Lumbar Spine Surgery Post-Operative Instructions

Robert H. Bradley, M.D.

Wound Care

Your incision site will either have Steri-strips or staples. You may paint the Mercuroclear over the top of the strips or staples daily for the first 2-3 days. Five to seven days after your surgery, you will need to wet the Steri-strips and peel them off the skin. If you have staples (metal clips), we will arrange a clinic visit 7-10 days after your surgery to remove these. A local health care provider may also remove your staples. After the Steri-strips or staples are removed, you may shower and wash the incision. Until then the incision should be kept dry. We recommend daily dressing changes. If the tape is irritating the skin, you may leave the dressing off after 4 days. Once the Steri-strips or staples are removed you do not need to bandage the incision again (unless your clothes irritate the wound). There are absorbable stitches under the skin (causing the incision to feel “bumpy” underneath) that will dissolve over time. We do NOT recommend the use of antibiotic ointments on your incision site. If you feel that additional cleansing is necessary, you may use hydrogen peroxide or betadine.


If you notice any excess redness, drainage, fever or any other obvious sign of infection, please contact the office.


We will discuss a prescription for pain before discharge. You are encouraged to use over the counter medicines like acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) or naproxen (e.g. Aleve) and use the prescription pain medication for more severe pain if needed. Please try something over-the counter before calling for a pain prescription refill (you may not need it).


Continue any daily medications you were required to take before your surgery (unless we instruct you not to), and also any over-the-counter medication you would usually take for any other ache, pain, cold or flu symptoms etc. Constipation may be a problem due to limited activity, pain medicine, and fear of back pain from straining to go. You may use any laxative that you use normally. Mineral oil works well (tastes bad) and does not cause cramps. Try 2 tablespoons initially, if no result after 4 hours, repeat dose. If still no result, then use a Fleet's enema.

Activity & Travel

Do not sit for more than 30 minutes at a time for the first few days after surgery. It is better to stand, walk, or lie down. Alternate the cycle of sitting a few minutes with standing and walking, and lying down several times daily. Try to gradually spend more time up and around and less time sitting or lying down. We encourage walking. You should try to gradually build up to walking several blocks or a mile or more during the first few weeks after surgery, depending on your tolerance. Do not pick up anything heavy. Avoid any weight that puts a strain (or you think might) on your back. Avoid any twisting or bending during the first few weeks. If you need to pick up something from the floor, keep your back straight and kneel down (bend your knees) to pick it up. We prefer that you stay out of the car for at least two weeks after your surgery with the exception of getting home from the hospital and returning to the clinic. Avoid driving for the first 3 weeks after your surgery. After that, you may attempt short trips if you are doing well.