woman with neck pain after neck surgery

Neck Surgery Recovery: What You Should Know

After a major procedure like neck surgery, you’re going to need time to recover. During that period, you should have plenty of rest and downtime. When you can do a bit more, and after your doctor gives their approval, there are some exercises you can do to keep your neck strong and stay on that path to recovery.
While neck surgery has numerous benefits and in the long run will make your life easier, it’s still an intense procedure. Whether you need surgery because of pain caused by a disc or vertebra, the procedure requires sedation and an incision on the back of your neck.
After you’ve been cleared to go home, it’s time to start your recovery process. It’s more than avoiding strenuous tasks and staying away from work. You have to be careful about how you sleep, how you move and even how you lift items that you might have never given a second thought before your surgery.
NJ Spine & Orthopedic provides information about how to recover safely and promptly. We know you’re more than just a number. Here, we treat people, not patients. We aim to inform and help anyone with questions or if they are wondering if they need neck surgery.

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When It’s Time for Neck Surgery

Unless you’re a doctor, it’s difficult to know when you need to have neck surgery. When nerves are pinched, or disks are breaking down and grinding together, you’ll need neck surgery to fix the problem.

  • Cervical Radiculopathy. When a herniated disc pinches a nerve root, it causes pain from the disc’s bone spurs irritating the nerve.
  • Spinal Stenosis. This is when your spine has spaces that are narrow. Your spine starts to put pressure on nerves or your spinal cord. This results in pain or feeling numbness.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease. Nerves pinch due to pressure from discs that become more brittle. Their purpose is to keep your vertebrae from grinding against each other, and this becomes more difficult if they deteriorate.

Neck surgery will solve your issues with pain and will allow you to get back and enjoy your daily life.

woman with neck pain deciding when to get neck surgery

Neck Surgery Benefits

  • Pain Relief. After the procedure and recovery time, you’ll be able to return to your normal life without having to think about pain every day. Neck pain keeps you from doing what you love and is also mentally exhausting because it’s constantly occupying your thoughts. Solving this problem takes away this constant pain and pressure.
  • Health. Neck pain usually is a symptom that’s indicative of a problem. Trying to tough it out and live with neck pain could mean that the problem will get worse. By having surgery and fixing the problem, you’re taking care of your body and won’t have to worry about the problems getting more serious or the pain getting worse.

Neck Surgery Process

There are various procedures for different problems causing your neck pain. However, most surgeries include getting to the area causing pain, removing whatever is causing the problem and replacing it with something that won’t cause you pain.

While patients can usually go home within a few days after their surgery, recovery time is longer. Patients will have to adhere to rules that are put in place to keep them safe and to let the surgery heal.

After Surgery

When you come out of surgery, there are several things you can expect. This is to ensure you’ll be as safe and comfortable as possible as you start to recover.

You could be prescribed pain medication and shown how to take care of the area where you had surgery. You will also be informed about what activities to avoid. For instance, you should not be working or doing any strenuous activity during your recovery period.

Other post-surgery expectations include:

  • Specific Physical Activity Limitations. You shouldn’t be lifting more than 8 lbs. or bending over to pick up items. You can prepare for this by having someone help you around the house, or getting a grabbing device to get items from the ground or shelves.
  • Driving. You will not be driving for about two weeks. This is set to ensure your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road.
  • Showering. Your incision will need to heal so nothing can get in and possibly cause an infection. The sutures need time to close the incision.

You must be aware if something is wrong. If you notice any of these events happening after surgery, call your doctor.

  • You have a fever.
  • The surgical incision is bleeding or has pus.
  • You have problems with breathing.
  • You have difficulty going to the bathroom.
  • You experience more pain or numbness.

Even if you have the slightest question that something is off, call your doctor and sort out the situation.

You need to take the time to let your body heal without stress or exertion, which could lead to setbacks and extend your recovery time. The best way to getting back to doing what you love is to be patient and rest.

man recovering from neck surgery

Recovery Time From Neck Surgery

Your doctor will tell you approximately how long your recovery should take, but recoveries typically take about a month. After this time and after you’ve met with your doctor, they will probably start suggesting doing mild work and exercises to build up strength. There’s still some time before you’re ready for vigorous activity.

Everyone has their recovery path, and there are many factors to consider if it will take more or less than the average time to heal.

  • Age. Typically, younger patients will recover more quickly than older patients. Although with younger patients still need to rest and let the place where they had surgery heal just as much as older patients.
  • Health. If you have a healthy and active lifestyle, you will recover more quickly than others with health complications or smokers.
  • Recovery Schedule. Your recovery will be a smoother road as long as you don’t strain yourself and adhere to what your doctor told you. Remember there’s going to be some time before you can do intensive activities. If your job requires labor-intensive activities, it will probably be longer until you’re on a regular schedule again.

Neck Surgery Recovery Tips

During your recovery, there are several ways for you to make sure you’re doing all you can to let your body heal. Following these tips will be small but significant changes you can make to reduce stress on your neck.

  • Maintain a Good Posture. Keep your frame relaxed and keep your shoulders back. Slouching or leaning your head forward could cause strain on your muscles.
  • Support Your Involved Side. Your involved side is where you had the surgery. When sitting, rest your arm on the table if you’re feeling weak. When standing, rest your arm by putting your hand in a pocket. This way, you’re not unnecessarily straining muscles.
  • Don’t Carry Extra Weight. Don’t carry bags, purses or backpacks. Remember, you’re not supposed to be lifting or straining your muscles in any way.

Recovery Equipment & Brace Tips

If your doctor gives you a brace after surgery, you will probably get a hard brace and a soft brace. They provide support and comfort and reduce strain on your neck muscles. These typically do not have to be worn when showering or sleeping.

The hard brace is for the weeks following your surgery. They help support your head and help your bones heal correctly. After the period for when you no longer need a hard brace, you could switch to a soft brace. You wear these braces for comfort.

If you get a hard brace, your doctor will go over how to use it. Hard braces have a specific fit and need to be worn properly for them to benefit you.

  • Fit. Your head should not be able to move within the brace and make sure your chin is resting and not moving in and out. This fit should be comfortable, and the plastic shouldn’t be poking or jabbing into your skin.
  • Hair. Keep all hair, including long facial hair, outside of the brace.
  • Skin. When you remove your brace, make sure there aren’t any rashes or skin irritation. Braces should not be causing skin issues.
  • Cleanliness. Wash the padding of the brace every day. Use gentle products because these parts have long-term contact with your skin.

a protein-rich diet including eggs promotes neck surgery recovery


After surgery, you need to have a healthy nutritious diet to help your body heal. Proteins are required to help your bones recover.

Some protein-rich foods are:

  • Eggs. They are high in protein and have plenty of vitamins and nutrients that are good for your brain and body.
  • Almonds. These are a snack option that has protein and vitamin E.
  • Greek Yogurt. Unflavored and non-fat Greek yogurt is high in protein but might need an extra flavor boost. Consider adding real fruit and mixing it in instead of buying flavored yogurt, which contains a lot of added sugars.
  • Chicken breast, lean beef and tuna. These foods are filling and will help you get the nutrition you need.
  • Brussel sprouts and broccoli. Vegetables are always part of a healthy diet, but these two have a lot of protein and are easy to cook.
  • Milk. There are some easy ways to incorporate this bit of protein in your everyday life as you recover. Add this drink to your coffee, tea or cereal.

As you go through the recovery process and rest, take care of your brace and eat a healthy diet, you will have follow-up appointments with your doctor to make sure everything is going well. If they think you’re able, they might suggest light exercise or physical therapy to gain back your muscle strength.

Laser Spine Surgery

This alternative to other surgical procedures uses light beams instead of surgical instruments for incisions. People who have tried regular surgery and still have pain could try this method, as well as those with chronic pain. However, this might not be the best and most effective option for people who have multiple points where they need surgery.

Benefits of Laser Spine Surgery

We use laser spine surgery because it is minimally invasive and still yields fantastic results for people.

Laser spine surgery can treat a lot of spinal conditions like spinal and foraminal stenosis and facet joint disease. It also handles replacing discs and healing pinched nerves that are causing discomfort. Removing growths and spurs can be fixed with laser spine surgery. With so many uses, laser spine surgery could be the right move for you and has many benefits in post-surgery recovery.

Because this surgery is minimally invasive, it means surgeons are not cutting muscles and ligaments. This reduces recovery time and pain levels. Paired with taking care of yourself as you recover means that you could get back to your everyday life more quickly with laser spine surgery.

Tips to Handle Anxiety Before Surgery

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous or anxious before going into surgery. This stems from uncertainty of the outcome, fear of hospitals and the procedure itself. For some people, this anxiety can build up even weeks before the procedure.

This common feeling also means that there are ways to help manage this anxiety.

First, try to identify what is bothering you. Is it related to the specifics of the procedure and you’re worried about something going wrong? Or are you thinking about how long it could take to recover?

Methods that help with surgery anxiety revolve around planning, education and communication.

  • Plan Ahead. Make sure you’ve followed your instructions for what you should do before surgery. Have your home ready for your recovery before you go in for the procedure. This includes having a place to rest and items you’ll need are easily within reach. If you’re going to spend time in the hospital, bring a bag with items that provide comfort.
  • Learn About Your Procedure. When a lot of fear comes from the unknown, read about what your surgery will do. You’ll also learn what to expect after surgery, so nothing comes as s surprise.
  • Talk to Your Surgeon. Voice your anxiety to your surgeon because you definitely will not be the first person to feel this way. They can explain any questions you have and can talk about how they recommend dealing with anxiety.

happy couple biking after neck surgery

Take Care of Your Neck Pain Today

At NJ Spine & Orthopedic, we provide the best care to people with neck pain and use safe, effective and innovative procedures to eradicate your pain. Our board-certified spine surgeons implement the best practices and treat many types of spinal problems.

Our laser spine surgery is a great alternative to people who need surgery because it’s not as intrusive as other kinds of surgery.

We make sure that you are treated as an individual and not a number. We will take the time to listen to your story and what symptoms you have been experiencing. You can request a free MRI review on our website.

Your treatment and recovery are important to us. We’ll make sure to give you all the options and consider the best avenues for your condition. Our treatments will put you on the path to living pain-free and able to get back to enjoying your lifestyle.


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