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One of our most frequently asked questions is “how long does it take to recover from back surgery?” It’s easy to understand why. Back surgery is a significant procedure, and it’s important to understand what the recovery process looks like. 

The matter of how long to recover from back surgery isn’t easy to answer, at least in a singular way. There are a number of factors to consider, and many of them are dependent on the nature of the procedure, and on the patient’s own circumstances. 

To help shed some light on back surgery recovery time, we’ve created this quick discussion. 

Factors affecting recovery time for back surgery

Type of surgery performed

The type of back surgery significantly impacts the recovery time. Simply put, different procedures involve varying levels of complexity and invasiveness. Here is a brief overview of how different types of back surgeries can affect recovery time:

Lumbar decompression surgery

This procedure is performed to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves, often caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease. Recovery time for lumbar decompression surgery is often shorter than that for more invasive procedures. Patients can expect to return to light activities within 2-4 weeks and resume normal activities at 6 weeks.

Spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion surgery involves fusing two or more vertebrae together to eliminate motion and provide stability to the spine. Recovery time is also 6 weeks to return to work and normal activity.


In a discectomy, a portion of a herniated disc is removed to alleviate pressure on the spinal nerves. Recovery time for a discectomy varies depending on the surgical approach (open or minimally invasive) and the patient’s overall health. Generally, patients can expect a recovery period of 2 weeks to return back to work and normal activities, whereas resuming exercise and more strenuous activities can take up to 4 months to limit the chance of a re-herniation.


A laminectomy involves the removal of the lamina, a part of the vertebra, to create more space for the spinal nerves. Recovery time for a laminectomy is similar to that of a discectomy, with patients typically able to return to normal activities up to 2 weeks later.

It’s essential to note that individual factors may impact the estimated recovery times listed above. These may include:

  • Patient’s age and general health
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Level of physical activity prior to surgery
  • Post-operative care and rehabilitation

Your surgeon should be able to provide personalized information regarding your specific surgical procedure and recovery expectations for what type of work you do.

Tips for a Smooth Recovery from back surgery

A doctor helps a patient understand back surgery recovery

There are a number of things that you can do to help your body recover from back surgery. These include

Following the doctor’s instructions

As we explained above, your doctor knows your medical history and the details of your procedure. They will provide detailed instructions for your recovery process. It’s very important to your healing process that you follow those instructions closely. 

Prioritizing rest and sleep

Allowing your body to rest is often a key factor in how long it takes to heal from back surgery. If you try to rush the process, especially in the first weeks after surgery, you may set yourself back. WebMD says, “Sleep is a key part of the healing process. But you need to follow proper sleep positions to protect the spine.”

Participating in physical therapy and rehabilitation

If your doctor recommends physical therapy and rehab, then they believe it’s a vital part of your recovery process. Your physical therapist will be able to guide your recovery and help you manage everything from a short walk to a return to work. 

Gradually increasing activity levels

With the guidance of your doctor, gradually increasing your activity over time will help your recovery. Take it slow, and avoid strenuous activities until instructed by your doctor.

Maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated

You may not realize the impact it will have, but proper nutrition can play a leading role in your back surgery recovery time. In fact, Dr. Baig says, “I encourage the use of this time during recovery to start making better choices of how we eat and what we eat.”

To learn more about how long it takes to recover from back surgery:

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