Someone you love is having back surgery, and you will be his caregiver. It’s an important role—depending on the procedure your patient undergoes, he may be limited for the first six weeks following surgery and need almost-constant attention from you. Here’s how you can help him recover from back surgery:

Eliminate Potential Hazards

back surgery

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Remove mats, rugs and any other loose flooring that could cause him to trip. Clear a path to his chair and the bathroom—if there is any furniture in the way, move it. He may come home with a walker, so there must be plenty of space for him to use it. The base width of a standard walker is 24 inches.

No Bending

  • Make sure he can reach everything he needs in the shower without lifting his hands too high, twisting or bending.
  • Have him brush his teeth in the kitchen. These sinks are higher and require less bending.
  • If he wants to cook, put his cookware on the counter.
  • Keep television remotes, his phone, pens and paper close to him.

Limit Lifting

This includes a gallon of milk, which weighs about nine pounds. He shouldn’t try to lift one until six weeks after surgery. Purchase milk in quarts instead.

back surgery

Photo by Cedar Summit Farm via Flickr

Specialty Items

He should purchase a raised toilet seat for each bathroom he will be using. For example, during the day he may use the half-bath in the hallway and at night, his master bath. Insurance may cover the cost of items related to his recovery.


Most likely, his doctor will have him begin walking three days after surgery, and he may be asked to increase the frequency and duration of the walks as time goes on. Help him keep track of this.

back surgery

Photo by Asela via Flickr

He will likely begin physical therapy six weeks after surgery. Encourage him to do his exercises and make sure he is performing them correctly. You can learn the proper techniques for many of these exercises by watching videos at Laser Spine Institute and similar sites. Follow the activity and physical therapy plan provided by your doctor.

Remind your charge to listen to his body—if an activity or exercise hurts, he should stop and not try it again for a while.

Pain Management

Make sure you obtain his medications directly after release from the hospital or outpatient surgery center. Ice packs will help alleviate swelling and reduce pain. Bags of frozen vegetables make great ice packs.

Create a medication chart or download one online. Write down the dates, times and quantities of his medication. If he is prescribed a narcotic pain reliever, he may have to be present to pick it up or have it mailed to him. For this reason, he should contact his physician no less than two days before he runs out of medication.

When to Contact His Doctor

The following symptoms require a call to the doctor:

  • A fever of 101 degrees or higher
  • An increase in the swelling/redness around the incision
  • Drainage
  • Separation at the edges of his wound

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