Scoliosis Surgery Recovery

Scoliosis Surgery Recovery

Scoliosis Surgery Recovery – Introduction

Recovering fully from scoliosis surgery can take up to a year or sometimes two depending on how old you are when you have the surgery. The spine takes about a year to fuse and during this time it’s important not to do anything that may damage the fusion as it takes such as impact sports or heavy lifting.

The problem with scoliosis surgery recovery is that it is very slow and it’s easy to get frustrated that things aren’t improving – I get very frustrated at times! 

But it’s important that when this happens to just look back a few months and remember how many more things you can do now. With scoliosis surgery recovery you often see progress month by month rather than week by week.
Things DO get better believe me, I’ve been there 🙂

Scoliosis Surgery Recovery – Journey Home from Hospital

My dad picked me up from hospital to take me home, which was about an hours journey by car. I had been shown how to get in and out of a car safely by the occupational therapist at the hospital but it was still very uncomfortable getting in. 

My tip: take plenty of cushions with you in the car! I had two behind me and one in front of me for support. I was also in my brace which was really uncomfortable but I think helped make me feel more supported. 

The journey was painful, I felt EVERY bump believe me! And getting out of the car was just as bad. I still find it awkward getting in and out of cars now but that’s for another post!

Scoliosis Surgery Recovery – Recovery at Home

When I got first got home after scoliosis surgery I think I realised for the first time that I was a bit taller than before surgery, all the kitchen cabinets and the sink in the bathroom looked lower and it was all very strange. I also remember trying to sit on the sofa and just couldn’t as it was waay too low! 

Luckily before I left the hospital an occupational therapist had my parents measure the heights of all our sofas and my bed and recommended that we got a higher chair for me to sit on (like the one I had by my bed in hospital – I called it a ‘Grandad Chair.’) We got it from Ableworld but it was very similar to the one below from Amazon:


My parents also bought me a table like the one below:

I could then sit on my ‘grandad chair’ to have my meals or go on my laptop. It also slid under the bed too so you can sit up in bed to eat meals. This table was invaluable to me and I used it everyday for months and months following the surgery.

So just a bit of advice really, you will probably need a decent chair with a straight back (plus LOTS of cushions) as there is no way you can sit or lounge on a sofa for a good few months!

Another really handy piece of equipment during scoliosis surgery recovery is a grabber:

This was also invaluable to me as it gave me back a little bit of independence. I used it to pick things up off the floor if I dropped something as I was not allowed to bend for 3months, and actually I still use it now as once you have a spinal fusion it’s awkward bending down anyway – even once you’ve recovered!

I also had a raised toilet seat (this is a must as you can’t get low enough without it at first!), crutches and a stool to sit on to wash myself as I couldn’t get into our shower at first (it’s over the bath). All of these things were provided by the hospital.

The best thing to do before you buy anything is check with the hospital what they will provide you with first as they all tend to be different.

Scoliosis Surgery Recovery: First Few Weeks at Home

The first few weeks of scoliosis surgery recovery at home were difficult, I won’t lie. You may need someone around to help you for at least the first few weeks – my mum took two weeks off work to look after me. 

Just to give you an idea of what it’s like for the first couple of weeks, my daily routine would consist of: 

    • Getting out of bed – This was a chore in itself! To get up was very difficult and I could no longer just sit up to get out of bed like I used to. Instead I had to ‘log-roll’ out which is basically just rolling onto my side and sitting up (I still do this now one year later as it’s easier!!) and then supporting myself on my crutch/someone to stand.  
    • Having a wash – my mum would help me with washing for the first few weeks as I struggled to do this alone. She would set up my perching stool (provided by the hospital) by the sink in the bathroom and put all the towels down on the floor and I would basically use this stool to sit on and have a body wash. I wasn’t allowed to get my scar wet for the first couple of weeks at home (your surgeon will tell you when it’s ok to do so) so it was a PAIN washing my hair during this time. I used a lot of dry shampoo I can tell you!! I can recommend stocking up on dry shampoo and also taking some to the hospital with you so you can freshen up a bit.

  • Getting Dressed – I was able to do this by myself when I was discharged from hospital but it was and still is a struggle. Try putting trousers or tights on without bending your back – not easy! I used to put the clothes I wanted to wear high up on a shelf or something so I could reach them without bending.
  • Painkillers, Painkillers and more Painkillers! I was put on tramadol, paracetemol, antibiotics and piritin (to stop the itching that the tramadol caused) when I was first discharged from hospital. I took my painkillers in the morning at about 6am, lunchtime, tea-time and before bed. I was put on antibiotics as the doctors were worried that I had an infection at the top of my scar as it had started to widen, thankfully I didn’t! So the antibiotics were more of a precautionary measure.
  • Sleeping – I spent a lot of the day in bed sleeping for the first few weeks. Mainly because the painkillers just knocked me out! But it also felt better on my back to lie down than sit up. I could only lie flat on my back for the first few months as any other position felt too uncomfortable. In fact I still find it uncomfortable lying any other way now, which is weird as I could never sleep on my back before surgery.
  • Eating/Drinking – I would get up and sit on my ‘grandad chair’ in my brace (with about 3 cushions behind me!) by the side of my bed to eat my meals, using the table that I mentioned above. I would try and increase the amount of time I spent sitting each day but to start with, it was difficult to sit for longer than an hour or two and then I would need to lie down. If I needed a drink when I was lying down I couldn’t just sit up, I would have to ‘log-roll’ and actually sit on the side of the bed. To solve this issue I mainly used beakers with bendy straws so that I could drink lying down! I would recommend stocking up on bendy straws for the immediate post surgery stages. You will also need someone to make meals for you for the first few weeks as you can’t lift anything or bend to get into cupboards etc, if this isn’t an option then frozen/pre-maid meals that you can just heat up in the microwave are ideal.
  • Walking – I tried to walk for a little each day to keep my strength up – this is very important. For the first few days at home I used my crutches to walk around the house for about 20 minutes, then I would need a lie down / sleep. It’s amazing how doing so little can really tire you out after this surgery. After about 4-6 weeks though I was walking round the block without my crutches for about an hour a day and my mum used to walk with me. Luckily it was summer so it was a good time of year to go out for a walk. I couldn’t believe how quickly I improved though and with my brace on I could soon walk pretty much like I used to before surgery, at a normal pace, by about 6 weeks post op.

Scoliosis Surgery Recovery: 2 Months post op onwards

After the first few weeks you find you can do more and more for yourself, like make yourself a meal and walk much further. At this stage it can start to get boring, as you are not allowed to do much but you do feel better in yourself. I was signed off work for 3months, which was then extended to 4 months! I did start to do work from home after 2 months though. 

It’s important to remember though that I was 24 when I had the surgery, teenagers tend to go back to school part time after about 6-8 weeks.

I kept myself busy during this time with DVDs, magazines, daytime TV, Haribo ;), puzzle books, and the Internet. I even took up cross stitching and baking and became quite good at making cupcakes! 🙂

I also spent a lot of time on scoliosis support forums speaking with others that had been through the same thing. This really helped me as it stopped me from going mad with worry if I felt a new pain or twinge as I could see others were experiencing exactly the same! 

You will feel new pains and the odd twinge or “electric shock” type pain, which are usually the nerves and muscles “waking up” and it’s normal to experience this after this type of surgery. 

It’s also normal to be in pain for quite/uncomfortable for quite a while after the surgery, it’s very frustrating but it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong, your body just needs time to recover.

Keep Moving!

I know I’ve said this already but it’s important to keep moving as much as you can to prevent circulation problems. I say this because at about 6 weeks post op I experienced extreme swelling in my right leg and ankle and when I pressed my fingers into my ankle it left an indent. 

I went to the Dr who was worried because I had just had surgery that I could have a blood clot! Needless to say I was terrified and had to have scan on my leg and blood tests immediately. 

Thankfully I didn’t have a blood clot, instead I had oedema caused by me being immobile for so long. To reduce your risks of blot clots and swelling in the legs post surgery it’s important to keep getting up for regular walks, doing simple leg exercises, drinking lots of water and you could even wear some flight/circulation socks. (They do provide you with these when you are in hospital to wear in bed but I didn’t get any to take home, might be worth asking about this before you are discharged.)

Feeling Down Post Surgery

It’s really easy and I would say completely normal to feel down after this surgery. It’s a huge thing to go through, a massive change to your body and at times I found it all quite hard to deal with. I definitely suffered from the post surgery blues – wondering what on earth I’d done to myself and whether it was the right thing to do.

I was worried that my back would move and go back to how it was before surgery. I was constantly taking photos of my back and comparing them to see if there were any changes – it became an obsession.

If something looked slightly different on one of the photos or was taken from a different angle I would really work myself up with worry. From reading stories on the forum I could see it was normal to feel this way, other people suffered from this type of paranoia too post surgery. And I guess it made sense to feel so worried after all I’d been through.

I also got fed up of the pain, stiffness, not being able to do things for myself, not being able to pick things up that I had dropped and having to sit up ‘straight’ all the time with my brace on. I longed to lounge on the sofa like the rest of my family as at that point I couldn’t see myself ever being able to again. But of course, at around 3months post op I could sit on the sofa again – and it was the best feeling ever!! 🙂

Hope this helps, please feel free to contact me or comment below if you have any questions about scoliosis surgery recovery and I’ll do my best to help.

If you’re feeling a bit blue post surgery, check out some inspirational quotes that helped me feel a bit more positive during my recovery.

Louise xx

35 thoughts on “Scoliosis Surgery Recovery

  1. I had my surgery in November 2011, I still can't bend down but do you think it would be ok to sit on a sofa chair now, if I still sat up straight??i have an appoint,et next week with my surgeon, should I wait and ask him then? Any advice wud be a huge help:)

  2. Hiya 🙂 I should think you would be ok to sit on a sofa chair now. Maybe try it and see how it feels for you? I still tend to find sofas uncomfy unless I have a few cushions behind me so I can still sit up 'straight.' I would try it with some cushions behind you. If you're worried then I would ask your surgeon and see what he advises 🙂

  3. Thank you well my appointment is in a few days so i am going to wait, I tried it but it just felt weird:) I'm happy with my orthapedic chair for now:)

  4. Thank you so much, I'm 14 and going in for surgery in 10 days and I've been sick with worry but reading this where somebody else can tell you how I'll feel and what I should do so I feel happier just gives me some peace of mind so thank you, even though I know the risks I'll think positive. If you were to have any other advice I'd be extremely grateful x
    awesomeemzy@hotmail.com

  5. Hi Louise,

    My names Jordan, and I'm about 3 weeks away from my operation and not going to lie pretty scared by the whole thing, I'm a 21 yr old male, quite fit but nothing can really prepare you for whats to come . . . It's really reassuring reading your experiences, with a positive and resourceful way to deal with the tasks ahead, hopefully I can share mine once done 🙂

    Thanks heaps!

  6. Hi, Louise.
    My wife is just a few days post-surgery and doing about as well as expected.
    What was your rule for when you wore the brace? At the hospital, the staff only put the brace on for walking exercise. She was kept in bed without it, and she was taken to the toilet chair without it as well. Log-roll out of bed, then using the walker for the few steps to the toilet, good posture, but no brace. It makes me a little nervous to have her moving like that out of bed without the brace. Thoughts?

  7. Hi Brian, thanks for your message:) my experience with the brace sounds similar to that of your wife's. I wore the brace for about 3 months and only when I was sat upright out of bed for extended periods of time or when I was walking about. If I was just getting out of bed to go to the bathroom I wouldn't wear it. I think this depends on the surgeon I know some people do wear the brace in bed but mine was hard plastic so I couldn't! I think if you are concerned I would ring the hospital if your wife is now at home and just double check to put your mind at ease but it sounds similar to my experience 🙂 I was also nervous not to wear the brace so I can sympathise completely!

  8. what are the benefits to this surgery? i mean it seems like a hell of a lot to go through. I am 27 my surgery is in two weeks but I don't know if I should put myself through this it seems very limiting and there seem to be a lot you can't do. why did you have the surgery? I have two 75 degree curves and I am scared of making the wrong decision and ruining my life. I am in pain now but does the pain get better after surgery or do you just have different pain? why did you choose to have surgery? would you honestly go through this again knowing what you know now? What is the scar like? sorry for all the questions but this is the biggest decision I have ever made and I don't know if I can put myself through it!

  9. I am 27 and my surgery is supposed to be 11th March nut to be honest I don't know if I should be having surgery yes I am in pain but what you have to go through and the lasting effects of this surgery seem so limiting! I have an s shape spine two curves 75 degrees but I can still move why did you decide to have the surgery? do you really think it benefits your life? It seems a lot to go through just to look straighter? does it help the pain? would you recommend this surgery? what are the benefits?

  10. Hi Katherine, thanks for your comments and questions. I have sent you an email and I hope it answers your questions. I had the surgery because my curves were over 80 degrees and progressing. So it was either have surgery or it would get progressively worse over time. Still it was not an easy choice and I know what you are going through. I would have it again as I feel I am better off now overall than before.

  11. I just had this surgery and will be discharged today. I felt I couldn't stand, sit and lie(on harder surface) for long. is it normal?

  12. Im probably getting the surgury next summer, and I'll be 15. Can you feel/hear anything during the surgury?? Its still a year away and I'm already scared! :/

  13. Hi Louise,

    I am 24yrs old, with kyphoscoliosis, and I have been debating surgery for years. I am terrified and worried about how much pain I will be in.

    I have a few questions: Are you able to slouch at all? Does being in good posture all the time get uncomfortable? I know that's probably a weird question, but sometimes when I try to stand/sit straight for a period of time, i feel I have to slouch to get some relief.

    Have you experienced any complications?

    Are you able to hike, or do any sports now?

    Thank you for any feedback you have. I find your blog very helpful! 🙂

    – Micha

  14. Hi Allie, thanks for your message. I know how scary it is. You wont be able to feel/hear anything don't worry. It's just like going to sleep. It feels like no time has passed when you wake up!

  15. Hi Micha,
    Thanks for your message. Once you are fused, the fused bit of your back cannot slouch. It does feel strange to start with but you get used to it. It doesnt feel uncomfortable having good posture as you feel supported from the inside – it's hard to explain but you don't need to slouch to get relief anymore, well you can't! The only uncomfortable part for me is that because my back is fused I can't bend it to mould it to different chair shapes, which can be uncomfortable. I find I'm more comfortable since surgery on a stool or a chair with no back! I can do most things now, I go to the gym and do Zumba and I have done some hiking too. I hope this helps a bit. Louise 🙂

  16. Thank you so much for this blog! I'm sure you have helped many people to know what to expect. I am 34 yrs old with a surgery scheduled to stabilize a 48 degree curve. I olny had one chance to speak with the surgeon/specialist, so I really liked reading your blog. You gave me a lot to think about and some great ideas for things I will need. I know that every case is different, but it really seems soo serious. My doctor said that the first month I would wish I never did it, then it would get better and better. But, he never talked about adaptive equipment. I'm looking at having two rods that would cover six segments of my spine. I feel like he said that I could go back to work in 6-8 weeks. But, from what I have read, that doesn't sound right. Plus, he said I couldn't pick up my 24 lb daughter for 2 months. This doesn't sound right either. I guess my question for you is about lifting. How long did it take you to be able to lift objects and how heavy were they? Thank you!~ Sarah

  17. Hi. I had lumber scoliosis im 21 and had surgery over 3 weeks ago.i was in surgery for 8hours so was quite a big op. It has been difficult for me I wont lie but I am still stiff and part of me is worried I will be like this forever. I know its stupid to think that but I just want to get better now and go to work again.i can move more but I cant really bend too far I do exercise daily does it get easier as time goes by? And do you still feel pain in your back now? Many thanks!

  18. Hi Chris, yes it does get easier but it really does take time! 🙁 I'm 3 years post op now and I feel more like I used to and less stiff but its taken 3 years to get to this stage. I get pain now and again but nothing like I used to get per surgery. It's mainly if I've been on my feet all day! You will get there eventually sounds like you're doing well 🙂

  19. Hi Sarah, thank you for your kind comments 🙂 I think going back to work really depends on what your job is. I went back to work phased return after 4 months and that was hard for me. If you have a job involving heavy lifting I think it would be longer than this. I was lifting very light weights after about 6 months, it would depend on what you're comfortable with but I was told no bending, lifting or twisting for at least 3 months.

  20. Hi my name is Pam I am 48 years old, my surgery is scheduled for Oct 23. My curve is 102 degree needless to say I am scared to death. The problem is I am a nurse, and lifting is always a part of the job. My surgeon told me I will never be a nurse again. So going back to work for me doesn't' seem to be a reality. But my question is regarding stairs my bedroom is on the second floor, how did you handle stairs.

  21. hi Pam, it could be really hard even just walking for the 1st month or so.. it would be better if you could place a bed at the 1st storey of your house

  22. Hi Louise. Thank you so much for this blog post. I am 27 & as of today 5 weeks out of surgery, & it has been a great help to me to understand what I am going through.
    I have a question for you. I have started to go out for a short trip each day, & the top of my shoulders get really sore about 20 mins in. Do you remember feeling pain in your shoulder muscles around that time?
    Thanks,
    Steph.
    

  23. You put a lot of effort in this site. Facing future surgery, It is a lot of help for me. I am 72 and only have had scoliosis for 6 years that I know of. Now, my doctor told me I am a good candidate for surgery. You have been a great help to me in all of your information. Thanks.

  24. Hi I was just wondering if you had any sleeping problems after you stopped taking your medication…I am now 6 weeks into my recovery and I can only get 3-4 hours sleep each time I rest ,I don’t really want to start taking medication such as sleeping tablets to help me so I was just wondering if you had this problem and if you did how I’d you deal with it ?

    1. Hi Sharna,
      I remember I did have problems after I stopped taking my medication. I was taking Tramadol at the time and I suffered terrible withdrawal symptoms. I remember I had the shakes and felt so on edge I couldn’t sleep, so I do sympathise with you. My symptoms were only temporary though and after a couple of weeks they stopped and I never took Tramadol again!! It might be worth going to see your Dr to see what they can advise you. If it’s pain keeping you awake they may be able to prescribe you some alternative painkillers which may help you sleep better, I took my painkillers for about 5 months after surgery as I still needed them even then.
      Louise x

  25. I am currently taking strong pain medications because of the severe pain that I’m having that’s the reason why I’m going to have the surgery plus I can’t walk except for maybe 15 or 20 feet I’m concerned that I’ll be in really bad pain and that they will make me stop taking my medications which would be impossible at this point very confused about this anybody else had this problem

    1. Hi Tim,
      So sorry to hear about your pain 🙁 I hope the surgery goes well for you. They shouldn’t make you stop taking your medications. After surgery they will give you strong medication such as morphine which should help keep your pain under control.

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