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Three Steps for Preparing for Neck Surgery Recovery

You may think recovering from neck surgery is a passive process: the surgeon performs the operation, and your job is  simply to heal. But neck surgery, like any surgical procedure, should not be undertaken lightly. Nor should the recovery process. There is much you can do that will either help or hamper your recovery.

Here we'll discuss three steps you should take that will better prepare you for the recovery process following neck surgery.

1. Educate Yourself

Before you begin the surgical process, you should learn everything you can about your condition. Knowing the cause of your pain can help you prevent further injury while you prepare for surgery. It will also help you set expectations and plan for after-care, and it will give you an idea of when you might return to an active lifestyle.

Choosing the appropriate surgeon will also aid in your recovery process. Selecting a board-certified physician who specializes in your condition will reduce the risk of complications and ensure you have someone with the proper education, training, and experience to direct your care. Read online reviews, get referrals from friends and family, and check the reputation of your surgeon so you know you are in good hands.

Consult with your doctor about what to expect during your recovery process. Most physicians will provide educational literature. Together, you can set realistic expectations concerning the amount of pain you will experience, how much mobility will be restored, and the level of activity you will return to following your procedure.

All surgery poses the risk of complications, but by knowing the risks, you can minimize the chance of something going wrong. Knowledge is power, so approach your neck surgery fully informed.

2. Follow Your Doctor's Orders

Your doctor's advice is of no use if you do not follow it. Consult with your physician about how best to prepare for surgery. If you are a smoker, it is best to quit before surgery. Your doctor can provide a plan to help you quit, which will not only help you recover more quickly but will also prevent complications by improving the health of your bones.

Your surgeon will provide post-operative guidelines, which you should follow closely. This will include wound care, monitoring for signs of infection, ensuring you have the proper care from friends and family at home, and avoiding activities that may aggravate your condition.

Physical therapy is also important, not only to help restore mobility and flexibility following surgery, but to guide you in the proper exercises to improve fitness, increase strength, and avoid reinjuring your neck while safely returning to the activities you are passionate about..

Do not return to work until you are cleared by your surgeon, especially if your job is physically demanding. To go through the entire surgical process only to reinjure yourself by returning to work and activity before you are healed is not only a waste of time and effort but may cause further injury to a vulnerable neck.

The doctor will probably prescribe pain medication following surgery to keep you comfortable as your body heals. It is vital to follow the medication directions, since combining narcotics with substances such as alcohol or other drugs can be life-threatening. You will not be able to drive while on narcotic pain medications, so have someone available who can provide transportation. Do not make any important decisions while on pain medications; put off these tasks until you have recovered.

3. Improve Personal Habits

One of the best ways to expedite recovery from neck surgery is to improve your personal habits, before and after your procedure. Eating healthy, following a prescribed exercise regime, not smoking, and controlling your weight are all important ways to improve overall health, which will not only get you ready for surgery but increase your rate of recovery and improve long-term neck health. A healthy body is more apt to heal with fewer complications.

Follow a plan when preparing for your recovery following neck surgery. These three steps can ensure that you have prepared for your procedure, you are following doctor's recommendations throughout the process, and you are improving your overall health so that your procedure has the best chance for success.

Download Neck Surgery: A Guide to Understanding Your Options

Grant D. Shifflett, MD

About the author

Grant D. Shifflett, MD Dr. Grant D. Shifflett is a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon. Handpicked by Dr. Robert S. Bray Jr. to join DISC Sports & Spine Center, Dr. Shifflett specializes in the application of minimally invasive and microsurgical techniques to the entire spectrum of cervical, thoracic and lumbar spinal conditions, from the simple to the most complex. Whether treating a patient with chronic pain or an acute injury, his ultimate goal is to restore function and quality of life with minimal tissue disruption. Read more articles by Grant D. Shifflett, MD.