If surgery is the recommended route to treat your condition and back pain, be sure to follow your doctor’s guidelines pre and post-op. Before your spine surgery, your doctor may ask you to do a number of things to help make the procedure go smoothly and help your body heal:


Smoking is detrimental to your health, especially during and after spine surgery. If you smoke cigarettes, you will be expected to stop all tobacco use for a period before and after your surgery. This includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and smokeless tobacco (snuff, dip). Nicotine prevents bone growth and decreases successful bone graft fusion. After surgery, smokers have a higher likelihood of incomplete or delayed healing of spinal fusions.

Smokers are also at greater risk for lung and heart complications during surgery. Smoking also decreases blood circulation, resulting in slower wound healing and an increased risk of infection.

Tell your doctor if you are a smoker. Talk with your doctor about nicotine replacements, pills without nicotine (Wellbutrin, Chantix), and tobacco counseling programs. Don’t wait until the day of surgery to start planning how to quit smoking.


Your doctor may recommend that you do not drink alcohol one week before and two weeks after surgery to avoid bleeding problems.

Family Members & Friends

Consider sharing information with any family members and friends who will be involved in helping you recover.

Arrange for a family member, friend or spine coach to be with you for several days after you return home after your discharge from the hospital. This is very important as you will need help mobilizing, caring for yourself and performing household tasks.

Also, consider arranging for help with yard work, laundry, grocery shopping, pet care, child care and transportation to and from appointments.


Proper nutrition and hydration before and after surgery is important for good health and progress. Good nutrition is a balance of calories, protein, fiber, and iron. In particular, protein matters because it helps to build muscles, repair tissues, fight infection and aid healing.

Vitamins & Supplements

Iron: Your doctor may prescribe an iron supplement and/or advise eating iron-rich foods before and after spine surgery. This is because iron raises hemoglobin (transports oxygen) throughout your body.

Vitamin D & Calcium: These are important for bone health. They build and maintain the strength of your bones. You can also add calcium-rich foods to your diet like milk, yogurt, dark leafy greens, and fortified cereal.

Vitamin C: This has been shown to enhance iron absorption and repair your tissues which is very important during recovery. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune response. You can add more vitamin C into your diet by eating food like oranges, cantaloupes, and tomatoes.

Always, consult your doctor before starting any vitamins or supplements.

Preventing Constipation

Many patients have trouble with constipation after surgery caused by pain medication and anesthesia. The week before surgery, start eating foods high in fiber including fruits, vegetables, beans and whole-grain cereals and breads. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water every day.

Over-the-counter fiber supplements such as Metamucil, Fibercon and Citrucel can help keep stools soft. Don’t rely on laxatives, such as Correctol or Dulcolax, which cause muscle contractions in the intestines.

Weight Loss

If you are overweight, it is a good idea to slim down before your surgery. This should be done gradually with safe and proven dietary modifications. By making a lifestyle change prior to your surgery, you are more likely to continue better eating habits in the post-operative period. These habits may lead to a healthier lifestyle and better long-term health.

Food Preparation

Consider preparing and freezing meals in advance so they can be easily re-heated. You may not feel like cooking or cleaning for several days after your procedure.

Exercise Before Your Procedure

Your upcoming spinal procedure is usually recommended because your ability to do daily activities is restricted. Despite this, it is important that you remain as active as possible before surgery. The weaker your muscles and cardiovascular endurance are entering surgery, the harder it will be to get on the trail to healing.

If you are just starting out, it may require doctor supervision. They may recommend that you try to take daily walks or do other safe aerobic exercises. Your doctor may even request that you attend physical therapy or follow a special home exercise program to enhance your level of conditioning prior to surgery. There is strong evidence to suggest that light weight, high repetition exercises with a focus on cardiovascular endurance will improve pulmonary function in the elderly. This could translate into lessened dependence on oxygen in the hospital and quicker recovery time.

DoctorPlan Tip: Even a small bit of activity is better than no activity at all.

Mental Preparation

You may be anxious or nervous about your upcoming surgery. Anxiety, however, causes your blood pressure and heart rate to increase, lowers your threshold for pain, and agitates your nervous system. Recognize that, while these feelings are normal, there are ways you can manage them.

Mindfulness is something everyone can do, regardless of what surgical procedure they have had or are about to undergo. You don’t need to be an expert to practice mindfulness. Even if you find it challenging to quiet your mind, the practice will be helpful in your everyday life.

DoctorPlan Tip: You can start by trying out some guided mindfulness programs and mind-body techniques such as guided imagery and relaxation in the DoctorPlan app. You can use the programs in DoctorPlan app to condition your body for greater calmness before and after your surgery.

You can also educate yourself on your surgery to help reduce your anxiety. Try to learn as much as you can and discuss expectations with your doctor.

More to Consider Before Surgery


Sometimes our beloved companions can increase our risk of complications after surgery. Pets and especially pet toys and bedding are potential sources of infection. Just as you want to return home to clean bedding and clothing after surgery, you should have your pet and their bedding and toys cleaned.

Pets and their toys can also cause you to trip and fall. Be extra careful if you have a small pet to watch out for them when walking around the house and be sure to pick up and move toys out of your path to avoid tripping and falling. If your pet is especially prone to getting under your feet, consider asking a friend to care for them until you are steady on your feet after surgery.

Dental Exam

Your spine surgeon may recommend avoiding routine dental procedures for a few months following spinal and other neurological surgeries. This includes teeth cleanings. With that in mind, you may want to get it done before your surgery. Discuss the need for a routine dental exam prior to surgery with your spine surgeon.

Disclaimer – All information is for educational pursuit and information purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The viewer should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding their medical condition, diagnosis, procedures, treatment plan, or other health related topics.