In addition to stretching and strengthening exercises already reviewed in this article, regular aerobic conditioning should be added starting about 9 weeks after lumbar fusion surgery.

See Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: 3 Months and After

Aerobic exercise is also important to help the fusion set up well. Regular aerobic exercise, even if it is just walking at a brisk pace for at least twenty minutes, will increase blood flow and oxygen which helps with the healing process. It will also burn excess calories, helping to maintain weight and preventing added stress on the back structures and surgical site.

See Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise

Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise after Spinal Fusion: Examples

Several exercises can provide conditioning. The key is start slowly with shorter intervals of exercise and increase duration to 30 minutes a day, in total, as long as pain is not experienced.

Examples of low impact exercises include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Exercising using equipment available in most gyms or for purchase for the home, such as stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, and stair climbers.

Not all exercise is suitable, however. Higher-impact exercise that has abrupt stops, starts, and changes in direction can put a fusion that is still healing at risk. This includes exercises such as:

  • Jogging or running
  • Some forms of dance and aerobics
  • Contact sports like basketball or football

None of these types of activities should be undertaken until a patient has been given approval by the surgeon.

Finally, whatever exercise is chosen, always stop if there is any shortness of breath, chest pain, or dizziness. All these indicate overexertion that could overstress the back and rest of the body

Ron Miller is a licensed physical therapist with more than 20 years of experience specializing in spine care. He helped develop the physical therapy department at the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin, where he focuses on manual therapy, spinal stabilization, and therapeutic exercises.