My 75-year-old father has developed age-related fractures in his spine. The doctor feels these are caused by wear and tear from arthritis and has scheduled my father for surgery. The surgeon will implant screws to hold the bone in place. What can we expect during my father's recovery? How soon will he be up and about?

After this type of surgery, patients are usually allowed to get up and out of bed by the second or third day. A physical therapist will teach your father how to safely move from the bed to a chair or from the bed to a standing position. Exercises to improve muscle strength and restore function will be part of the rehabilitation process.

How fast patients get better depends on several factors. Loss of muscle strength often occurs before surgery when the patient is in pain and can't exercise. Sometimes wound pain after surgery limits how much the patient can do.

Rehabilitation is also limited by how much pressure the surgical site can withstand. Special implants used to hold the bone together are stressed by walking or exercises performed too often. To prevent breakage of these screws, the patient may be taught to avoid certain movements, such as bending forward or backward in the standing position.