The hospital staff are familiar with the routine management of patients undergoing spinal surgery or investigations. They will show you around the ward, discuss your surgery and what to expect during your stay in hospital, and prepare you for theatre.
Your anaesthetist will visit you in hospital prior to your surgery and will give you the opportunity to answer any questions you may have at that time. If you have any particular medical requirements or other concerns please let your surgeon know, as it may be appropriate to organize for you to see the anaesthetist before your admission to hospital.
Regular pain relief will be given after your surgery, either via a injection into a large muscle in your leg or buttock, or a needle in your arm in which case you will also be given a control so that you can administer pain killers as you require them yourself (PCA or Patient Controlled Analgesia). For larger operations analgesia may also be given via a tube which runs into the spinal canal itself, called an epidural catheter.
Once the epidural catheter is removed your pain can usually be controlled by regular tablets and occasional injections under your skin or into a large muscle. The need for oral medication also reduces quite rapidly, but you will usually experience some discomfort, and need some analgesia for several weeks after you get home. Where pain has been severe or long standing, analgesics may be required for several months.
You will usually be able to stand out of bed with assistance on the evening of your surgery and a physiotherapist will visit on the first or second post-operative day to show you some exercises and instruct you about how to care for your back. It is alright for you to sit after your surgery, but it is important that you are careful about the way you sit, and you are likely to find prolonged sitting uncomfortable. The physiotherapist will usually provide written information to reinforce this.
In general you are encouraged to be as active as possible following your surgery, but commonsense should prevail and you should increase activities gradually.