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How often? What water exercises are good for post lumbar fusion?

beakerbbeaker Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hi there I broke my back 2 and a half months ago, compressing my L1 by 35% and bursting my L3 completely. I had my L4-L2 fused and have been wearing a brace to support my L1 and T11 fractures. I took the advice not to fly the 9hours home as the flight would be too traumatic on my back until my brace comes off. In 2 weeks i'll be at 3 months post surgery and my surgeon has said I can then start weening off my brace. He has also given me permission to go in the pool and remove my brace in the meantime. I went 'swimming' today for the first time and it felt good. MY QUESTION: how much and what type of water exercises are best? I walked a bit, used a floatie to steady myself whilst i kicked my back legs to do laps and stretched my knees to my chest. I have avoided breast stroke and using my arms to swim for now. I would like to go to the pool everyday for an hour but is this too excessive? Im not supposed to start physio until my brace comes off in 2-4 weeks. Thanks in advance!!


  • Hi there,

    I found that by wrapping a couple noodles under my arms to float my legs off the bottom I could exercise a full range of motions with my legs. Once I got the muscles loose again, I used light ankle weights to add more resistance.

    The warmer the water, the better I felt! Also try walking figure 8's in the shallower end of the pool.

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • I will be having surgery (L 4/5 fusion) in a few weeks and really want to do rehab in the pool. My surgeon said I could get in the pool to walk right after staples come out. Keep me posted on what works for you Beaker and EMS. Good luck w/ your rehab.
  • hi ya beaker,
    wow big surgery and so glad your getting in water this soon.
    I myself know from experience not to go everyday. water walking is great.
    Please ck with your doc on how much exercise is okay for you.
    after I had l4,l5 fusion the water things helped me the most
    Check out your library they have good books on water exercises for just about every condition.
    I feel so great in water. and I found out the hard way doing laps and even 5 days a wk was just way too much.
    I miss water, I can't go due to lack of funds.
    Please go slow and set your own pace.
    It's easy to get carried away in the water.
    good luck to you
    neck,bone spurs pain started 04, back issues and fusion l4,l5 06~hardware removed.
    good few yrs. 09 pain sharp, numbness feet,legs, diagnosed fibro, neurop. legs.lung issues.
    daily goal do good thing for someone.
  • NOT to listen to your body in the water. Why? Because after having major surgery, being in the pool can seem relaxing - even if you are just pool walking. However, it is very easy to quickly become tired/fatigued - and you won't know about this until it's time to get OUT of the pool.

    I had hydrotherapy after my fusion surgery, but I didn't start it until about the 3 months mark. I had to get over the surgery first and let things settle down first.

    I would have thought going to the pool every day would be extremely tiring and you may find getting out of the pool really difficult (from my experience it was a huge effort having to drag myself up the stairs - my body felt like a dead weight and my legs felt like they were going to give out on me!).

    Anyway, I'm sure you will take it slowly and build up the time you spend in the pool on a weekly basis - not daily. It is important to pace yourself and be protective, of course. Some of my exercises went like this:

    1) My first exercises were pool walking.

    2) Then I used a float, holding it with both hands, to push the water away firmly from me (using the flatter surface to gain more resistence) and then bring it back towards my chest. This helps to improve your core strength.

    3) Using a 'worm' as I called it, I would place it around my back and under my arms, then lean back. I had to kick my legs and could guide myself, backwards, around the pool. I wasn't meant to do this vigorously at first, but could build up the speed as the weeks progressed.

    4) With the float, I used it at chest level holding it level with the water and pushed it downwards in the water - getting as much resistence as possible. Then I would bring it back up in the opposite direction. This was also for core strengthening.

    5) Another one was 'hanging'. Go a little out of your depth (providing you can swim of course!) and rest your arms/elbows on the edge of the pool and just hang there with your feet dangling - but not touching the bottom of the pool. This is an excellent one for gently stretching your spine. Do not point your toes or stretch unduly, just hang in a natural pose. If you are feeling a little tired from all your exercises, this is also good for relaxing and just catching your breadth before you do any more - or finishing with this one before you attempt to climb out of the pool.

    Just be careful and take it slowly. I could never have done a whole hour in the pool for the first couple of months, but everyone is different of course. It took me quite a while to recover from surgery and I still have problems now, so perhaps my exercises above were more gentle because of this, I don't know.

    The main thing is to enjoy it. I'm sure it'll do you the world of good as it's great exercise and the water will help to support you. If anything hurts, stop immediately and try something more gentle.

    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • SueD
    Lots of good exercises! I'll be coming back to this post after surgery.
  • SueD
    Lots of good exercises! I'll be coming back to this post after surgery.
  • Sue gave a lot of great ideas! :)

    Her list - #5. I did this in PT but a bit different. I took a noodle and put it in front or behind me and wrapped it under my arms ad then "stood up" (8 feet deep) in the water to build my center core muscles.

    At first it was 1 minute, then 2 and so on.

    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • I had spondylolisthesis level 2, herniated disc and bulging discs at L4,5 so had ALIF/PLIF spondy correction and 2 level fusion.  I still have bulging discs both in the thorasic area and the cervical area.  I am just out of my brace after 3 1/2 months and also out of physical therapy benefits.  I feel the gentlest most effective recovery for me will be water recovery so I am appreciative of the suggestions and input here and am open to any and all suggestions anyone has to add.  Thanks!
  • MagistraMarlaMMagistraMarla San Antonio, TexasPosts: 182
    Going to the pool and doing water aerobics have been the best things for me.  I had a fusion of L3/L4 and L4/L5 in April, 2015.  I was cleared to start water walking at 8 weeks, and I've never stopped going to the pool since.  A Physical therapist showed me some good moves to help with the sacroiliac pain that I was having. 
    My first fusion failed, and now I'll be having a revision surgery in October.  The surgeon wants me to stay as strong as possible, especially my core, and he's delighted that I love going to the pool.
    The one time that I'm not in pain is when I'm in the water.
  • redheadrredhead ukPosts: 28
    edited 09/16/2016 - 12:48 PM
    hi beaker 
    have you ever used the pool to ;pool walk ; ? instead of swimming just walk through the water that was the advice i was given at hospital by the physiotherapist .it a lot easier than ;real swimming ; another poster on this thread gave good advice when they said listed to your body .
    just take your time .recovery is longer then many people think i hope things settle down and your pain subsided 

    This is an old discussion created by a member no longer on the forum so I am closing it.
    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

This discussion has been closed.
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