Any surgical site will heal with scar tissue, and some surgeons feel that gentle exercises performed in the early postoperative period after microdiscectomy surgery may minimize scarring (formation of scar tissue) around the nerve root.
These surgeons recommend performing stretching exercises several times a day for 6 to 12 weeks following surgery, since this is the period when scarring is most likely to occur.
Safe Stretching After Microdiscectomy
In addition to walking, patients who feel comfortable can begin light stretching shortly after lumbar microdiscectomy.
One of the safer stretches at this stage is the pelvic tilt.
- Lie on the back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Flatten the lower back to the ground by tightening the abdominal muscles and pulling the belly button in.
- Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
As tolerated, leg raises can also be added to the pelvic tilt exercise.
Pelvic tilt with leg raises gives the hamstring muscles a good stretch, which can help improve leg function after a microdiscectomy surgery.
- Keep the lower back flat on the ground.
- Tighten the abdominal muscles for the pelvic tilt.
- Slowly straighten and elevate one leg at a time.
- Repeat 5 or 10 times.
When starting out, it may be easier to perform pelvic tilts with leg raises in bed rather than getting down on the floor.
Adding More Stretches at 2 to 6 Weeks
Many surgeons recommend no bending, twisting, or lifting for the first 2 to 6 weeks after lumbar microdiscectomy surgery. When these restrictions are lifted by the surgeon, more stretches can be added to the recovery plan.
Several exercises help stretch the back and leg muscles while recovering from lumbar microdiscectomy surgery. The surgeon may refer the patient to a physical therapy program that can be customized for the individual. When learning more complicated stretches, it can help to have a trained professional provide guidance to ensure the stretch is performed safely and effectively. After new stretches have been learned, the patient can typically continue performing the stretches at home on their own.
Read more about Lumbar Microdiscectomy Recovery: Weeks 2 to 6
General Tips for Stretching
It is generally advisable to do stretching exercises frequently and gently. Perform each exercise to the point of feeling a good stretch or mild discomfort, but not to the point of feeling pain. Stretching too far may inflame a nerve or delay the healing process.
If a patient feels too much pain after surgery to do any stretching exercises, it would be wise to wait until the pain is under control.