Exercising After Spine Surgery: Do’s & Don’ts

One of the best things you can do after having spine surgery is to keep moving. However, you also don’t want to jeopardize your recovery by trying to accomplish too much too soon. That is why it is so important to not only exercise, but to exercise safely. Depending on the type of procedure that was performed, your spinal surgeon may provide you with specific instructions on how to exercise after your surgery. While you should always follow your surgeon’s specific instructions above all else, here are some general guidelines on the do’s and don’ts of exercising after spine surgery: 

Do…

…Follow Your Surgeon’s Instructions

If your surgeon provides you with specific exercises to do after spine surgery, make sure you do these exercises as recommended. Depending on the type of procedure, certain exercises may be more effective than others at helping you to recover faster. For example, core exercises and hamstring stretches are often recommended after having a microdiscetomy or lumbar fusion. 

woman working on core exercises with her physical therapist

…Wait at least 4 weeks before exercising

The exact amount of time you will need to wait before exercising will depend on your specific procedure, however all surgical procedures require a minimum of 4 weeks recovery time before it is advised to start physical activity. The 4 week mark generally applies to people who have had a minimally invasive decompression procedure. For those who have had open decompression procedures, you may need to wait until the 8 week mark. Again, be sure to consult with your surgeon about when it is appropriate for you to start exercising. 

…See a physical therapist

One of the best ways to develop a safe and effective exercise program is to see a physical therapist. Your physical therapist will develop exercises that are designed to gradually increase your physical activity to restore your normal daily functions and exercise abilities. Not only that, but physical therapy ensures that this progression is gradual enough to push you without causing injury or problems with your recovery. 

Don’t…

…Rush yourself 

After spinal surgery it will take some time to get back to the physical abilities you had before having surgery. When it comes to exercising after spinal surgery, one of the most important things is to give yourself enough time to recover properly. Rushing back into your normal routine can compromise the recovery process and can even increase the risk of needing another spinal surgery in the future. 

kneeling weight lifter clutching their lower back

…Stress your spine

Another important thing to remember when exercising after spine surgery is that you don’t want to stress your spine. Certain types of exercise, such as deadlifts or weighted exercise, place additional stress on the spine and should be avoided until your surgeon says it’s okay. Even after that point, it is important to start at a lower weight and gradually work your way to heavier weights. 

…Push past the pain

When exercising after spinal surgery, it is important to listen to your body. While exercise may cause some minor soreness, it should not cause you to experience pain. If it does, this could be an indication that you are moving too fast or trying to do too much. If you are experiencing pain while exercising and/or your initial symptoms are returning, you will need to consult with your spinal surgeon before continuing to exercise. 

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