Spine Dragon site logo: Michael J H McCarthy, Consultant Spinal Surgeon

Patient Information: Post Operative Recovery Times

Approximate Recovery Times in Weeks for Elective Spinal Operations

The following is a guide for recovery times following spinal surgery. It is important to note that recovery times will vary between patients and that this is only a guide.

The table is also available in the PDF format.

 Lumbar MicrodiscectomyLumbar MicrodecompressionMultilevel Lumbar Decompression
Manual labouring Job6+6+6 to 12
Office / Desk Job4 to 6+4 to 6+6+
Wound Healing2 to 42 to 42 to 4
DrivingApproximately 6 weeks when you are comfortable getting into and out of a car, can turn your body to look out of the back window and can safely perform an emergency stop.
WalkingAs soon as able. This is an excellent form of gentle exercise to aid your recovery. It is important to slowly pace yourself and build up distances gradually.
ShoweringInitially the wound should be covered by a waterproof dressing whilst taking brief showers. Once it has healed fully longer showers and bathing are permitted.
HouseworkWhen comfortable. Avoid bending at the back and use your knees. Avoid twisting when hoovering and when ironing make sure the board is set at an appropriate level or you can sit down to iron.
LiftingLifting light objects and shopping can be performed when comfort allows. Avoid bending at the back and use your knees. Use both arms to carry shopping and avoid carrying for long periods.
SwimmingYour wound must have healed fully before you can swim. If you have been fused please wait until you have had a follow up X-Ray. In line strokes are best following lumbar spine surgery (front crawl and back stoke).
Gardening6+6+6+
Cycling6+6+6+
Racquet sports, golf, cricket, jogging6+6+12+
Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, aerobics, gentle aerobic gym activity6+6+6+
Weight lifting, contact sports (including football and rugby)12+12+12+

 Lumbar Decompression and FusionFusions: PLF / TLIF / XLIF / ALIF*Anterior Cervical Discectomy and FusionPosterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion
Wound Healing2 to 42 to 41 to 22 to 4
Office / Desk Job6+6+4 to 66+
Manual labouring Job12+12+12+12+
DrivingApproximately 6 weeks when you are comfortable getting into and out of a car, can turn your body to look out of the back window and can safely perform an emergency stop.
WalkingAs soon as able. This is an excellent form of gentle exercise to aid your recovery. It is important to slowly pace yourself and build up distances gradually.
ShoweringInitially the wound should be covered by a waterproof dressing whilst taking brief showers. Once it has healed fully longer showers and bathing are permitted.
HouseworkWhen comfortable. Avoid bending at the back and use your knees. Avoid twisting when hoovering and when ironing make sure the board is set at an appropriate level or you can sit down to iron.
LiftingLifting light objects and shopping can be performed when comfort allows. Avoid bending at the back and use your knees. Use both arms to carry shopping and avoid carrying for long periods.
SwimmingYour wound must have healed fully before you can swim. If you have been fused please wait until you have had a follow up X-Ray. In line strokes are best following lumbar spine surgery (front crawl and back stoke).
Gardening12+12+12+12+
Cycling6+6+6+6+
Racquet sports, golf, cricket, jogging12-24+**12-24+**12+12+
Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, aerobics, gentle aerobic gym activity12+**12+**12+**12+**
Weight lifting, contact sports (including football and rugby)26-52 (if at all)**26-52 (if at all)**26-52 (if at all)**26-52 (if at all)**

* PLF = Posterolateral Fusion, TLIF = Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion, XLIF = Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion, ALIF = Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

** After discussion with your surgeon