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Recovering from Cervical Disk Surgery

You need to protect your cervical spine as it heals. Follow your surgeon’s instructions about being active and wearing your brace if you have one. Once you’re no longer wearing a brace, you and your surgeon can discuss other ways to help your neck recover.

In the Hospital

  • You may go home the same day or spend 1–4 days in the hospital.

  • Right after surgery, you’ll stay in the recovery room. You may then be moved to a regular room.

  • You will have a drainage tube in your neck. The drain will be removed in a day or so.

  • Your throat may be sore, so you may prefer a liquid diet for a day or two.

  • You’ll be given pain medication as necessary. You may give yourself this medication through a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) pump.

Wearing a Brace

You may be given a brace in the hospital to help support your neck as it heals. Depending on your surgeon’s instructions, you may continue to wear it 24 hours a day for as long as 3 months. Ask your surgeon whether you are permitted to take it off during the day for short periods.

At Home

Man in cervical collar outdoors walking with woman.
Taking walks can help you regain your strength.

At home, wear your brace and care for your incision as instructed. Gradually, you’ll be able to get more active. Talk to your surgeon about when and how to return to the following activities:

  • Driving. Ask a friend or family member to help out. 

  • Lifting heavy objects 

  • Returning to work.

Follow-up Care

  • Your surgeon may need to remove the sutures or staples from your incision a few days after your surgery. Follow your surgeon’s instructions about keeping your incision clean and dry.

  • Your surgeon will schedule one or more follow-up visits with you. If you had fusion, x-rays may be taken. Your surgeon may also evaluate nerve function and arm strength if you had arm or hand pain, numbness, or weakness before your surgery. Once your neck is sufficiently healed, your surgeon may recommend exercises or physical therapy to help strengthen your neck.

  • Follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully to ensure the best possible results and recovery from your surgery.


Call your surgeon if you notice any of the following: 

  • Fever over 100°F

  • Redness or discharge at the incision site 

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing 

  • New neck or arm pain or increased pain

  • Numbness or weakness in arms or legs

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 5/15/2011
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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