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Why cant I drive after spinal fusion?

Caring for Loved Ones After Spinal Surgery

Spinal injuries occur for a wide range of reasons. They can develop as you age, be caused by a disease or result from a traumatic event such as a fall or car accident .

It’s important to identify the cause of your back pain and get prompt treatment, especially if your back pain is accompanied by other serious symptoms . If you or a loved one are experiencing back pain, talk to a spinal specialist and get the help you need before your condition progresses or causes permanent damage.

Before Spinal Surgery

There are some things you can do before spinal surgery to make the recovery process much smoother for the patient and yourself.

  • Prepare healthy meals and snacks ahead of time
  • Purchase easy-to-prepare foods
  • Place daily essentials in easily accessible places where the patient can reach without bending over, twisting or lifting
  • Ensure special equipment such as long-handled reachers, walkers and shower chairs are ready to use
  • Fill the necessary prescriptions
  • Review the recovery guidelines specified by their healthcare provider

In addition, you want to create a good recovery plan to have peace of mind and guarantee a smooth recovery. Work with the patient’s healthcare provider to understand what this plan should include and ensure you have a thorough understanding of the procedure and recovery process. Talk to your loved one about their expectations and needs, along with any responsibilities you will have while caring for them. Discuss any questions or concerns you may have, and take notes of any important information.

At Citrus Spine Institute, we offer educational pre-operative courses for both our patients and caregivers through our Spine Academy program. These courses are provided in partnership with Citrus Memorial Hospital and are designed to help you prepare for the level of care the patient will need.

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What to Expect After Spinal Surgery

After spinal surgery , you want to help the patient take proper precautions to ensure a smooth, quick and safe recovery. The patient’s healthcare provider will provide a list of instructions, limitations, post-operative red flags and any other important information. Make sure the patient is following all instructions given by their healthcare provider.

Immediately Following Spinal Surgery

Due to the effects of anesthesia and physical limitations, patients are typically restricted from driving after their spinal procedure. You should expect to drive them home after their procedure or once they are released from the hospital. They may need assistance getting in and out of the car and into the home.

When you pick up the patient, speak with the medical team and collect any paperwork and prescriptions — pay close attention to any instructions as the patient may not be in a condition where they can remember them. Ask the medical team any questions you may have. Verify that you have the necessary phone numbers should any urgent questions or concerns arise.

Assistance With Daily Tasks

After spinal surgery, patients are typically restricted from bending, lifting, twisting, pushing and pulling. As they recover, they will gain more mobility. While some movement is okay, they need to make sure they aren’t putting a strain on their spine as it heals.

Limitations will vary according to the patient, but they may need help with everyday tasks, such as:

  • Meal preparation
  • Household chores
  • Getting dressed
  • Bandage changes
  • Assistance walking
  • Help moving place to place
  • Shopping and errands
  • Yardwork
  • Cleaning
  • Driving

Medical Appointments

Ensure the patient attends all follow-up appointments. Pay close attention during each appointment and make note of any important care instructions. In addition to follow-up appointments, the patient may be prescribed physical therapy. Make sure the patient attends all sessions as physical therapy is key to regaining strength and mobility and can speed up the recovery process.

Pain Management

Pain, soreness, stiffness and discomfort are to be expected after any surgical procedure, however, the patient shouldn’t have to suffer through it. Their physician will provide thorough instructions for pain management. These typically include at-home pain management remedies and medicines such as over-the-counter or prescription medications, hot and cold therapy, back bracing, and more. You may need to help the patient keep track of their pain medication dose intervals. Be sure to follow all instructions regarding pain medication and other pain relief remedies.


Proper nutrition and hydration play a critical role in your overall health. It can immensely help during recovery and lower the likelihood of post-operative complications.

During recovery, there are specific foods patients should eat (and avoid) . Patients should drink eight glasses of water per day and should stay away from processed, inflammatory foods. Instead, they should consume healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Constipation is a common side effect of pain medications. Replace foods that can worsen constipation with fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Living Space and Equipment

Place special equipment such as walkers, canes and long-handled reachers in an easily accessible place. If the patient is restricted from climbing stairs, move their bed and other necessities to the first floor during their recovery.

Lower the likelihood of a fall by removing tripping hazards such as clutter, cords and rugs. Install a toilet riser, shower chair and temporary grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet to make bathroom navigation easier. Place non-slip mats in areas where the floor may become wet such as the bathroom and kitchen.

Emotional Support

Emotional and mental health are just as important as physical health. In fact, stress, anxiety and depression can actually impede wound healing . Whether it be due to pain and discomfort, stress and anxiety, reactions to pain medications or anesthesia, physical limitations or other factors, some patients can struggle mentally and emotionally after a procedure.

This support is crucial to improving their quality of life. Showing patience, kindness and compassion can give them the support they need to overcome these obstacles. Continually encourage the patient throughout their recovery to reinforce a positive attitude.

In addition to providing emotional support to your loved one, take care of your own emotional and mental health. Just as it is for the patient, the recovery process can be challenging for the caregiver. Make sure you get enough rest so that you can be there to help them with what they need.

How Soon Can Someone Drive after Having Discectomy Surgery?

Driving is an activity many people tend to take for granted, and it also comes as second nature to many people. For this reason, it is not uncommon for discectomy patients to wonder how long it will be before driving is possible after having a spinal disc removed. For many people, the answer is roughly a week or two. This article explains what you need to know about driving after having a discectomy.

1–2 Weeks Is Typical with Minimally Invasive Procedures

As mentioned above, it is usually a few weeks before most patients can start driving again. This is more likely to be the case if you had a minimally invasive microdiscectomy . However, you should check in with your doctor to determine when it is best to start driving again following your discectomy. This may depend on several factors, including:

• Your overall health and wellbeing
• How well you responded to surgery
• The kind of vehicle you drive
• How often and how long you intend to drive (e.g., regularly for work or just occasionally for picking things up and running errands)

Expect It to Take Longer with Fusion Surgery

Some patients have longer recovery times if it is necessary to have fusion surgery with their discectomies. This is more likely to be the case if removing a spinal disc causes the spine to become unstable. In this instance, recovery typically takes longer. When it comes to driving, this means you may not be able to drive for about five to six weeks after your surgery.

Prepare to Get Back to Driving Safely Post-Discectomy

Taking appropriate precautions when getting back to driving after having any type of spinal surgery is always a good idea. After a discectomy, it is best to use a lumbar support cushion. There are specially designed cushions that can provide the added level of comfort often preferred after having spinal disc surgery. Additionally, prepare yourself for getting back to your usual driving routine post-procedure by:

• Maintaining proper driving posture
• Not overdoing it with bumps and other potentially jarring movements that could affect your healing spine and the remaining part of the disc
• Sticking to your post-surgery physical therapy routine

Physical therapy is equally beneficial because it strengthens and supports the spine. Not only is this good for post-surgery driving, but it can also help you as you go about your daily routines when you are not behind the wheel.

Check in with Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if you happen to experience any significant discomfort as you start driving again after your spinal disc surgery. It is especially important to see your doctor if you notice any lingering soreness after driving. This does not necessarily mean you have reinjured the affected area. In fact, oftentimes, it simply means you may have overexerted yourself.

Back surgery recovery time varies among individuals and depends on factors such as whether the patient has a large hole in the outer ring of the disc after surgery. If the hole in the disc is larger than a standard pencil eraser, the patient has a significant risk of experiencing a reherniation. Patients with a large hole in the outer ring of the disc are more than twice as likely to reherniate after surgery. These reherniations often require additional surgery or even a larger spinal fusion operation. Barricaid is a bone-anchored device shown to reduce reherniations by closing the hole in the disc after a discectomy, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital.

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment or how to get access to Barricaid, you may ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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