When is it Safe to Exercise After Back Surgery?
It is essential to take a thoughtful, slow, and steady approach before getting back to normal following back surgery.
Every surgery is different. There is no set timetable regarding when it’s okay to start exercising again and no schedule for when you should start feeling normal again.
There are, however, a few general timetables that medical professionals often reference for when it is safe to start exercising post-operation, ranging anywhere from four weeks to six months.
The Recovery Periods for Different Spinal Surgeries
Recovery periods can widely vary based on the type of spinal surgery that a patient receives. Below are a few examples of post-surgery recovery periods:
- For a minimally invasive decompression procedure, the timetable is around four weeks.
- For a spinal fusion surgery, the typical recovery period before being able to exercise again is between six weeks to three months after surgery.
- A decompression procedure using more complex techniques can require between four to six months before it is safe to exercise again.
While the above timetables are helpful to reference, always contact your physician before beginning any post-surgery workout.
Recommended Exercises after Back Surgery
Exercising after back surgery can act as an important aid in helping regain strength and flexibility.
Before getting back to exercising, it’s best to meet with a specialist to build a workout plan customized to your needs.
Medical professionals will often recommend lighter workouts that are less likely to cause additional injuries. Low-impact workouts that help strengthen the core (the body’s torso) and stretch the hamstrings may also be helpful.
These workouts may include:
- Posterior Pelvic Tilts: A workout to consider when looking to improve the core muscles is the posterior pelvic tilt. This workout involves slowly rocking the pelvis backward while lying down with both knees bent. Please note: this exercise is best performed under the supervision of a medical professional.
- Walking: When getting back into an exercise routine or even just regular daily activities, walking is a great workout that is gentle on the back. Typically, it’s recommended to start off with shorter walks and remain on flat and even ground.
- Stretching: Performing gentle stretching helps to promote flexibility after surgery. Stretches that target the hamstrings and abdominal muscles can help make movement easier. Make sure to exercise caution by not stretching too far, however, as this may delay the healing process.
Additional light workouts that a medical professional might recommend include swimming and riding a stationary bike.
Exercises to Avoid After a Spinal Fusion:
Activity after a spinal fusion shouldn’t include any heavy lifting, deadlifting, or anything else that might twist or bend your back too far. Most importantly, pay attention to what your body is telling you. If an activity feels painful, stop immediately and contact a specialist.
Make an Appointment with a Back Specialist
If your back pain persists or worsens after surgery, leaving you unable to exercise, it might be time to talk to a back specialist. Consider making an appointment with Branko PRPA M.D.—Milwaukee’s top spine surgeon.