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Discharge Instructions for Cervical Disk Surgery

You had cervical disk surgery. This procedure can relieve neck and arm pain, numbness, and weakness. There are several types of cervical disk surgery. You and your healthcare provider decided on the type that was best for you. Here are tips to help speed your recovery.

Activity

  • Arrange your household to keep the items you need within reach.

  • Remove electrical cords, throw rugs, and anything else that may cause you to fall.

  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for wearing a cervical collar or brace. The neck collar or brace supports and correctly positions your neck after surgery. Follow instructions for its care and use, including how long you must wear it.

  • Don’t drive until your healthcare provider says it’s OK. This will most likely be when you can move your neck from side to side freely and without pain. Never drive while you are on opioid pain medicine.

  • Walk as much as possible. You may also go up and down stairs. Walking outside or walking on a treadmill at a slow speed with no incline is OK.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 5pounds.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can go back to work.

Other home care

  • Take pain medicine exactly as directed. Don't take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, for 6 months. These can block bone fusion. 

  • Wait 5 to 7 days after your surgery to start showering. Then shower as needed. You may be instructed to use a neck collar while you shower. If so, carefully remove it or cover it with plastic wrap when you shower. Keep your neck correctly positioned as you gently pat dry your skin, the incision, and the neck collar. Then put the neck collar back on. Don’t rub the incision. Don't put creams or lotions on it.

  • Don’t soak in bathtubs, hot tubs, or swimming pools until told by your healthcare provider.

  • Your incision may have been closed using sutures, staples, or strips of tape. If you have sutures or staples, they may need to be removed 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. You can allow strips of tape to fall off on their own.

  • If you smoke, get help to quit. Nicotine from cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or patches slows healing of bone and you may need more surgery. Join a stop-smoking program to improve your chances of success.

Follow-up

Make a follow-up visit, or as advised.

When to call 911 or your healthcare provider

Call 911 right away if you have any of these:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Trouble controlling your bowels or bladder

  • Painful calf that is warm to the touch and tender with pressure

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Drainage, redness, or warmth at the incision

  • Trouble swallowing, especially liquids

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

  • Shaking chills

  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs

  • Swelling of the foot, ankle, or calf that is not relieved by elevating your feet

  • Increased pain

Online Medical Reviewer: Jasmin, Luc, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2018
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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