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Back Pain Center

Exercises After Low Back Surgery

author image Linda Ray
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."
Exercises After Low Back Surgery
Walking is one of the best exercises to do after back surgery. Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images


Most lower back pain responds to noninvasive treatment such as rest and ice, but often surgery is required, especially if your pain lasts for three months or longer without relief, reports the Mayo Clinic. A ruptured disc, spinal injury or progressive bone degeneration can require surgery to fix. Following surgery, you must follow a regimen of rehabilitative exercises to regain mobility and recover properly.


Doctors at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons report that most patients should begin walking shortly after surgery. Surgery saps your energy and you need to move to restore your energy levels and increase your circulation. Start by walking unaided in the hospital and continue at home. Find a route around your house that you can walk until you feel stable enough to move outdoors. Increase the time you walk as you gain strength.

Stationary Bike

A stationary bike is an effective exercise for overall fitness and ideal for after back surgery. Little or no impact is placed on your spine. Adjust the handlebars of the bicycle so that you don't have to lean over too far to hold them. Set the resistance on low until you gain strength. You can increase the resistance and the time you spend on the bike as you get stronger. Start with five- or 10-minute rides and increase the time until you can comfortably ride for 30 minutes, three or four times a week.

Ankle Pumps

Most doctors refer patients to a physical therapist for instruction on the best exercises to do following back surgery. One of the most common routines initially employed is ankle pumps. They can be performed while lying down and should be done regularly throughout the day. Start by extending your legs while lying down. Concentrate on one leg and move your ankle up and down. Move slowly and deliberately. Hold each movement for a couple seconds. Repeat 10 times and then switch to the other foot.


Isometrics are exercises that require you to tighten up a certain muscle group and hold for a period of time, ranging from 10 to 20 seconds. Isometrics help to rebuild weakened muscles. You'll need to strengthen your thigh and buttock muscles to support your back as you resume normal exercise and activities. To work the thigh, tighten the muscles in one thigh, hold for 10 to 20 seconds, release and rest a few seconds. Repeat three times and perform the exercise on the other leg. Strengthen your glutes (muscles of your buttocks) in the same manner. Tighten, hold and relax.

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