What to do and what not to do following spine surgery

Jun 27 2011
Individuals who undergo spine surgery for chronic back pain are often confused as to what type of physical activity, if any, is good for them.

As rehabilitation is an important part of recovering from back surgery, it may be useful to provide some tips and clear up some misconceptions on exercising while the back is still healing.

First of all, it is not true that inactivity is good. While patients are typically confined to bed immediately following a surgery, they should coordinate with their doctor to make sure that they get up and start moving as soon as it is safe to do so. Otherwise, muscles may begin to lose their tone, or even atrophy, which can lead to further musculoskeletal complications.

Recently, some useful suggestions appeared in the Jamaica Gleaner, where expert Kenneth Gardner, an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center, responded to readers' questions.

One person asked about how to exercise safely and effectively after two spine surgeries.

Gardner said that walking is the first step on the road to fitness recovery and there are virtually no contraindications. Swimming is also good, as it is a low-impact form of physical activity that exercises all major muscle groups, including those supporting the spine.

Furthermore, the expert offered tips on back stretches that can assist individuals in a speedier recovery. For example, one can lie on one's back, lift one leg toward the torso, hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat this using the other leg.

Another good back stretch involves getting down on the hands and knees, arching one's back like a cat while sucking the abdomen in and lowering the head at the same time. This should be followed by a reversal, where the person brings their head up to form a 'U' with the spine, according to the news provider.

Individuals who are interested in a swift recovery and regaining the most of their physical fitness - such as athletes, parents or busy professionals - may consider minimally invasive spine surgery over the more traditional open back procedure.

Endoscopic surgeries involve only a small incision, and surgeons frequently use lasers to vaporize diseased tissue. This means that the patient often only requires local anesthesia and the trauma to the surrounding soft tissue is smaller, making it easier to heal.

Finally, given that minimally invasive surgeries carry lower risks of infection or blood loss, patients are typically on their feet within two weeks and can start their rehabilitation faster.