What Type of Physical Therapy Will I Need After Spinal Surgery?
Physical therapy is frequently necessary following spinal surgery to help strengthen your back or neck muscles, improve your range of motion and flexibility, and help heal the tissues in the areas where your surgery was performed. Physical therapy can also help build and strengthen your core (the muscles that surround the spine) to help take stress off of your spinal column and protect your surgical site. Your spine surgeon will recommend a physical therapy center, ideally close to your home and participating in your health insurance plan, so that you may reap the benefits of physical therapy for spinal surgery recovery.
It’s important at the outset to have realistic expectations of how many physical therapy sessions you’ll need. The determination as to how many physical therapy session are going to be needed is based on many factors such as the severity of the problem treated by surgery, the magnitude of the procedure, a patient’s age and overall conditioning level and patient motivation.
Highly motivated patients with good conditioning and some understanding of an exercise program may not require any formal physical therapy following surgery. Other patients with less exercise experience may require two or three months of physical therapy. Experienced physical therapists will stand with you as you work through each exercise, gently correcting your form and range of motion, so that your exercises remain effective and not detrimental. A wrong position during a particular exercise can put further strain on your back muscles, working against what you’re there to achieve.
Here are some of the types of physical therapy that you may need after spinal surgery:
• Body weight exercises. You won’t be given heavy weights to lift like you might use at the gym. Instead, you’ll complete a series of exercises that are ‘weight-bearing,’ to gently begin strengthening your muscles and back structure.
• Body ball exercises. You might be asked to sit on an exercise ball and simply rotate your hips in small circles, which can help loosen tight back muscles and make your hips more limber. Weakness in this area and in your back can be a cause of back pain, and a stability ball can be an effective way to loosen hips for better healing.
• Aerobic exercises to improve conditioning and blood flow to the spine.
• Resistance exercises. Using resistance bands, you’ll complete exercises that build your back and core muscles and work your range of motion.
• Biofeedback-guided physical therapy. Using advance biofeedback machines, you can get immediate feedback on your body’s movements as you complete exercise repetitions.
And more…Physical therapy centers are filled with the newest, hi-tech machinery as well as tried-and-true fitness machines. Electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and heat are just some of the options available to physical therapists. If you’re feeling any pain as you do your exercises, you should alert your physical therapist, who will guide you to adjust your position, reduce resistance, or have you stop that exercise altogether in favor of an easier one. Post-operative physical therapy is definitely not a “no pain, no gain” situation. Physical therapists have a masters or doctoral degree and are extremely knowledgeable. They excel at matching exercises to patients’ ability levels.
Physical therapy after back surgery can be essential to your healing and to strengthening the weak back muscles that likely contributed to your initial back pain and disc issues. Most patients find that they quickly become experienced enough with the exercises so that you can safely do them at home. A home exercise program will improve flexibility and strength and should lead to a healthy lifestyle that includes back exercises.