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Anne Asher

Low Back Post-Op Activity and Exercise

By September 4, 2007

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Back strain and back sprain are among the most common back injuries.
(c) Anne Asher 2007
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If you have had or will be having lumbar disk surgery for the first time, chances are, your physician will refer you to physical therapy to help you get back to your activities of daily living. But in a recent review of medical literature, the Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit group that reviews medical research studies from a non-biased perspective, and reports the results to the public*, found that immediate activity restriction is not necessary for a good recovery.

The reviewers also found that intensive exercise programs begun between 4-6 weeks after the surgery gets you back to work faster than mild exercise, without the risk of re-injury to the disk. Overall, though, back rehab exercises are back rehab exercises, and if you keep working on them over the long term, the effectiveness of your post op program will be about the same regardless of intensity, for functional status and fast return to work, the review found. The authors noted that it’s unclear what should be included in a rehab program, with a multidisciplinary approach showing no real advantage over a more focused one.

Steven Portner (his name was changed) recently had a first time lumbar disk surgery. For Steven, physical therapy started eight weeks after his surgery. Steven says physical therapy "is focusing on exercises to strengthen the core muscles in the abdomen and back. Without a strong core chances are much higher that another injury could occur, especially when there is a lot of lifting involved. I would categorize my PT treatment as moderately challenging right now and I expect it to become more so as the treatments progresses”.

Have you had lumbar surgery? Tell us how your recovery has gone.

*I am a consumer reviewer for the Cochrane Back Group, which means I look at their work and provide comment as to how it might answer the questions of non-medical people with back pain.)

September 23, 2007 at 5:38 pm
(1) Dominick Fanelli says:

I had surgery on my lower back in 2001, and now the disk above that is compressed. It seems that the surgery moved the problem up to the next disk.And I have been in pain since the surgery.

May 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm
(2) Michelle says:

I recently had the lumbar decompression surgery. I was in such severe pain. When I woke up after the surgery, the pain was gone. It was truly amazing!! I just started physical therapy and I finally feel like myself again.

May 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm
(3) Anne says:

That’s fantastic. Congratulations.

July 8, 2010 at 5:44 pm
(4) Darren says:

I had spinal fusion 8 weeks ago, I’m walking ok but start to ache after 1/4 mile or so. The day after any sort of heavy lifting or strong physical activity though is very painfull. I hope this wont be perminant as after exercise i really feel sore and run down. I hope it improves :(

January 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm
(5) Carol Stambaugh says:

I had a lumbar laminectomy on Nov. 8. I must agree with others in regards to my recovery. I had a lot of leg & knee pain before surgery. The pain after surgery was much relief. But as time passes & I try to do more, walk more at times my leg & knee pain comes back. I think It is I try to do too much too soon. I’ve learned recovery takes a lot of patience and time. I have mostly good days, but sometimes have a bad day. After reading a lot I think that I am on track, as it seems this is happening to a lot of other people as in my situation. I would like to find some exercised that would be suitable for me.

February 5, 2011 at 11:10 pm
(6) Amy says:

I had bi-level spinal fusion in 2006. I had been injured for a long time prior to surgery. Because my muscles atrophied, it took a long time to gain my strength back… about 2 years of slow steady PT, walking, dieting, and cardio. I’m doing really well and work hard to keep my core strong. Patience was key.

February 6, 2011 at 8:29 pm
(7) D. Goodrich says:

Underwent a micro-discectomy/laminectomy at L4&5 after back pain developed into dropfoot on my right side.4 days post-op I started to regain dorsiflexion in my right foot and have experienced a dramatic reduction of lower back pain.Built up to a mile long walk per day by one week post-op,2 miles/day by 2nd week,right foot continues to regain strength.Back to work[light manual labor]3.5 weeks after surgery,walking 3+mi./day and feeling good.Walk,walk,walk,…………………………….

February 21, 2011 at 11:41 am
(8) Kelly Singh says:

I had my lower back surgery last year in December in India.
5th day after the surgery I started walking a little bit and on the 13th day after the surgery i was walking 1km every day by myself without any help. Now I walk normal without any pain to my lower back. Before surgery I ived in pain almost 11 months and it was a hell. but now I am 99.9% fresh, no pain at all. Please follow your physical therapist and your surgeon’s advice. You will be fine.

April 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm
(9) Darryl Stroet says:

Eight days post-op lower back surgery.Glad I had taken the time to read your notes,I was thinken Ill be back at it in no time.But Im thinking not,but walking,and patients seem to be the common statement.

April 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm
(10) Darryl Stroet says:

But I wanted to say one more thing, its hard not to get excited about being pain free after 1.5 years,and
knowing I can go back to what I used to do with my family.

May 30, 2011 at 7:16 am
(11) ray says:

I have had laminectomy 1978. micro-discectomy 1998. and decompressant laminectomy 2006 my balance is very poor now due to nerve damage and I need crutches am trying exercises but without much improvement. any thoughts?

June 1, 2011 at 6:29 pm
(12) amanda says:

I just had a microdiscectomy 4 weeks ago.Im having some issues as far as leg pain and some swelling .But,I think patience and not over doing it is the key !

July 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm
(13) jaime gutierrez says:

I just got an exterior lumbar fusion. I am having trouble walking and standing. My knees buckle after a couple minutes.

July 17, 2011 at 8:23 am
(14) Sydney says:

I had spinal fusion surgery four weeks ago. The pain was excruciating after the surgery, fortunately I do not remember it. Recovery is slow and painful, but for all these back surgeries there is one rule: No More Lifting and Bending!!!!!!!!
Otherwise you can go straight back to the op theatre!!!!
Strict observation of donts and exercises are crutial for a good revovery and no more or much less pain!

August 27, 2011 at 9:27 am
(15) anickstairs says:

I just finished (7 weeks) with a triple fusion. L4, L5 and another I don’t know if it was up or down, probably down. Anyways…lots of soreness in my back. Seems to get better…but I’m not convinced yet. I take only 5mg of oxycodone as opposed to 80mg oxycontin and 30mg of oxycodone a day. Hmmm…still tough to walk, no running, and haven’t started PT yet? I will see after the start of physical Therapy.

March 13, 2013 at 5:59 pm
(16) Biobill says:

I am 8 weeks post op for laminectomy and removal of L3-5 gelatinous fibrinous, synovial cyst.I had bilaterally impaired leg function for two years, meaning my legs felt exhausted with minimal activity. Pain in the my thigh muscles was common and I often was struck with proctalgia levitor (extremely painful). Numbness was common as was erectile disfunction and loss due to loss of sensation.I am walking two miles 3-4 times a week with no discomfert or pain, erectile function and ability to climax has returned. I have noted a cessation of tinnitus in my left ear and have not had an episode of the levitor proctalgia.
I did develop a post surgical spinal headache from leaking spinal fluid in surgical area but it was corrected surgically with no other problems. I am very pleased with the outcome!

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