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The Medical Center of Aurora

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Chiari I Malformation Surgery Recovery

Healing after surgery is a gradual process.

You will experience some good days and some days when things seem achy or sore. This is normal. Slowly increasing activity, eating healthy, avoiding strenuous lifting, adhering to your doctor's advice/instructions and maintaining a positive attitude are the best ways to allow your body to recover. Concentrate and focus on the symptoms that have improved, instead of what symptoms remain. The goal is not to recover fully in the first two weeks but to generally progress and recover over the months following surgery.


After discharge from the hospital, you may be up and walking around the house the first week. This is a time of healing, so it is important to remember to not overdo the activity. The body needs time to rest; therefore, some patients take a nap in the afternoon. Activities such as washing dishes, fixing light meals and dusting are fine. Avoid activities such as vacuuming, lifting, carrying or anything that requires stretching of the neck muscles. Do not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk (about 10 pounds) during the first month after surgery. If you are recovering well, the second month you can increase your lifting by five pounds per week until you reach what is comfortable for you.


Do your best to keep the incision clean and dry at all times. You may shower about 48 hours after surgery, but you should try to keep the incision dry and be sure not rub or soak the incision.

It is best to use very light shampoos such as baby shampoo for the first three weeks after surgery. In addition, be sure not to use any dye, hair color or other hair treatments like perm solutions until your follow up appointment.


You should avoid driving for the first few weeks after surgery - and especially if your are using pain medications. Movement of the neck may feel tight, and it is difficult to see in all directions when driving. DO NOT DRIVE if taking narcotic pain medications.


Good nutrition is an essential part of healing and recovery. Eating a balanced diet each day, including fruits and vegetables, dairy products and protein will aid in the healing process. A multivitamin is not necessary, unless one is taken normally. Remember to drink plenty of water.


The neck incision may be tender and stiff for several days. This is normal. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the area until the staples are removed. If any redness, swelling, heat, or drainage is noticed around the incision, the neurosurgeon needs to know immediately.

Most people resume their normal medications after surgery. You will also receive a prescription for pain medication after discharge. The pain medication works best if taken every 6-8 hours before the pain worsens. To reduce upset stomach, take the medication with food. Pain medication should not be necessary after the second week. If a refill is needed on pain medication, do not wait until the bottle is empty - call our office at least two days before the prescription runs out. DO NOT DRIVE if you are taking narcotic pain medications.