Recovering from Cervical Disk Surgery

You need to protect your cervical spine as it heals. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about being active and wearing your brace if you have one. Once you’re no longer wearing a brace, you and your healthcare provider can discuss other ways to help your neck recover.

Man in cervical collar outdoors walking with woman.In the hospital

Here is what to expect in the hospital:

  • You may go home the same day or spend 1 to 4 days in the hospital.

  • Right after surgery, you’ll stay in the recovery room. You may then be moved to a regular room.

  • You may have a drainage tube in your neck. The drain will be removed in a day or so.

  • Your throat may be sore, so you may prefer a liquid diet for a day or two.

  • You'll be given pain medicine as necessary. You may give yourself this medicine through a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) pump through your intravenous (IV) catheter. 

Wearing a brace

You may be given a brace in the hospital to help support your neck as it heals. Depending on your healthcare provider’s instructions, you may continue to wear it up to 24 hours a day for as long as 3 months. Ask your healthcare provider whether you are permitted to take it off during the day for short periods.

At home

At home, wear your brace and care for your incision as instructed. Gradually, you’ll be able to get more active. Talk to your healthcare provider about when and how to return to the following activities:

  • Driving. Ask a friend or family member to help out. 

  • Lifting heavy objects 

  • Returning to work.

Follow-up care

Here is what to expect after surgery: 

  • Your healthcare provider may need to remove the sutures or staples from your incision a few days after your surgery. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about keeping your incision clean and dry.

  • Your healthcare provider will schedule one or more follow-up visits with you. If you had fusion, X-rays may be taken. Your healthcare provider may also evaluate nerve function and arm strength if you had arm or hand pain, numbness, or weakness before your surgery. Once your neck is sufficiently healed, your healthcare provider may recommend exercises or physical therapy to help strengthen your neck.

  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully to ensure the best possible results and recovery from your surgery.

Call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following: 

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider 

  • Redness and swelling at the incision site

  • Excessive or foul-smelling discharge from incision site  

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing 

  • New neck or arm pain or increased pain

  • Numbness or weakness in arms or legs

  • A fall