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When will I be able to get up and walk for the first time after surgery

Dr. Charles E. Johnston, II

Texas Scottish Rite Hospital Orthopedic Group

Usually on the third postoperative day, sometimes sooner.

Dr. Patrick Bosch

Albuquerque, NM

Getting the patient up and moving after surgery helps recovery in many ways. Most patients can get to a bedside chair the day after surgery and are able to walk the hallways (with help) 2-3 days later.

Dr. James Mooney, III

Detroit, MI

Mobilization after surgery varies by physician. Usually, it will be at least two to three days after the surgery before we get the patients up and begin to mobilize them from the bed and walking.

Dr. John T. Smith

University of Utah Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Typically, our patients can sit up on the side of the bed the first day after surgery, sit in a chair on the second day, and walk in the hall on the third day after surgery. This can vary, but most children can achieve this and feel better once they are up and moving around.

Dr. Jean-Pierre C. Farcy

New York, NY
M.M.C. Spine Center

Usually the day after surgery a first attempt at getting you out of bed will be made and you will be able to walk on the following day.

Dr. Christopher L. Hamill

Buffalo General HospitalBuffalo General Hospital

24 to 48 hours after surgery.

Dr. W. Christopher Urban

Glen Burnie, MD

Recovery begins soon after surgery. Most patients are sitting in a chair or standing with assistance the second day after surgery. Early mobilization reduces the risks of blood clots, pneumonia, and deconditioning. A physical therapist plays a critical role during the early post-operative period. They work closely with patients and assist with the rehabilitation. By the third day, many patients are standing or walking under the supervision of the therapists and nurses.

Dr. Scott J. Luhmann

St. Louis, MO

The first day after surgery you will be encouraged to sit on the side of the bed and dangle your feet and to sit in a chair for as long as possible. You can start walking two days after surgery with the assistance of a physical therapist or nurse. After that, walking is expected to be done a minimum of two times per day.

Dr. John P. Lubicky

Chicago, IL
Shriner's Hospital for Children

This depends on exactly what you had done. If the spine was instrumented and if the instrumentation is felt by your surgeon to be stable and strong, and you will not need any brace, then you will be able to get up either the day following the surgery or the second day. If you have had just an anterior release, for example, or if you are being placed in halo gravity traction, the timing of getting up may be different and you will have to ask your surgeon about the schedule for getting up in those situations.

Dr. Robert W. Molinari

Rochester, NY

After surgery, patients are usually sitting and standing within 24 hours and walking within 48 hours.

Dr. Dennis G. Crandall

Mesa, AZ

We routinely stand our patients the day after surgery, and start work on walking 2 days after surgery. This is delayed if anterior surgery was required through the chest and a chest tube is present.

Dr. Robert S. Pashman

Los Angeles, CA

With rare exception, my patients are either walking or out of bed and sitting in a chair within 24 hours of having surgery.

Dr. Stephen Ondra

Chicago, IL

We get patients up to walk as soon as their pain is under reasonable control and they are fitted with a brace. Most patients will wear an external brace made of a plastic-like substance that can be taken on and off with Velcro straps. This helps prevent excessive stress on the instrumentation and the bone. As patients are in different, more normal shape after surgery this brace is made after the operation is completed. Typically, patients will walk on the second or third day after surgery.

Dr. David W. Polly, Jr.

Minneapolis, MN

Usually patients can get up the day after surgery. Usually you are up in a chair. After that we usually start you walking with assistance.

Dr. Michael F. O'Brien

Denver Orthopaedics

My current protocol is to try and have the patient out of bed the day after surgery to stand and ambulate a few steps. Thereafter, as the patient can tolerate increasing activities, the patient will be ambulated as often as they can tolerate. In the early phases of recovery the therapist will assist the patient in these activities, thereafter, the patient, once cleared by the physical therapist for safe ambulation will be allowed to get in and out of bed on their own.

Dr. Baron S. Lonner

New York, NY

You will be able to walk the day after the surgery in most cases. We will instruct the physical therapists and nurses to assist you out of bed and into a chair and allow you to take several steps. Each day you will increase your walking as tolerated.

Dr. Frank J. Schwab

New York, NY

In general, scoliosis patients may get out of bed the day after surgery. Your surgeon and his team will evaluate you and determine your level of activity on a daily basis. The first time you get out of bed, a nurse or physical therapist will assist and supervise you.

Dr. Thomas G. Lowe

Woodridge Orthopaedics & Spine Center, P.C.

Generally, my patients sit up in bed on sit on the edge of the bed and dangle their legs the first day. If they are entirely comfortable, then I let them walk at that point. Otherwise the first walking is done the second day after surgery with a physical therapist.

The commentary above recounts the experiences of these physicians. Medtronic invited them to share their stories candidly. Keep in mind that results vary; not every patient's response is the same. Talk with your doctor to learn more about any products that are mentioned above.

It is important that you discuss the potential risks, complications and benefits of spinal surgery with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your doctor's judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.

  • Published: June 20, 2002
  • Updated: April 19, 2010