Risk Reduction

Preventing Falls

After surgery you will have a change in your ability to move around. You will need to prevent bending, lifting or twisting movements, which may be difficult at first for some. In order to stay safe after surgery and prevent falls, follow these tips:

  • While in the hospital always call or ask for help before getting up to go to the bathroom.
    • It might help to schedule trips to the bathroom so you are not met with an emergency where you really have to go!
  • Remember to get up slowly.
    • Changing positions from lying to sitting or sitting to standing can cause dizziness. Remember to wait a few seconds after changing positions before moving until all dizziness has resolved.
  • Use assistive devices (railings, walker, cane etc.) to stabilize yourself as you move.
  • Use grab bars where available to help guide/assist movements.
  • Keep personal items within an easy to reach height.
  • Ask for assistance when you cannot lift or reach the items you want.
  • Wear non-skid socks or slippers when moving around.

Preventing Complications


Your surgical site care instructions will be provided to you upon your discharge based on the type of surgery you’ve undergone. Not all patients will go home with a bandage or a brace. It is very important to follow your specific surgical site care instructions and to reach out to your hospital nursing team or your neurosurgeon’s office for further clarification if you have any questions.

Below are some good practices to follow while healing:

  • Follow bathing instructions on discharge summary.
    • Do not take baths, swim or soak in any water until cleared by your surgeon.
    • When allowed to shower, use liquid antibacterial soap or, if you use a bar of soap, do not share bar of soap with other family members.
      • Soap bars should be elevated out of water after shower to allow for drying. Soap that is left sitting in water gets soft/ spongey and can hold bacteria.
    • Use a clean wash cloth and clean towel each time you wash starting first with gently washing your incision, then the rest of your body. Be careful not to scrub incision site. Pat dry with a clean towel. Be careful to limit touching incision.
  • Do not allow visitors to touch your incision or dressing.
  • Thoroughly wash hands before changing dressing and make sure to have caregiver/support person thoroughly wash hands before assisting in dressing changes.
  • Continue brushing your teeth twice a day.
  • Change clothing daily.
  • Wash bedding twice weekly or more often if they’ve become soiled.
  • Do not let pets near surgical site, even if covered with a bandage for at least 6 weeks.
  • Do not let pets share furniture (bed, chair, or lay on lap) while incision is healing for at least 6 weeks.
  • Cover furniture frequently shared with pets with a clean sheet before using.
  • Always have your brace over clothing, never directly against skin or the incision.


You will be provided with an incentive spirometer device used to help you improve the functioning of your lungs following surgery. This device will help keep your lungs healthy after surgery as you work to increase your daily activity levels. You will be shown this device in your Spine Camp class and will receive further instructions while in the hospital from your care team. You will be asked to use this device every hour while awake after surgery and you will continue to use it after discharge until your activity levels have returned to normal.

Blood Clots

Inflatable wraps will be placed around your legs and inflated with air one at a time. These wraps, often referred to as sequential boots, or just boots, will help improve blood flow and circulation to the legs reducing the risk of blood clot formation. You should wear your sequential boots with the device powered on and pumping any time you are in bed or sitting in a chair. To further help reduce the risk of blood clots you should also get out of bed and move about 3-5 times each day, increasing the amount of time you walk each session (i.e. 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes etc.).


Constipation is a common problem after spine surgery and occurs when you have problems emptying your bowels. The narcotic medications used following spine surgery to manage your pain can slow your body’s digestive system which can lead to constipation. To prevent problems with constipation, you will be given a stool softener so it will be very important to stay hydrated, drinking lots of fluids during this time. You may not have a bowel movement before you are discharged from the hospital, but you should be passing gas.

Lack of activity can also cause problems with constipation. This is another reason why it is important to continue increasing your activity following your surgery. Listening to your body will be very important during this time. It’s normal to be sore after surgery but do not let soreness get in the way of continuing with your activity. Make sure you are following the limits set by your neurosurgeon and continue to take short walks, gradually increasing your activity as you go. You will be surprised to see that activity can actually help alleviate constipations symptoms as well as stiffness and mild pain.

Ask Your Doctor

If you are experiencing back or neck symptoms such as pain, weakness, numbness or limited range of motion that do not resolve with rest and modification of your activities, ask your doctor for a referral to MyMichigan's WellSpine program.