Neck (Cervical) Surgery

Neck (Cervical) Surgery

  • Have you recently had neck surgery and are you unsure about how much activity you should be doing?
  • Are you wondering if the pain you’re experiencing after your neck surgery is normal, and how long you can expect it to last?
  • Are you unsure about when to safely return to work, sport or hobbies after your neck surgery?

Everyone is different – and there’s definitely no one-size fits all approach to recovery following neck surgery. The symptoms you’re likely to experience after spinal surgery will vary, depending on the type of procedure performed and your pre-surgical condition.

Despite this, there are some things that most people experience. After surgery, you can expect your neck to feel stiff and sore. You may have trouble sitting in one position for very long and may need to take medication for pain in the days and weeks after your surgery. You’re likely to feel discomfort at the surgical site, and you may experience different pain to what you experienced prior to your surgery.

Common Symptoms After Neck Surgery

  • Pain or discomfort at the surgical site
  • Stiffness or tightness in your neck
  • Limited neck range of motion or flexibility
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Difficulty standing, sitting, or walking
  • Swelling or inflammation at the surgical site
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping in uncomfortable positions 
  • Constipation


It’s important to note that these symptoms are often temporary and typically improve over time with proper postoperative care and rehabilitation. However, if you’re experiencing severe pain, excessive swelling, redness, worsening weakness or numbness after neck surgery, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

How can we Help?

Early in your recovery you will likely need to follow some movement and lifting restrictions – as determined by your surgeon – to prevent damage to your healing soft tissue. Your physiotherapist will help to guide your recovery in the early weeks, providing advice on what movement is safe, and what to avoid, and will safely progress your exercise program. They will continue to liaise with your surgeon, and in the rare case that it may be needed, they will urgently escalate any serious concerns to your surgeon.   

Up to six weeks after surgery, as your tissues heal, you’ll gradually feel more comfortable and will be able to start gently returning to some of your usual daily activities. In this phase, your physiotherapist will progress your exercises and provide comprehensive advice on how to gently start returning to your normal activities.

Up to 6 months after surgery, and beyond, your neck will increasingly be able to cope with the general demands of your life – your work, sport and hobbies. During this phase, hands-on physiotherapy to address persistent soft tissue problems, is now safe, and may be beneficial.  You’ll also be able to increase the amount and vigour of the exercises you’re doing.  Your physiotherapist will prescribe and progress exercises specific to your unique needs and goals – whether you want to return to high level sport or to pottering in the garden. 

Given that each person recovers at a different pace across these different phases, it’s helpful to know that you can turn to your physiotherapist for advice at each stage of your recovery. Your physiotherapist will also provide advice on preventing future problems by helping you to gain an understanding of how your spine works, and what movements are safe and encouraged.

You may be pleased to learn that, by following a targeted exercise program to gradually build strength and muscle control, and learning healthy movement patterns, you’ll be able to return to a life of activity that’s normal for you, in the months and years after your surgery. Return to some very physical jobs, sports, hobbies or heavy lifting, will require specific assessment and consultation with your physiotherapist and surgeon.

Our Connected Care Approach

With our unique ‘Connected Care’ approach, our team will expertly help you to prepare for your surgery, provide you with physiotherapy during your Mater hospital stay and while you heal and return to normal activity after surgery. You can connect with your physio in hospital, in our clinics and during our online video consultations.

What Should I Expect From my Appointment?

  • Detailed Interview: This helps your physiotherapist to fully understand your symptoms, medical and surgical history and your specific goals.
  • Physical Assessment: We undertake a thorough assessment of your movement, strength, balance, exercise tolerance and overall function, before and after surgery.
  • Targeted Treatments: This includes manual therapy and comprehensive advice and education.
  • Progressive Exercise Program: Safe, graded exercise will assist your recovery after surgery, and also your general fitness, health and well-being.
  • Communication and Collaboration: With your Neurosurgeon and General Practitioner to keep them informed of your progress and to support your care.

Where can I see my Physiotherapist?

On this page

In Clinic

Online Video Appointments

Web & Mobile App

Private Gymnasium