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How to Maintain Muscle Tone with an injury to the spine.

Since sustaining a back injury in January 2012 which caused compression fractures of T11,T12 and L1 and much disc damage in lumbar region, it has been increasingly difficult to keep my muscles strong. Particularly in my arms and legs. I have been afraid of most weight bearing exercises. My only form of exercise now is walking and stretches. Does anyone have any stories to share as to how they were able to keep muscle tone in their arms and legs while "protecting" their backs.


  • Run72RRun72 Winter Haven, FLPosts: 4
    Lots you can do! Start with lying on your back on a soft floor or mat. Can't you do leg raises and chest presses? All you need to add challenge is ankle weights and dumb bells. Personally, I do lots of body weight training (had lumbar fusion in August 2012) plus this type of stuff. Try side planks also. I am fortunate to have a versa climber which is great for strenthening the back muscles. Hope this is a start!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,868
    ** Warning **

    Before you start any exercise program, you need to discuss it with your doctor first to get their approval.
    What may sound like a simple and harmless exercise
    Run72 said:

    Lots you can do! Start with lying on your back on a soft floor or mat. Can't you do leg raises and chest presses? All you need to add challenge is ankle weights and dumb bells. Personally, I do lots of body weight training (had lumbar fusion in August 2012) plus this type of stuff. Try side planks also. I am fortunate to have a versa climber which is great for strenthening the back muscles. Hope this is a start!
    may be very helpful to him, but can be very dangerous to you or someone else.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thank you TLG for your suggestions. However, in my case I don't think I can do the leg raises with weights. I just found out that I have a 4mm, grade 1 slipped disc in the L1/S5 vertebrae. It explains a lot of my pain in that area. Now, back to the drawing board about allowed exercises.
  • Ron, your caution about exercise is certainly warranted in my case. I thought I only had to contend with compression fracture. The slipped disc changes things for me. I'll have to go back to the drawing board and see what exercise I can do.
  • Ask to go to therapy, so they can show you the proper body mechanics and what will work for your condition. Each of us is different and what might work for one will not for the other, which is why a good qualified physical therapist would be best. The one thing you can do is walk, and walk some more. Lots of good walking programs on the net, like 10,000 steps to build core body strength up. But I would go to a physical therapist before doing anything, your doctor should know one whom deals with spines.
  • I'm going to look up 10,000 steps for core body strength. I've always loved walking and felt that it was a good all around body strength builder. Lately, my walking has been harder because of leg weakness and hip pain. Almost like I'm walking and my legs want to stop. Then, I push through and gain strength again. Whole new experience.
  • Ask your doctor for exercise advice only, or get a specialist physiotherapy referral.

    Everyone is different as to what they can do:

    I have S1/L5 herniation and my doctor advised only low impact activity - walking, swimming, or supervised pilates. I am allergic to chlorine so I cannot swim. I am not allowed to do any form of abdominal crunch. I read in another UK forum that one of those abdominal ems belts would help tone abs for core strength. My arms and legs are strong, but I have weak abs. So, I bought one that had had good reviews from an online store. I've been using it daily for a month and I haven't noticed any improvement in abdominal tone, in fact it just feels like a TENS machine on my tummy! So, back to the drawing board with that.

    When I was first diagnosed I saw a specialist physio for a number of sessions. To this day I still practice daily the back strengthening regime she prescribed. Note the exercises I do have been specifically prescribed for me.

    Walking is the one thing we should all be trying to engage with. I haven't done enough in the last 6 mths due to the cold keeping me indoors and I have suffered for it. Now warmer weather has set in, I have made an affirmation to myself that I will get into the walking again....it's important to stretch a little before you do mind.

    Best of luck with your endeavours. Keep active within your abilities and no one else's. Kind regards, Emma.
  • I second your advice.... Immense apologies for missing your post! Kind regards, Emma.
  • I had to deal with icy weather postoperatively as well: I solved the problem by pacing around the house for twenty minutes, five times a day. Nothing says you have to be in a specific environment.

    At two months post discectomy and fusion I asked my neurosurgeon if I could use a treadmill at a slow pace. He gave the "papal blessing" on that one. When he took the chairback brace away, he also told me to start engaging my core muscles and be very particular about my posture. I couldn't believe how much core strength I had lost, and how much energy it takes just to hold myself upright.

    Moral of the story: Don't do anything other than walking without your doctor's permission, and get a referral to physical therapy to learn safe exercises specifically tailored for your particular issues. And don't stop going to physical therapy (get a lawyer to lean on your insurance company if they're giving you a hard time about it.)

    I'm not a spinal diagnosis. I'm a human being with a spinal diagnosis.
  • Hi there,
    I'm new here and I was wondering whether you could give me some feedback :)
    I'm doing quite well and I have started to do some power walk...as I am a dance teacher, I've been thinking about doing some stretches, I miss exercising :) ....any tips?
    Thank you!
  • jodijodijjodijodi Posts: 1
    edited 07/01/2015 - 1:08 AM
    I am awaiting surgery finally, but I am losing much of the muscle tone in my legs. I have a rather large disc herniation at L5 s1 as well as foraminal stenosis and hyperintense lesions but we aren't really sure what those are. Boils down to sciatica in both legs. Hurts like a bitch to walk and when I do I must use a cane for balance. I am built like a tank up top because I use my upper body to compensate. I doam starting to look kind of funny. Any exercise that is safe for me right now? I realize I am probably grasping at straws and should m probably just wait it out. Also I would assume a little weight loss is due to the loss of muscle tone? Hope so, as I have lost seven pounds and am very small to begin with.
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