How to Have a Healthy Spine Surgery Recovery

Can Exercise Interfere with Healing?

Question: I am recovering from cervical spine surgery. Healing seems to be going well, and I am wearing a brace. I am anxious to start exercising again because I know it's important that my muscles stay conditioned, but will neck exercises interfere with my healing?
Monroe, LA

Answer: I am glad to hear your healing from cervical spine surgery is progressing! I am also happy to hear that you are anxious to return to activity, and it's great that you're being cautious about it.

To prevent any damage to your recovery, I strongly urge you to consult with your surgeon and physical therapist before starting an exercise program. Doing so will ensure that the activities you choose won't aggravate your cervical spine and interfere with your healing.

Working with a physical therapist as you begin your exercise program will get you on the right track from the start. As a physical therapist, I would ask for your physician's input about any precautions and to medically clear you to start an exercise program.

If you are cleared to begin exercising, then I would recommend general conditioning, such as progressive walking (where you gradually increase your walking distances). I'd also suggest a gentle and active range of motion exercise. Finally, I would show you how to do exercises that will strengthen muscles in your neck region.

I would also teach you about proper sitting and standing posture and body mechanics during daily work and at-home activities.

As you exercise, it's important to keep in mind that you're still recovering from cervical spine surgery. It's great that you understand the importance of physical activity in your recovery plan, but don't overdo it. If exercise is painful, you should talk to your surgeon and/or physical therapist about making adjustments. Make sure to gauge your activity level and keep track of how your exercise program is making you feel. I wish you a successful recovery!

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