my long recovery.
Here are the must-haves after back surgery – from an actual L5-S1 spinal fusion survivor.
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What is spinal surgery?
Spinal surgery is a type of surgery that is used to treat issues affecting the spine.
It can be used to treat conditions like herniated discs, lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, pars fractures, and other spinal disorders that cause pain or discomfort.
What to consider when planning your recovery after back surgery
When planning a recovery after back surgery, it is important to consider:
- Listening to your doctor’s instructions and following their recovery plan, including realistic expectations for pain management and return to normal activities.
- Getting plenty of rest, as healing is a gradual process and your body needs time to heal properly.
- Understanding your specific medication instructions and letting a friend, child, or spouse know your medication schedule if they will be helping you.
- Focusing on other things to maintain a positive and goal-oriented mindset (I took this investing course to keep my mind busy).
- Adopting a healthy diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, high-protein foods, and other nutritious options, as well as taking supplements and vitamins as recommended by your doctor.
- Avoiding smoking, excessive drinking, and indulging in junk food, as these habits may hinder your recovery.
- Building a sleep schedule and staying hydrated with plenty of water.
- Doing appropriate exercises as recommended by your doctor and physical therapist.
- Paying attention to your posture when resting and using low back support pillows for assistance.
The must-haves after back surgery
Even if you are debating or waiting for your back surgery, many of these items will help you ease the pain.
Having the right items on hand can help make your recovery from back surgery easier and more comfortable.
Here are the exact items I purchased to help my recovery from my spinal fusion.
3-in-1 Pillow Wedge
This is my #1 recommended must-haves after back surgery!
Make sure you have it prior to your spinal surgery.
Honestly, I wished I had it prior as it would have relieved a lot of back pain.
With the 3-in-1 design, there are many ways to support your back as well as lay flat with your knees propped up.
Even a couple of years post-surgery, I still use my 3-in-1 pillow wedge when I have random flare-up pains.
After surgery, it is important to take extra care of yourself and your incisions.
Ice packs can be a great way to manage post-operative pain and discomfort. Plus great before surgery too!
Frozen gel packs are preferable over ice packs or ice cubes, as they will not leak onto the incision.
This is the one I purchased and then buy for my friends and family as well because it is that awesome!
As luck would have it, my heating pad died after surgery. Since I got horribly cold after showers, this was a must have for me.
This is one of the greatest inventions ever!
A grabber is a necessity. Maybe even two – one near the bed and the other next to the couch.
And I still use mine to reach items over my head instead of stretching to reach them.
After surgery, you will likely want to use a back scratcher to help reach those random itches.
A good back scratcher should have a soft, smooth, and easy-to-grip surface. It should be easy to hold and move around so that you can scratch all the places that are itchy.
Massage oil is a topical agent which is used to relieve pain, promote healing, and improve circulation. It is also used to reduce inflammation.
This is the one I use personally and have recommended many times.
Over and over, I heard that you needed slip-on shoes; however, the fall risk is much higher with slip-on shoes! Something you do not need post surgery.
So, I found these cute yoga socks!
Perfect to keep your feet warm while having non slip grips on the bottom! Plus they are super fashionable! And no need to take them on and off.
I was first introduced to a donut cushion on an airplane ride. Someone said it was their favorite Amazon travel must haves.
Seriously another great invention for those dealing with chronic back pain.
Acupressure Mat and Pillow
Jokingly in our house, we named this the torture device. But, it truly works wonders.
Use for aches and pains or headaches. This works great for pain relief and muscle relaxation.
personal hygiene after back surgery + OTC Medications
After back surgery, many people may feel anxious about their personal hygiene.
I completely understand!
Besides the list below, I wished I would have cut my hair shorter prior to surgery and have gotten my legs waxed. Lesson learned.
Taking care of your hygiene will help ensure a speedy recovery.
Hair Towel Wrap
Remember, you just had surgery on your spine. You will notice the difference of a couple of ounces of weight.
So, set aside using a bath towel to wrap your wet hair in. Opt for a microfiber hair towel instead.
This was a lifesaver for me after showering.
Long Handed Shower Body Brush
After back surgery, many people find that they need a long handled shower body brush in order to help them with their postoperative care.
This helps them to avoid getting back pain as they are showering.
Personally, I couldn’t move much as I was recovering from a spinal fusion. So, this helped me to reach without the pain of reaching!
After surgery, it is very important to moisturize the lips. Lip balm is a great way to do this and it can be used after any kind of surgery.
Thanks to my friend who gifted me this in her care package (along with the stool softener). It has now become my go-to chapstick.
Lip balm can be used to help heal any cuts or scrapes on the lips and it can also be used to protect them from the cold.
Vitamin E is important after surgery to help with the healing process.
Scar tissue may harden and form adhesions which can cause pain and limitation in movement. Vitamin E helps to break down these adhesions and promote the healing process.
You can cut the vitamin E pills open as I did or buy a Vitamin E cream.
Scar Gel is a topical ointment that is used to help reduce the appearance of scars. This is made from a blend of high-quality ingredients like retinol, Vitamin E and Allantoin.
This blend helps to create a moisture barrier that helps to prevent scarring.
Since it may be a while until you can shower, you may want these rinse free bathing wipes! I had to wait over two weeks to take a real shower.
Thus, a great go-to solution!
This works much better than just a washcloth and soap.
Also, great travel essentials for a long layover!
While flushable wipes are not a frugal green product, they are lovely to have post surgery.
No more explanation is needed.
Twisting to do the things you are used to doing may not work the same post surgery.
Just saying, it may be helpful…
Managing your pain medications is key after surgery. This is the one thing my surgeon was insistent on staying up with.
As such, you will need a way to manage your medications.
Anesthesia is not easy on your bowels. So, make sure to take these.
If you are still struggling, then upgrade to this.
After surgery, you will need over-the-counter pain relief for a while.
This means that you will need to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce the amount of pain you feel.
Also, most surgeons do not want you to take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) because inflammation is good and helps you heal faster from back surgery.
The last thing you want to do is slip in the shower.
While this wasn’t something I needed because of walk-in shower, this is needed in many bathtubs.
Also, a shower chair is highly recommended. See below for my shower chair comments.
Yoga Blocks and Mat
Yoga is an excellent way to build strength and flexibility in the spine and can be a great addition to your recovery plan after back surgery.
Before practicing yoga after spine surgery, it is important to consult with a doctor or physical therapist before starting the practice. They can provide advice on postures and modifications that are best suited to your condition.
Not only can yoga help strengthen the fascia of the spine, but it can also teach the body how to move in a way that alleviates stress and tension on the spine. Plus, breathing exercises and meditation can help soothe the mind, reducing anxiety and depression that can accompany a back surgery recovery.
Thankfully, my yoga instructor, Cheryl, built her yoga YouTube channel and I’m able to continue daily sessions at home.
But, yoga has come with heavy modifications, so having yoga blocks is a must.
Sports Water Bottle with a Straw
Staying hydrated is key! Plus you need a straw to make your life easier.
I prefer having a dishwasher-safe bottle, so it is easier to maintain.
Nunn Rest and Recovery Tablets
These are a go-to in my Subscribe and Save orders!
Nunn Rest is a supplement tablet that is supposed to promote restfulness and recovery. I love the flavor, too!
The tablets are formulated with non-GMO ingredients for a clean, guilt-free hydration drink.
Mini Fridge / Freezer
This is not a must-have, but it can make life easier – especially if you have stairs to reach the kitchen refrigerator.
More importantly, this makes a great gift!
This will come in handy for keeping drinks, food, medications, and other essentials cold. Some models are versatile and can be switched to warming.
Short Term Must-Haves After Back Surgery
After having back surgery, there are a few short-term must-haves to help with spine surgery recovery.
These items will help make your life a little bit easier and allow you to focus on healing.
Many of these items you can look at renting or checking with friends or family to borrow.
Walker / Cane
More than likely, your insurance may issue you a walker or cane for use after your surgery.
If not, you may have to secure one to use for the first couple of months after your surgery date.
Focus on the weight of the walker rather than all of the bells and whistles like a seating bench.
Yep, this was the most embarrassing of them.
But, 100% needed.
Showers were exhausting for me.
Personally, I would recommend buying one with a back chair.
There are plenty of options to choose from. But, make sure you adjust the shower chair to your height preference before going in for your procedure!!
Bedside Table or Hip-level Tray
When you will be bedridden for a while, you need to have everything within reach.
More than likely, your bedside nightstand won’t be enough.
These bedside tables can also be used as a laptop desk too. Another option is a beautiful laptop bed table.
Bed Assist Rail
Let’s face it… You just had surgery on your spine and will feel weak immediately after.
This is one of those nice to have it items to help you get out of bed without a lot of pain.
Best clothes to wear after back surgery
You want clothes that are comfortable and loose. But, not so loose that you become twisted in the fabric.
Zip up sweatshirts were great!
Ultimately, you have to think about what makes you the most comfortable when you feel your worst.
Here are some fun clothes and great gift basket stuffer ideas!
I Survived Spinal Fusion T-shirt
This is one of my favorites!
While 99% of society won’t get it. Those who have had a similar experience will strike up a conversation!
Straight Outta Back Surgery T-shirt
Let’s be honest… one of your greatest fears is someone running into your newly surgical spine especially while you are recovering.
This is great to warn people to stay away!
And also helpful when people wouldn’t expect someone to be moving so slowly.
One Step at a Time Socks
These novelty socks are perfect for your situation.
Getting dressed was one of the hardest things! Thankful for my daughter who helped me day in and day out for weeks.
When you are recovering, you might not be as stable as before. But, you want your independence.
So, these tote bags are perfect for helping you carry items from room to room.
Bonus if it has a zip closure.
Post Surgery Entertainment
Recovering from spine surgery can be a long and difficult process, so it is important to find ways to keep yourself entertained.
This is especially true during the recovery period when you are confined to your home and not able to move around as much.
Keeping your mind engaged and your spirits up can help you heal quicker by reducing stress and encouraging positive thinking. Personally, I learned how to trade the stock market.
Having a few things on hand that will make your life a bit easier while you recover, here are some examples.
Such as books, movies, music, or games, you can keep yourself entertained and help your body heal faster.
10′ Charging Cord
I laughed when I saw this in my spine surgery care package. We had so many in the house!
Yet, the ten feet charging cord was such a necessity.
When you really can’t move, you notice the difference in a couple of centimeters.
Reading and listening to books during recovery can be a great way to pass the time and help with emotional healing.
With so many options available, it can be hard to choose which books are best for aiding recovery. Start with one of these life changing books.
Some books can provide helpful advice and tips for managing pain, while others can offer distraction and a welcome escape from the reality of your current situation.
Reading and listening to books should be a source of pleasure and relaxation, not a task you dread.
In addition, books that focus on positive and uplifting themes are ideal for recovery.
No matter what books you choose, make sure they are ones that you truly enjoy.
These are super fabulous! For me, I wasn’t able to reach up and turn on our nightlamp.
So, these book lights were great for reading as well as finding the right medicine to take in the middle of the night.
It is the small things! Now, I still use mine for reading or coloring.
Podcasts are a great way to learn new things, have interesting conversations, and stay up to date on the latest news.
They are easy to listen to on your own time, and they are available on many devices.
Thus, why they are so great during recovery!
Mind puzzles are puzzles that challenge your thinking skills.
They can be difficult to solve, but they are also fun to play. There are many different types of mind puzzles, and they can be used to relax or to improve your brain function.
Adult Coloring Books
Adult coloring books are a great way to pass the time and while you are recovering, it is something you have lots of.
They are filled with interesting designs and can be filled with anything from coloring pens to markers to colored pencils. These books are great for calming down and destressing.
Shows and Movies
One of the best things to do is keep your mind occupied and lose time watching movies and shows.
This is your time to become binge-worthy on your favorite platform (without guilt):
- Apple TV
- Prime Video – Get your 30 day free trial!
- Paramount Plus – Start a 7 day free trial!
Investor? Here are the best movies about Wall Street.
Confession, I cannot live without my AirPods!
While recovering from surgery, I wanted to block out the noise because it was frustrating not being able to move like normal.
If you don’t have a set, I highly recommend picking up a pair.
Support for Back Surgery Recovery
After back surgery, I felt lost and alone. I couldn’t do anything by myself.
You will need support to continue with your recovery.
Here are the best ways friends and family can help you.
A meal train is an organized way of having meals prepared and delivered while recovering from surgery.
It allows family, friends, and members of the community to contribute meals and snacks over a designated period of time, ensuring the person has all their nutritional needs taken care of and allowing them to focus on recovery.
Meal train can provide many benefits to those recovering from surgery, including:
- Easing stress: Meal train takes the burden off of the person recovering from surgery by having meals prepared and delivered. This can help reduce the stress of worrying about what to make and how to make it.
- Providing nourishment: Having meals delivered can provide the essential nutrients needed to help heal from surgery. Eating nutritious meals helps fuel the body and supports the immune system.
- Fostering a sense of community: Participating in a meal train is a great way to show support for someone recovering from surgery. It can also help build a sense of community and foster a feeling of togetherness.
A caregiver can help you with tasks such as bathing, dressing, and driving to/from appointments. They can also provide emotional support and help with the healing process.
If you are younger, you probably will not qualify for in-home support through your insurance.
Thus, you need to find someone willing to hang out with you for a couple of days post-surgery.
Personally, I had a few awesome friends who always sent me multiple texts throughout the day.
Whether it was to make sure I took my meds on time or just to offer a hug through text.
It was great to be able to connect to the outside world on a regular basis without moving.
There are many benefits to using online support groups.
One of the most important reasons is that it can be more convenient for people and you can access support groups from anywhere in the world.
You can find online support groups with a Google Search or search for Facebook groups around your diagnosis.
Help with Kids and Pets
If you need help with taking care of your child or pet, don’t hesitate to reach out to your community. There are likely people who would be happy to lend a hand.
With spine surgery, you won’t be able to lift or take care of your children like you used to. So, make plans to keep them busy along with plenty of rides to their activities.
More than likely, you won’t be able to walk your dog, so let others support you.
Best home chair after Back Surgery
The best home chair will be personal to you and your budget.
There are tons of different options.
Plus during every stage of my recovery, I found that I preferred different seating at different times.
Here are the must haves chairs for outside the house!
Portable Folding Chairs
Spring sports were starting and I knew I needed a solid folding chair.
So, I went to the store and sat in every single one until I found the one that was perfect!
This one is a little bit heavier, so I would suggest a wagon to carry them or someone younger and stronger than you.
You will get back to the things you love! But, you may need some extra cushion to support your spine.
For sitting on stadium seats, I need the cushion! Plus these are super lightweight to carry!
Back post surgery care package
These care packages made me smile!
I was blessed with a few of them and it made me SOOOO happy!
If you are looking for items to include in a post surgery gift basket, any of the above items would be a great place to start!
Tips for getting the most out of your post-surgery experience
- Listen to your doctor’s directions for postoperative recovery and follow the recovery plan carefully.
- Take medications as prescribed and keep track of your medication schedule with the help of a friend, child, or spouse.
- Remind yourself that healing is a slow healing process. Celebrate small victories, like gradually decreasing pain and increasing energy levels.
- Maintain a healthy diet that is high in protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, and keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Avoid smoking and excessive drinking, as nicotine and alcohol can have dangerous interactions with certain pain medications.
- Stick to a sleep schedule and distract yourself during the day to stay away from taking too many naps.
- Exercise within the limits prescribed by your doctor and physical therapist.
- Work on good posture and maintain proper alignment for your spine by changing positions frequently.
- Get low back support pillows to help with posture and comfort.
What should I pack for hospital after back surgery?
You should pack your insurance information, a list of current medications, loose-fitting clothes to wear home, and any other items that will make you comfortable during your stay.
Personally, the books to read and coloring books to do never even made it out of my bag.
How can I take care of myself post-surgery?
Taking care of yourself post-surgery is essential to ensure a swift and successful recovery.
To minimize pain and discomfort, plan ahead for take-out and easy-to-heat meals to stock your freezer and pantry with.
By having all of the items mentioned above readily available at home before surgery, you will make your life much easier.
It is also helpful to have a caregiver who can support you in your daily tasks, such as getting into and out of bed, grocery shopping, making meals, and doing basic household chores.
Exercise, though it will be limited during the recovery period, will be important to maintain a healthy weight and continue to improve. More than likely, you will need to increase your steps each day post surgery. Check with your doctor and physical therapist on appropriate exercises to help with your recovery.
Lastly, focus on good posture to avoid discomfort and maintain proper alignment for your spine.
Spine Surgery Recovery Time Will Vary
Personally, it was the six-week mark before I felt human again. But, three weeks post-op was a good turning point as well.
Your recovery time will vary.
Take the time you need to give your body a chance to heal and the surgery to have the greatest benefit.
Don’t rush back into chores and responsibilities because you feel pressured.
Additionally, it is important to remind yourself to celebrate small victories, such as gradually decreasing pain and increasing energy levels, as these can all contribute to a successful recovery.
Pick up these must-haves after back surgery!