Physical Therapy after Spinal Fusion: Weeks 6 to 9

Diagonal curl-up
Fig 10: Diagonal curl-up
(larger view)

Alternate arm and leg - all fours
Fig 11: Alternate arm and leg,
all fours
(larger view)

Pull with resistance band
Fig 12: Pull with resistance band
(larger view)

Lumbar diagonal rotation
Fig 13: Lumbar diagonal rotation
(larger view)

Opposite arm and leg - on ball
Fig 14: Opposite arm and leg,
on ball
(larger view)

Sitting to bridge
Fig 15: Sitting to bridge,
on ball
(larger view)

Prone ball walk
Fig 16: Prone ball walk
(larger view)

Kneeling ball walk
Fig 17: Kneeling ball walk
(larger view)

Bridge ball
Fig 18: Bridge ball
(larger view)

The initial 6-week recuperation period after a spinal fusion focuses on getting back to feeling good. After this initial period, more advanced exercise should be added to strengthen the back structures and increase overall fitness.

See Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: One to Three Months Post-Operation

Patients can add more rigor and variety to their routines by using an exercise ball or resistance bands.

The exact timing of when a surgeon will recommend adding dynamic exercises is dependent on both the quality of stability achieved at surgery and the surgeon's own personal preference.

See more about Dynamic Stabilization Exercises

Guide to Dynamic Exercises after Spine Fusion: Weeks 6-12

Because these exercises allow for motion of the trunk, many times they incorporate use of an exercise ball into the program.

Mat Movement Examples

  • Strengthen abdominal muscles with a diagonal curl: while lying on the floor with knees bent, curl the trunk by raising the head and one shoulder towards opposite hip a few inches. See Figure 10.
  • Extend the back by alternating limbs: while on hands and knees, raise one arm and opposite leg, then alternate. See Figure 11.
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Band Movement Examples

  • Stretch the back by using a resistance band wrapped around a stationary pole or column, and leaning back with straight arms. See Figure 12.
  • Strengthen the abdominals and oblique muscles by performing a diagonal pull with band: with band anchored low to ground, and feet shoulder width apart, grasp band and pull from lower right to left shoulder. Reverse sides. See Figure 13.

Exercise Ball Movement Examples

When using an exercise ball, maximizing the range of motion is not as important as staying in control, which takes practice if a patient is not familiar with using an exercise ball. Don't worry about counting repetitions, but perform the exercise until fatigue is evident or control becomes difficult.

A set should last 30 to 60 seconds (so about the length of a commercial break during a television show). One set a day is usually recommended.

See more about Exercise Ball Therapy for Lower Back Pain Relief

  • Sitting on the exercise ball, slowly raise one arm and opposite leg; reverse. See Figure 14.
  • While sitting on the exercise ball, try to "hinge" at the waist by rolling ball forward and under shoulders, keeping hips in line with shoulders. See Figure 15.
  • While lying with stomach on the exercise ball and arms/hands in front, walk forward on the ball until it rests under the thighs, then raise one leg at a time. See Figure 16.
  • With stomach on the exercise ball and knees on the ground, walk straight out on the hands, but don't let the trunk twist or dip down. See Figure 17.
    • Variation: With stomach on the exercise ball and feet on floor, raise head and chest from the forward bent position to a straight (but not hyper-extended) trunk.
  • While lying on back with the exercise ball under the calves, raise buttocks, hips and lower back from floor, keeping the stomach muscles tight. See Figure 18.