Post-Operative Instructions: Posterior Cervical Spine Surgery

The following is a list of instructions, for your convalescence, following your cervical spine surgery.

Patient Education: Spine SurgeryThese represent general instructions to be used as guidelines. They may be modified for an individual patient. Follow all of the numbered instructions as well as the instructions marked with a check mark.

If you have any questions, please contact your physician.

You can also download our Patient Pre-Operative Guide where you'll find pre-surgery and post-surgery information.


The surgical procedure you had may have been performed in conjunction with another surgeon. Post operative questions can be addressed with either surgeon. This team approach leads to better patient care and outcome.


You were given:

  • A soft collar, which does not need to be worn all the time. Wear it for comfort or when riding in a car unless you were instructed otherwise. You can drive a car with a soft collar on. Usually, it is safe to drive yourself 10 days after the surgery, if your neck feels comfortable.
  • A hard collar which you must wear all the time. It usually can be removed to shower but left on for sleep. You cannot drive while wearing a hard collar.


You will have some post-operative pain. Surgery on the back of the neck can be quite uncomfortable for several weeks after surgery. Ice is generally very helpful. It is recommended that you place ice over the back for 20 minutes 4 times per day. Wrap a bag of ice in a towel to apply.


You can shower and wash your hair 48 hours following the surgery. No soaking in the tub.


You can remove the dressing by the 5th post-operative day and leave the incision(s) open to air. You have:

  • Sutures or stitches we use are absorbable and do not need to be removed. They will dissolve.
  • Stitches or staples that will have to be removed. You should make an office appointment for 10-14 days after surgery for removal.
  • Steri-Strips (white tapes covering the skin around your incision) and your stitches are under the skin and will dissolve. After the Steri-Strips get wet, they will curl up & fall off by themselves.
  • Surgical glue -- let it slowly flake off rather than peeling it off.


Your first post-operative visit with your surgeon is usually 2 to 3 weeks after the surgery. Unless you hear otherwise, please call to make this appointment.


No pushing, pulling, lifting, twisting, turning with arms or hands.


Carry nothing heavier than a coffee cup.


Your return to work needs to be discussed with your surgeon.


You will be discharged with prescriptions for pain medication and/or muscle relaxants. Occasionally, you may need a sleeping pill if it is initially hard to sleep with the collar. Please call the office if you are in need of any prescriptions. Please be aware that prescriptions for narcotics will not be provided by a covering (on-call) surgeon.


Report any increase in post-operative pain, fever, chills, drainage, swelling of the wound, or any redness of the wound immediately. If there is drainage, note the color, amount and consistency. Also call us if you are having headaches. Do not hesitate to call if you have any questions. Our number is ???-???-????.


Notify the office if you have a fever >101.5º, there is drainage from the incision, and/or there is increased redness around the incision.


You may need to get an X-Ray of your neck prior to your first post-operative visit with your surgeon. A prescription was included in the surgical packet of information that is mailed to you prior to your surgery.
CAUTION: It is well known that smoking severely slows down the healing process for all patients with spine surgery. Nicotine can adversely affect the rate of fusion and recurrent disc herniation. If you have not yet quit smoking, please ask your doctor for resources to help you take this important step toward improving your overall health as well as your neck.

Department of Neurosurgery