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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Children’s Therapies

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Returning to normal activities

Looking after your spine

For three months following your spinal surgery you must not:

  • bend or twist your spine excessively
  • lift anything heavier than one or two kilograms in weight.

If you do, it could have an impact on how you manage day-to-day activities such as getting in and out of bed, getting dressed and washing.

Tips to help you manage after surgery

Getting out of bed - 'log roll' technique

Because you are protecting your spine you will not be able to get out of bed in your normal way, so we would like you to use the 'log roll' technique.

Bend your hips and knees, roll on to your side, swing your legs over the side of the bed and push up with your hands into sitting. You can progress to getting up normally over time. You may find it helpful to practise this before coming in for your surgery so you are familiar with the technique. Our Occupational Therapist will show you how to do this when you come in to the Pre-operative Assessment Clinic.

Bending

If you drop something on the floor, ask someone else to pick it up for you. If tying shoe laces, place your foot on your opposite knee whilst sitting, instead of bending down.

Sitting

At first you will find it easier to sit on something slightly higher than normal such as a high stool or a chair/sofa raised by cushions. Initially sit for short periods and gradually build up the amount of time you sit for. It is useful to have a walk each time you get up from sitting. You can sit in normal chairs once you find it comfortable to do so.

Getting out of a chair

To begin with you will find it easier to get out of a higher chair. It helps to move your bottom to the front of the chair, and use your hands on the arms of the chair to push up. If there are no arms on the chair, push up from the actual seat.

Toileting

This may be trickier than usual: it helps to take your pain relief about 20 minutes before going to the toilet.

Constipation is very common, but nothing to worry about. It may just be the side-effects of the pain relief medication. It helps to drink plenty of fluids, go for a walk or take a mild laxative.

You may find it more difficult than normal to get on and off the toilet. Our therapists on the ward will help you with this and provide equipment if required to help you to manage this task when home.

Washing

At first you will have to wash at a basin with a cloth, to prevent the wound from getting infected. You may return to showering after one week, but only if in a shower cubicle. Baths are best left until three months after the operation. If you don't have a walk in shower, consider asking a friend or neighbour if you can use theirs.

Dressing

You may find it easier to get dressed while lying on the bed or perching on the edge of your bed or a chair. Lots of people wear slip on shoes initially. Others put their shoes on by putting their foot on a chair.

Shopping (if applicable)

You should not do any significant lifting for at least three months after your surgery.

To make shopping more comfortable:

  • use two smaller bags or a back pack rather than one big bag
  • use a shallow trolley rather than a deep one
  • try internet shopping (with the bill payer's permission!)

Pacing activities

After the operation everyone builds up how much they do at different rates.

As a general rule, do things slowly at first and a little bit at a time. Establish a routine of activity that builds up gradually, step by step and day by day.

The first thing to do is find out what you can manage. Expect this to be less than what you could do before the operation. It can be helpful to keep a record.

Once you know what you can do then you can work to improve it.

To do this you need to do a bit less than you can do (say 80 percent) but practise frequently and then build up gradually by doing a bit more every few days.

Getting back to normal

Within a few months you should be back to most basic activities. Begin by getting out and about, walking, going in the car, shopping, seeing friends, going to school or college and taking regular exercise.

It will be 12 months before you can begin doing any strenuous sports, and even then you must train and build up gradually.