Wasn’t exercising the reason you ended up injuring yourself and having to get back surgery in the first place? We hear stories every day about the weight lifter who wrenched his back in the gym, the baseball pitcher who received spinal surgery for ruptured discs, and the marathon runner recuperating from a stress fracture in her back. Now we are learning that rather than resting while recovering post-surgery, we should head back out there and exercise our way back to a speedier recovery! Of course, any post-surgery exercise program should be approved and recommended by your doctor and if necessary, performed under the direction of a licensed physical therapist.
So what are the benefits of exercise after back surgery?
- Boosts mood. Recovery can be an arduous process requiring patience and hard work and some pain. The body releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins during exercise.
- Stabilizes area around spine. Abdominal and back exercises help to strengthen the core, which stabilizes the area around the injury, allowing for better healing.
- Improves range of motion. Prior to spinal surgery there is often stiffness and limited range of motion. As inflammation decreases, the muscles need to be reconditioned to regain functionality.
- Increases energy level. Exercising increases oxygenated blood flow to the affected area, which boosts energy and endurance levels.
Should you try to jump right back into your pre-injury exercise routine?
- Walking: low impact, weight-bearing activities are recommended, and walking is generally considered the best choice. Make sure that someone accompanies you at first. If your body tells you its time to stop, listen.
- Water aerobics: water aerobics and gentle swimming are wonderful choices as they are kind to your joints.
- Gentle Pilates and Yoga: pilates and Yoga should be considered at this point with caution as these exercise options include many twisting and stressful poses which can be unsafe to the spine after back surgery.
Easing back into exercise after spinal surgery should be done with caution, and under the direction of your physician and, possibly, your physical therapist. Although you may be nervous about returning to your active lifestyle, it is actually better for your emotional and physical healing process to get back to moving once your doctor has given you the go-ahead!