Scoliosis, an often painful curving of the spine, can manifest as a congenital defect, but it can also develop later in life due to poor muscle tone, injury and illness, notes MedlinePlus. Spinal fusion surgery can be completed on the curved spine, which effectively fuses the bones of your curved spine together for a straighter result. After this surgery, you'll likely be instructed to take it easy and avoid stretching for up to six weeks to allow the bones to fuse properly. After your doctor gives you the OK, you can begin stretching for less pain and better flexibility.
A walking program may be one of the most important parts of your recovery process. Following your surgery, your doctor will give you the OK to begin a walking program, where you slowly work up to a 20 to 30 minute walk one or two times per day, notes Seattle Children's Hospital. Start small, and for the first few days, only walk as much as you can handle, whether it's two or three minutes or 10 minutes. When you walk, you help your body rehabilitate more quickly, and you help to stretch the muscles in your thighs and calves that can be affected by the inactivity following your surgery.
Before you're ready to stretch on your own, you may need to attend physical therapy in an outpatient rehabilitation facility. A physical therapist will discuss your treatment plan with your doctor to ensure that any stretching you try in physical therapy won't disrupt the fusion of your spine. Your physical therapist may engage you in using certain pieces of exercise equipment and massage to help gently stretch the muscles most affected by your surgery. It's important that you undergo this type of therapy with a trained physical therapist on hand to watch for signs of injury or fatigue.
You can begin stretching at home by yourself after you visit your doctor for your six week follow-up appointment. It's likely that your doctor will still limit the amount of bending, lifting and twisting that you try, but you should still be able to gently stretch your back muscles on a daily basis. Try lying on your back on a mat, and bringing your knees up to your chest. This is a low-impact stretch that helps to stabilize the spine. The National Scoliosis Foundation notes that gentle stretching should not harm the fusion, but acknowledges that you should start slowly and work up to different types of exercise with your doctor's authorization.