Most patients who undergo neck surgery heal without any issues following the operation. In fact, many people report great relief from pain in the neck, shoulder, and arm – which is the goal of the surgery. If you are scheduled for neck surgery, it’s important to understand that what you do during your recovery process can greatly affect how well you heal. To avoid complications such as reinjury, less than ideal results, and complications, make sure to follow your surgeon’s post-surgery instructions.
Here’s what to expect during the recovery process after neck surgery.
Immediately Following Neck Surgery
The first couple of days following your neck surgery will require you to not do any movements with your neck including twisting, bending, neck-extending, or motions in any direction. Depending on your doctor’s recommendation, you may need a brace to avoid potentially harmful movement.
The nurses will check your circulation and possibly remove and change the wound dressing. To avoid movements of the neck, drinking fluids may be done intravenously. Antibiotic and pain medication will be administered to help control pain symptoms associated with the surgery.
Activity and Exercise
You will most likely be required to stay in the hospital for a few days following the surgery. Physical therapists will visit you and teach you how to move safely in order to avoid injury and complications. This includes movements such as getting up, sitting down, walking, and taking the stairs.
They will also teach you exercises to regain strength and motion in the neck and shoulder muscles. Assistive devices will be provided to help you ease into your day-to-day activities. You may need a cane, walker, or reacher.
The physical therapy exercises they teach you will also need to be performed at home. Some patients need physical rehabilitation for several months after neck surgery for adequate healing.
Day of Discharge
Once you can take medication by mouth, have progressed to solid foods and have regained a good level of strength, you may be ready for discharge. This process varies from patient to patient, but usually neck surgery patients are cleared after a few days in the hospital.
Continue to take your pain medication as prescribed by your doctor. Most patients stop needing medication three months after neck surgery, but many find that physical therapy exercises help them wean off pain medication sooner. Continue with your physical therapy exercises until you have regained a greater level of strength and mobility. It’s important to avoid any lifting, pushing, or pulling as you heal.
If you develop swelling or redness in the area of the incision or if you develop a fever, call your doctor immediately.
Returning To Work
Patients typically begin to feel much better about three weeks after neck surgery. However, there will still be movement limitations that make it not advisable to return to work immediately. You should take at least two months off work following neck surgery.
While you are at home, make efforts to heal and get better. Continue with your physical therapy and slowly add exercise into the mix, as recommended by your doctor. For example, walking is really good for recovery.
Neck Surgery & Post-Operative Care in Colorado
At Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, we believe that the best patient is an informed patient. We guide our patients in surgery preparation and in post-operative care because we believe comprehensive care guarantees better outcomes in spine and neck surgery.
If you have any questions about spine and neurosurgery or would like to arrange a consultation with one of our highly qualified surgeons, please call (303) 790-1800 or request an appointment now.