Preparations - Body, Mind, Home Environment

As you prepare for surgery there are three aspects that will impact your recovery.


Eat to Heal

Eating well before surgery will get your body ready and help you heal faster and fight infection.

  • Eat foods that help you heal, including proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
  • Eat protein-rich foods with every meal, such as lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, cheese, nuts, tofu, milk, yogurt or cottage cheese or protein drinks.
  • Eat at least three times a day. Don’t skip meals. If you are unable to eat enough, add a daily protein drink.
  • Drink at least 6-8 cups (48-64 ounces) of fluid each day to stay well hydrated.
  • Tell your doctor if you have trouble eating, don’t feel hungry or have lost weight without trying. Your doctor may want you to see a dietitian to develop an eating plan or may order additional tests to determine your risk level for nutrition-related problems after surgery.

Quit Smoking

Smoking increases your risk for many problems after surgery, including infection or heart attack. It can also make it hard for you to breathe or heal. Ask your doctor how to quit smoking. It will not only reduce these risks but will improve your overall health and add years to your life.

For help to quit smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit

Control Your Blood Sugar

Having surgery puts stress on your body, which can affect your blood sugar level. Blood sugar levels that are too high or too low can cause serious problems. Keeping your blood sugar in control before, during and after surgery will reduce your risk of infection and help you heal better. If you have diabetes, it is especially important to keep your blood sugar under control. Your doctor may want to check your blood sugar levels before surgery to determine your risk and help you manage your blood sugar levels.

Identify Your Medications

Your doctor needs to know all the medications you are taking, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies and supplements. Some of these can increase your risk of bleeding. Your doctor or a member of your care team will review your list of medications in your chart prior to surgery and will let you know if you need to stop taking any items before surgery and when to stop taking them. It is important to let them know of any recent changes or anything you are taking that is not on the list. They will also make arrangements for you to receive the right medicines during your hospital stay.


Positive Attitude

According to researchers, the right mental attitude can make a huge difference in speeding up your recovery after spine surgery. The exact reason why is unknown but these scientists believe the benefits of positive thinking include:

  1. Stress reduction - Positive thinking lowers stress hormones in the body which in turn lowers your body’s response to inflammation, allowing the body to heal faster.
  2. An improved immune system - A positive attitude also boosts your immune system’s ability to fight infection.
  3. Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.
  4. Lower rates of depression.
  5. Increased life span.

So how do you get into the positive state of mind before surgery? Start by:

  1. Setting small goals - Prior to surgery (and after) set small goals each day and document your achievement. Did you walk for 5 minutes today? Read your pre-surgical education booklet? Try to set small goals for yourself and then write down your progress each day (i.e., walking 5 minutes Monday and Tuesday, walking 10 minutes without stopping Wednesday etc.). Then, once you reach that goal, set another. Seeing your continued improvement helps to bolster your positive attitude and give you something to reflect back on, especially on days when you need additional support.
  2. Listen to and do what your doctor tells you to do (i.e., quit smoking, lose weight, etc.) - Taking an active approach in managing your wellbeing allows you to take positive action towards a healthier you.

Remember: Your positive outlook can make a big difference in your recovery! It is completely normal to experience frustration and sadness while moving through the healing process. Spine surgery is not a magic cure. It will take time and effort to heal and return function. Talk to your neurosurgeon about your expectations and goals to gain a solid understanding of your road to recovery. We can do this together!

Home Environment

The following information will be covered in your pre-habilitation (Prehab) appontment. If you do not have an appointment, please call your surgeons offices to get scheudled or get a referral, if it is right for you. 

General Tips

  1. Arrange furniture so you have wide, clear paths between objects.
  2. Remove all clutter from the floor as well as runners, loose electrical or extension cords, and low-rise tables or foot stools that could cause tripping.
  3. Ensure all rugs have nonslip backings or, preferably, remove them when possible.
  4. Only walk in well-lit rooms, hallways, and stairs - Purchase night lights for bedrooms, halls, and bathrooms to provide light to walking paths when necessary.
  5. Make sure to have furniture available to sit on after surgery that is not low or difficult to get up from.
  6. Arrange for regular visits by family or friends.


  1. To avoid the risks that come with having to climb stairs, prior to surgery locate your bed to the first floor with access to a nearby bathroom, if possible.
  2. Make sure handrails are installed and securely fastened with non-skid threads on stairs.
  3. It is highly recommended you have a family member/caregiver present to assist you if you must climb stairs.
  4. Make sure to tell the hospital Physical or Occupational Therapist that you have stairs and the number of stairs you will need to climb. They will give you the necessary education on how to safely go up and down your steps after surgery.

Bedroom Safety

  1. You will be taught the log roll technique to use when getting in and out of bed.
  2. If you get up in the middle of the night, sit at the side of the bed for a few moments to avoid dizziness prior to standing and moving about.
  3. Make sure there is a lamp or flashlight at the bedside as well as a phone.

Bathroom Safety

  1. Nearly half of all falls recorded after surgery occur in the bathroom. Be very careful to identify and eliminate potential trip hazards (rugs, splashed water, stepping over the side of the tub etc.).
  2. Install a nightlight in the bathroom.
  3. Place a slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe exit and entry and place non-skid strips or a rubber bath mat to the floor of the tub.
  4. Install grab bars in the tub or shower if balance is a problem.
  5. Stabilize yourself on the toilet by using either a raised seat or a special toilet seat with armrests.
  6. Place toilet paper within arm’s reach to avoid bending and twisting.

Pet Safety

  1. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 86,000 people a year end up in the emergency room after tripping over their family pet. Keep a close eye on your pet(s) when moving about as some pets have a habit of crossing in front of their owner’s feet.
  2. Keep pet toys, food and water bowls picked up or placed out of the way.
  3. Clean up spilled water or scattered food as soon as you see it.
  4. Do not let your pet sleep with you. This could cause an infection at your incision site and lengthen your recovery time.
  5. If you are concerned about your pets care as you recover after surgery, consider boarding your pet or ask a family member to care for your pet for a short time after surgery.

Kitchen Safety

  1. The kitchen is the second most dangerous room in the house because of water spills and splashes.
  2. Wipe up all spills immediately and carefully as soon as they occur.
  3. Avoid standing on stools, chairs, or boxes to reach upper cabinets. Instead, relocate objects typically stored in higher locations to a lower, more reachable height prior to surgery until recovered.
  4. Avoid lifting heavy objects (i.e. slide pots across the countertop instead of carrying them).
  5. Consider preparing meals and freezing them for ease of use after surgery.

Medication Safety

  1. Consider purchasing a daily or weekly pill organizer and marking off when you took your meds on an easily visible calendar.
  2. Be aware which medicines you are taking that can cause drowsiness and/or dizziness, as this could increase the likelihood of a fall.

Small Children

  1. Whether you are a parent or a grandparent, restrictions such as no bending, lifting or twisting can make it difficult to care for (even hug) small children. Consider whether or not you will need assistance with child care and arrange for support prior to surgery.
  2. Small children may need some education on how to interact with you in a way that ensures both their safety and yours. Make sure to educate them as to your temporary limitations with bending, lifting and twisting.

Have Questions?

Need help or have questions about your upcoming surgery or Spine Camp class? We can help answer all your questions.

Brittany Kuehnl, B.S.N., R.N.
MSSIC Clinical Data Abstractor
(989) 794-3002

Kara Haskins, B.S.N., R.N., M.P.H.
Spine Care Program Specialist
(989) 794-0340