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Exercise Post Op

MagsMMags Posts: 57
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I feel like I'm going into my surgery with a pretty realistic view of what to expect afterward. Knowing that everyone heals differently and has different outcomes post op, I'm curious about the amount and types of exercise I might be able to ease into. Don't get me wrong, I know I'll have to take it easy and start off with walking. I also will follow doc's instructions closely. Are there other things I'll be able to do besides walking to help gain more strength and insure a solid recovery?


  • My only advice is to request PT as soon as possible afterward so you are properly guided. Especially if you are the type of person who is going to want to get moving as soon as possible.
  • I had surgery Dec 11 two level fusion. Walking is important, but also the dietitien met with me cause I wsnt eating very well. Make sure you get plenty of protein fruits and veggies, also she told me that Carnation instant breakfast was very good as it has so many nutrients in it. Keep a positive attitude and dont overdo, get lots of rest and take it easy. No bending lifting or twisting. Use a plastic garbage bag on seat of car or whatever you ride in,. It will allow you to get in and out without twisting your back. Good luck.
  • Maggie, I had my PLIF on Dec. 4 and was anxious to get exercising again. When I went to have the staples removed, I was told that I was not to be using a treadmill at this stage of my recovery. I was so disappointed since I live in the midwest and the weather is not great for walking outdoors. Needless to say, it's been 4 weeks now and I have gained probably 12 pounds. It's hard to stay in shape when you can't do anything, but even harder when it happens over the holidays with all the food. I go to the doctor Monday and hope that I can get released to return to work, drive and use the treadmill and eliptical.

    So, just a few words of advice. Eat sensibly and walk often and you should at least stay in shape. Good luck.
  • One thing that helps the recovery process is being in as good shape as possible prior to your surgery.

    After my procedure, for the first 3 months, I was only allowed to walk. Since then, I now have a home program of various stretches and exercises.

    The reason for not allowing exercise other than walking after surgery is to keep the spine as stable and still as possible. This is the best condition to allow fusion to occur. Therefore, even if you want to do more, it is best to take it easy and follow your doctor's instructions.

    Each doctor seems to have a different view on when other exercise can begin. The best thing to do is discuss this with your surgeon.
  • Hi Maggie, and welcome to spine health! You brought up a very important question. Exercise is very important, but after spinal surgery for a while walking becomes your major exercise. I worked out religiously up to my fusion surgery, but after fusion my OS did not even let me to have PT until I was almost fused at five months. I am now eight months after surgery, and I think this month I will finally go back to my muscle toning class, and see what I can do safely. Or I just may use the machines. So please, don't be impatient . Eventually you can go back to your normal activities (most of them). But first, the most important thing is to WALK, WALK, and WALK. Take several shorter walks untill you built up your stamina.

    Good luck!

  • I agree that it really differs by what your surgeon permits. My surgeon starts people on PT at 3 weeks out. But also, when you get to that point listen to your body and it will tell you how far to push it.
  • ...as NS wanted to let things alone (I had 2 priors, total of 3 spinal surgeries in 12 months) But WALKING...yes, they had me up & outta bed w/in 24 hrs, walking (well, more like shuffling then collapsing...)

    At 3 months out, after only walking, NS approved VERY GENTLE small strecthing, but nothing else.

    And now at almost a year, he still says "No formal PT"..just be let comfort be your guide & GO SLOW.

    Key to good fusion, at first, is being "still"...muscles will hurt/cramp drive you nuts, but that can wait...just listen to your doc, WALK and if you do get an RX for PT, don't be shy about telling them if anything HURTS ...it's not their back, it's YOURS! Listen to your body! There is great wisdom there.

    Walk walk walk walk walk...around the house, then CAREFULLY outside, but that's the best thing, as others have said. The other stuff can wait.

    Just my 2 cents after 3 procedures...& not wanting any more!

  • Thanks for all the replies. There's a lot of great advice here to consider. My surgeon did tell me if things progressed as he hoped he would send me for PT after my 6 wk visit. I think at that point I will adress the issue and see if more agressive PT is an option for me. I do have another question, though. It is my understanding that fusion can cause the vertebrae above to weaken thereby requiring further surgery. Will the exercise help prevent this or is it somewhat inevitible?
  • Maggie,

    Spinal fusion surgery does make the disc spaces neighboring the fusion site (both above and below) more susceptible to future problems. This happens because the fused area is no longer capable of motion, thereby putting extra force on those neighboring segments.

    I know I have disc issues above my fusion site, though they are apparently from nothing more than normal aging. At my last appointment in November, I did ask my surgeon about what I can do to give myself the best chance of never having to go through another fusion surgery.

    While he could not give any guarantees, of course, he said to do the following:

    1. Continue exercising for the rest of your life - the better shape you are in, the greater chance of avoiding another fusion

    2. As part of your exercise routine, do things to strengthen your core.

    3. Be extremely careful how you bend over and how you pick up heavy objects. Proper technique is now essential.

    4. Maintain proper body weight, and most important, make sure your belly is as slim as possible. The more weight you have in front, the more pressure is put on the spine to support it.

    He said, the goal is to make your body as young as possible, delaying the normal aging process.
  • Mark,

    Thanks for the info. I do need to lose some weight as it is, but haven't been able to since I've pretty much been bedridden these last few months. Anything "core" is extremely painful. I know what I have to do, though, and I'm ready to do it. I'm strong mentally and have been strong physically before so I can get there. I will follow all the rules now as I don't ever want to experience this again. And I'm certain I haven't experienced the worst of if yet (my surgery is on the 13th)! How likely is it I'll be able to assume more rigorous activities and exercise at least a year later? What about a stationary recumbent bike in addition to walking after surgery?
  • You should be able to resume more rigorous activities and exercise a year after surgery. Since I'm only 4.5 months post-op myself, I can't speak from experience.

    I can tell you that I used to walk at a pace of 4-4.5 miles per hour before surgery. I would guess in the past several weeks I have gotten close to that speed again, though I can't sustain it for long without some discomfort. I'll bet it will be fine by springtime, though.

    As a rough gauge for you, my surgeon said I should be able to resume playing golf somewhere between 8-12 months post-op. He did mention that when I do return to the links, I should be careful how I bend down to get my ball.

    You should talk to your surgeon about the recumbent bike. I see 2 issues with it: first, you'll probably have difficulty sitting for more than 15-20 minutes at a time for the first month or two, limiting your time on the bike. Second, it probably won't be pleasant if you hit any bumps while on the bike.

    Good luck with your surgery. I'm sure you will do well. :)))
  • Mark,

    It seems like you're doing pretty well so far. Have you had any major hurdles since your surgery? Can you use one of those grabbers to retrieve your golf balls?

    I will speak to my surgeon about the bike. I have read other posts about sitting for limited amounts of time. Bumps shouldn't be a problem, though since I would use a stationary bike. I'll let you know what he says. -Maggie
  • Maggie,

    No major hurdles. I think the worst thing was when the swelling went down (around week 7). Before that, I had an occasional hour here and there that were completely pain free. When the swelling decreased, every little movement caused pain, sometimes intense. My surgeon said it was muscle spasms and not using those muscles for almost 2 months.

    Another issue was dealing with boredom. It wasn't always easy, but I came to accept my limitations by telling myself that in the end, this will all be worthwhile and wasn't worth the risk of extending the recovery period.

    I can say this ... while not pleasant, the entire experience has been nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be (not that I ever want to do it again).

    I don't know if the grabber would fit inside a golf hole, and I wouldn't be able to use it to tee up the ball. I think there are suction cups that can be afixed to the butt end of a putter to help get a ball out of a hole. I'm sure I'll figure out something creative - I've still got plenty of time to think about what to do before I have to worry about it ;)
  • Mag,

    Mark captured it very well. Yes, we will have to be careful for the rest of or lives not to put too much stress on the vertebra above our fusion site (L2 in my case). But once you learn the right moves, it becomes second nature. In my opinion, that was the most important lesson I learned during my five PT sessions, how to move properly, lift, pick up things, get down and up from the floor, etc. I am now 8 months after a three-level fusion and I am doing very well. I wish all my Spiney friends to recover as easily as I did. I don't mean to brag, because it is mostly due to my good fortune of having a relatively healthy body and finding a great surgeon to perform my fusion, but mostly my aim here is to give hope to all future surgery patients that a good outcome is not impossible.

    Wishing you the best,

  • of course, but one of the hardest things for me was to catch myself when I was about to bend over to pet my dog, pick something up. As I started to feel better, I can't tell you how many times I almost bent over. Also be careful when you brush your teeth, things like that. Try not to bend or twist or lift for as long as your doc recommends. It is really really important.

    Take care,

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