If you're an active individual, you understand the importance of exercise and physical activity to keep your body healthy and your muscles strong. Exercise prevents other complications of being inactive including things like pneumonia or blood clotting (DVT). But after undergoing any surgery, especially spinal surgery, you may wonder if, when, and how you can resume your exercise. Be sure to speak openly with your doctor about how you’re feeling after surgery. Physical therapy is a good way to regain mobility because you’re being monitored by a professional who can guide you through the process. You can also start an at-home routine that will get you active again.
While it is certainly possible to continue your active lifestyle, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The part of the body that requires healing first is the skin. Normally, depending on the size of the incision, this could take between 7 and 14 days. It’s a good idea to stick to minimal exercise during this time, just so the skin can get back to its full elasticity. Walking is a great low-impact workout during this time, especially if you had a microscopic or minimally invasive surgery, involving small incisions.
The rest of the healing process happens where we can’t see: in the tissues and muscles underneath the skin. The bone is the most important part that will need time to heal, or fuse. This could take between 6 and 9 months, and your surgeon can see if the bone is fully healed by performing an X-ray or CT scan of the area.
As you recover, always remember this phrase, “maintain spine precaution.” This means no excessive strain on your back, including twisting, bending or heavy lifting. If you’ve had your a spinal fusion is to stabilize the spine, that area will need to become solid to heal correctly. As you ease back into exercise, pay extra attention to movements that will cause motion in the affected area of your back. You don’t want to cause damage or failure of the fusion process.
Low-impact exercises are great because they allow you to be active while avoiding unwanted motion to the spine. Stretching is a good low-impact exercise, and yoga is also very beneficial, when approved by your doctor. Just be sure to go over any yoga positions that might cause strain to the spine. Aquatic therapy is another example of a low-impact exercise because exercising in a pool allows the water to support your body weight, thus lifting a great deal of the weight off of your back and onto other parts of your body.
Exercising after surgery is not only possible — it’s recommended! Talk with your surgeon about what's right for you. Create an exercise plan with your doctor so that when it’s safe, you can start exercising again.