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Thoughts on Treadmill Use

Gretchen1GGretchen1 Posts: 105
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Exercise and Rehab
I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts or recommendations about the use of treadmills for walking after TLIF surgery and how long after anyone has started.

I am only 5 weeks out of surgery and both my surgeon and home physical therapist have said no, so far, to the use of the treadmill. Because of the weather in my area and uneven walking surfaces in my neighborhood, I believe I could be more proactive as far as walking if I could use the treadmill. I'm not cleared to drive yet, of course, and am home alone pretty much most days and hesitant to go walking about alone during the day.

I have a follow-up with my surgeon this Friday and am going to bring the subject up again and get his thoughts now that I'm further along.

Just wondering if anyone else has used a treadmill, slowly at first, to help with their walking.

Any input would be appreciated. Thanks.


  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    Hi, I was looking for a thread on the use of treadmills. But I couldn't find it. It was a while back. And I thought that it was ok for the people who commented on it. But I'm not sure how far post op they were. Hopefully, one of them will see your post and give you an answer.
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!

  • Hi Gretchen,

    I was restricted to just doing the stretches PT showed me in the hospital and doing as much walking as tolerated til I had my 6 week check.

    I was given the OK to start doing light exercise = in my case, treadmill at zero incline, elliptical, light weight training. It was stressed very strongly to me to go s-l-o-w. My weight restriction was lifted to 20 lbs maximum at this time.

    The weather now does make it tough to go walking, could you get a ride to an enclosed space (shopping mall?), that way you could get some walking in and do a little window shopping at the same time.

    Hope this helps, let us know what the doc says.

  • It is always smart to default to your surgeon's advice. While walking is the number one recommended activity for recovery from spine surgery, treadmills do give a very different environment than walking outside or in an indoor environment such as a mall or gymnasium walking track.

    Treadmills offer an individual the opportunity to NOT practice good posture and NOT practice good balance. It is quite possible to practice good posture and balance, but that takes good discipline and awareness.

    Generally in the early stages of recovery after surgery, a person walks very cautiously and conscientiously. The tendency to practice good balance and posture is more pronounced while walking outside where there aren't any handrails to hold on to and where there are uneven surfaces to navigate. Outside a person must start and stop, step up and step down, look from side to side and a multitude of other things however subtle that we don't normally think of.

    When confined to the belt of a treadmill, there are no starts and stops, uneven surfaces or downhill slopes to navigate. The drive motor dictates the speed based on user input, but there's belt slippage exacerbated with slower speed selection. The invitation to grab hold of the handrails to steady oneself takes away from the need to balance and use of muscles and vestibular system.

    There's more to it, but basically if used properly treadmills can be a significant advantage, whereas they can also be a detriment to someone in need of the simple basics of balance, posture and gait.

    See what your surgeon has to say and then go from there.

  • Interesting thread.
    I actually have a treadmill because I knew I'd get surgery during winter and couldn't walk outside or get to somewhere I could walk.

    I told my doctor I was walking on the treadmill and he didn't say no.

    The first week, I'd agree I was holding on for stability but by end of week 2, I realized I had to stop using the hand rails.

    This past week I have been doing short walks outside. It is WAY different and "heavier" on my back. So I am looking forward to spring to get more walks outside which I believe will build my core better.

    I'm looking forward to hearing others' feedback
  • I had my first post-op visit yesterday afternoon and specifically asked my PA about the treadmill. I was told I could definitely use it, with no incline, and no more then 3 mph but to start at 1 mph and work up. She also suggested I supplement my outside walks with using the treadmill.

    Unfortunately it appears that the top 2 of my pedicle screws may be loose and bone has not grown there as expected, although the bottom 2 look great and bone is growing great. I have to be fitted today for the lumbosacral corset I was hoping never to have to wear. My surgeon wants me to wear for the next 30 days, except when reclining or laying down. Hopefully that will help along with increased walking by being able to use the treadmill.
  • *I* personally wouldn't have -- but mostly because I'm not always uber coordinated and it would have really sucked to nose dive into the treadmill those first few months out of surgery. Tho I did take daily walks in the snow and through icy patches right afterwards, so maybe my advice shouldn't be heeded.
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