Discharge Instructions for Spinal Fusion

You have just undergone a procedure known as a spinal fusion. During this procedure, your health care provider locked together (fused) some of the bones in your spine. This limits the movement of these bones to help relieve your pain. Here’s what you need to know about home care following a spinal fusion.


  • Arrange your household to keep the items you need within reach.

  • Remove electrical cords, throw rugs, and anything else that may cause you to fall.

  • Use nonslip bath mats, grab bars, an elevated toilet seat, and a shower chair in your bathroom.

  • Use a walker or handrails until your balance, flexibility, and strength improve. And remember to ask for help from others when you need it.

  • Free up your hands so that you can use them to keep balance. Do this by using a fanny pack, apron, or pockets to carry things. Be sure not to carry too much at once.

  • Use chairs with arms. The arms make it easier for you to stand up and sit down.

  • Don’t bend or twist at the waist, or raise your hands over your head for the first 2 week(s) after your surgery.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 4 pounds for the first 2 week(s) after surgery.

  • Don’t sit for more than 30-45 minutes at a time. Take frequent short walks. They are the key to your recovery.

  • Nap if you are tired, but don’t stay in bed all day.

  • Don’t drive until your doctor says it’s okay. And never drive while you are taking opioid pain medication.

Incision care

  • Check your incision daily or have someone check for you. Look for redness, tenderness, or drainage.

  • Avoid soaking your wound in water (no hot tubs, bathtubs, swimming pools) until your doctor says it’s OK.

  • Wait 3 day(s) after your surgery to begin showering. Then shower as needed. Carefully wash your incision with soap and water. Gently pat it dry. Don’t rub the incision, or apply creams or lotions to it. To avoid falling while showering, use a shower stool.

Other home care

  • Take your pain medication exactly as directed.

  • Don’t take nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. They may delay or prevent proper fusion of the spine.

  • Continue to wear the support stockings you were given in the hospital. Wear them as instructed by your doctor.

  • Wear your back brace as directed by your doctor.

  • Keep all appointments for physical therapy. During your hospital stay, you should have been given instructions about physical therapy. If not, ask your doctor.


  • Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

  • Keep appointments for X-rays. They will be taken often to check the status of your spinal fusion.


When to seek medical attention

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

Otherwise, call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Increased shoulder pain or pain not relieved by medication

  • Pain or swelling in the arm on the side of your surgery

  • Numbness, tingling, or blue-gray color of your arm or fingers on the side of your surgery

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38.0°C) or shaking chills

  • Increased swelling or redness around the incision

  • Drainage or oozing around the incision

  • Nausea or vomiting