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Back Pain Center

Exercises After Low Back Surgery

by
author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
Exercises After Low Back Surgery
The low back contains the lumbar spine. Photo Credit maria_esau/iStock/Getty Images

Low back pain affects up to 85% of people within their lifetime. According to a study published in 2014 by "BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders," 90% of episodes of back pain resolve within six weeks. However for some people, treatment of low back pain leads to surgery.

There are many different types of low back surgeries, however after surgery, exercises focus on improving core strength and range of motion in the low back. Check with your doctor to ensure these exercises are safe for you.

Read more: The Best Exercise Routine for Lower Back Pain

Stretches improve flexibility after low back surgery.
Stretches improve flexibility after low back surgery. Photo Credit Photology1971/iStock/Getty Images

Abdominal Draw In

The abdominal draw in exercise can easily be progressed as your strength improves.

Step 1

Lie on your back on a firm surface. Relax your arms by your sides. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground.

Step 2

Tighten your lower abdominal muscles by flattening your lower back against the ground. Picture your bellybutton being pulled back toward your spine.

Step 3

Hold this position -- called a posterior pelvic tilt -- for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Step 4

Perform a pelvic tilt in the starting position in step one. Holding this position, slowly lift one foot and place it back down. Alternate feet as if you are marching, 10 times on each side.

Step 5

Perform a pelvic tilt in the starting position in step one. Holding this position, slowly slide your right heel toward your buttock as far as possible, then slide back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

Step 6

Perform a pelvic tilt in the starting position in step one. Holding this position, bring one knee as close to your chest as possible. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, then lower back down. Repeat this movement on both sides, 10 times each.

Stretching exercises need to be performed consistently after low back surgery to improve flexibility.
Stretching exercises need to be performed consistently after low back surgery to improve flexibility. Photo Credit fizkes/iStock/Getty Images

Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises reduce tightness that develops in hip muscles and the low back after surgery.

Read more: Stretches for the Lower & Middle Back

Hamstring Stretch

The hamstring muscles are located along the back of your thighs. These large muscles attach to the pelvis. When hamstring muscles are tight, they can round out the low back, making it difficult to sit with good posture. This stretch can be made easier using a towel for assistance.

Step 1

Sit on a firm surface with your legs out in from of you. Hold one end of the towel in each hand. Bend one knee and hook the middle of the towel under that foot.

Step 2

Slowly lie down on your back, keeping your knee bent on the side with the towel. Begin with your knee pointed straight up toward the ceiling.

Step 3

Slowly straighten your knee while pressing your foot into the towel. Straighten the knee until you feel a strong stretch along the back of your thigh. Your knee might or might not be completely straight, depending on your flexibility.

Step 4

Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, then relax. Perform three times on each leg.

Hip Flexor Stretch

The hip flexor muscles move your thigh forward. These muscles can get tight, particularly if you spend a lot of time sitting after low back surgery.

Step 1

To stretch your left hip flexor, kneel on a firm, but padded, surface. Shift your weight to your left knee and bring your right leg forward, placing your foot flat on the ground. Put your hands on your hips.

Step 2

Keeping your body upright, shift your body weight forward until you feel a strong stretch along the front of your left thigh. Do not allow your right knee to move out in front of your toes. To prevent this, you might need to step your right foot forward a bit more.

Step 3

Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat three times and switch legs to stretch your right hip flexor.

Low Back Stretch

Perform low back stretches slowly and do not stretch to the point of pain.

Step 1

Lie on your back on a firm surface. Bend one knee and bring it in toward your chest. If you experience discomfort in this position, bend your other leg and place your foot on the ground to decrease pressure on your low back.

Step 2

Wrap your hands around your knee and gently pull in until you feel a stretch on the same side of your low back. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat this stretch on the opposite leg.

Step 3

Progress this stretch by pulling both knees in toward your chest at the same time.

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