When doctors perform lumbar surgery, the procedure can last from one to eight hours. Some patients report improvements in the way they feel immediately after they awake from the surgery. However, strengthening the weakened muscles and soft tissue surrounding and supporting the spine requires a long-term program of exercise and therapy.

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Lumbar Spine Surgery

Most patients who undergo lumbar spine surgery experience good to excellent results following the operation. Subsequently, many patients experience significant pain relief and the return of good functional movement and strength, enabling them to walk, sit, drive a car, and cope with the activities of daily life more easily.

The surgical procedure for lumbar surgery can last from one to eight hours. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, Lumbar Scoliosis, and Lumbar Spine Fusion surgeries tend to last much longer than simple discectomies. Meanwhile, some patients report improvements in the way they feel immediately after they awake from the surgery. However, strengthening the weakened muscles and soft tissue surrounding and supporting the spine requires a long-term program of exercise and therapy. Although many patients see and feel immediate benefits, they need the benefits of a comprehensive rehabilitation program for several months to get the total benefit.

Lumbar spine, illustration

Your Lumbar Spine Surgery recovery time will depend on the type of lumbar procedure used. Similarly, the type of procedure will also determine how long you will need to stay in the hospital and how much assistance you may need after surgery.

Lumbar Spine Surgery Recovery- Day One

The day after Lumbar Spine Surgery is considered day one. Under the supervision of a physical therapist, you may sit on the edge of the bed and stand with support. In addition, patients are often encouraged to stand and sit (with assistance if needed) within twenty-four hours after surgery. However, walking should begin gradually and in a guided manner to avoid injury and complications. For instance, try not to overdo it the first few times you get up and walk. Also, build up gradually to avoid a flare-up of symptoms.

Lab Testing

You may need to have blood drawn daily if your physician has placed you on blood-thinning medications. For example, these tests are needed to regulate anti-coagulant therapy (blood thinning). During the first few days, your doctor will monitor your blood thinning level and may determine your need for additional blood transfusions.


Your nurse will check the circulation and motion of your legs and feet. You may have an incentive spirometer (blue inhalation tube) to help expand your lungs and prevent pneumonia. The nurses may remove the drain and change the dressings on your incision. Surgical tape, sutures, or adhesive tape will close your incision. Also, the nurse may apply an ice pack or cooling pad to help decrease swelling and increase your comfort. For the first two days, the patient will receive intravenous fluids.  


Your physical therapist will work with you to help you begin moving safely and some Ideas provided to help you move and sit up in bed. You will gradually progress to standing and walking. You may require the use of a walking aid (cane or walker) for a short time following surgery and you will conduct exercises to ease soreness in your legs. Patients may begin static tightening of the thigh and buttocks muscles. Ankle pump exercises can help fluid from pooling in the lower limbs.


Your physician will order your diet. Recovery from anesthesia varies from person to person, so your diet will be adjusted as your intestinal function returns to normal. Usually, as soon as you eat, you will be allowed to have clear liquids. If you tolerate these, you will get more solid food.


Patients will get intravenous Antibiotics for 24 hours to help prevent infection because pain medication will ensure your comfort. If you are uncomfortable, please let your nurse know. Being comfortable allows you to participate in your exercise program.

Lumbar Spine Surgery Recovery – Day Two


The intravenous line and a urinary catheter (if you have one) get removed. You will probably continue using the incentive spirometer. The nurse may change your wound dressing.


Patients should continue exercising to promote motion and prevent muscle soreness and tightness. The physical therapist may use Ice packs to reduce swelling and relieve pain before and/or after therapy treatments. With assistance from your therapist, you will gradually increase walking in preparation for going home.

Lumbar Spine Surgery Recovery – Day Three and Beyond


Daily blood testing for a range of body functions will continue. If needed, the nurse will change or remove the wound dressing. Patients can use self-care aids to reduce stress on their back, such as chair cushions, raised toilet seats, or bathing aids.


During the first few days after Lumbar Spine Surgery, some pain will naturally occur. However, medicine can adequately control this pain. Patients should let their nurses know if they experience any pain.


Your physical activity will continue to focus on your safety with mobility and help you toward independence. In spite of any mild discomfort, patients should continue the deep breathing and physical therapy exercises as instructed. Patients who breathe well and work at strengthening their muscles, improving their lung capacity and circulation, often heal faster.


If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment.