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Exercises After Back Surgery

By Jonathan McLelland

After back surgery, the recovery period can be long and uncomfortable, thus restricting the amount of daily movement. Once the back has begun to heal, you will need to regain strength within the back muscles that has been lost due to a mandatory sedentary lifestyle. It is vital to never over-exert yourself when exercising your back after surgery and always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.


According to Dr. Theodore B. Goldstein from Spine Health, walking after you have undergone a microdiscectomy spine surgery will strengthen back muscles without solely targeting this fatigued muscle group. Prior to starting an exercise routine, speak with your doctor to ensure that your back has properly healed.

For the first week of exercise, you will want to either walk on a track or on a treadmill for 10 minutes. Do not walk faster than a standard stride as this can aggravate the back muscles and cause unnecessary pain. Also, only walk on a smooth and even surface. After the initial week, walk for an additional 3 minutes per day until you are able to easily walk for 45 minutes without excessive pain.

Because an increase of activity following back surgery can cause slight discomfort to the area that was operated on, applying an ice pack for 20 minutes directly on the back after exercising will alleviate some of the discomfort. Discontinue the exercise if you begin to experience sharp back pains.

Stability Stretching

After back surgery, it normally takes two to three weeks for the soft tissue around the surgical area to heal. Once the soft tissues are recovered, it is vital to incorporate daily stretching exercises to regain range-of-motion within the area. Only begin stretching after you have visited your physician and she has deemed it safe.

Because the back muscles may have lost their ability to properly stabilize the back due to lack of motion during the recovery period, stabilization exercises will gently strengthen these muscle groups. The erector spinae are the main muscle groups within the back that support stabilization, and they run the full-length of the spine.

To begin this stretching exercise, carefully lower yourself to the floor and kneel on your arms and knees. Slowly raise your left arm into the air and point it out directly in-front of you. After a few moments, carefully raise your right leg into the air. Do not lift the leg too high into the air as this can cause unnecessary strain on the healing back muscles. Hold for seven seconds before lowering the right leg to the ground and bringing your left arm back down. Repeat this same stretch on the opposite arm and leg.

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