Spine surgery fixes any one of many problems such as herniated discs or stenosis, but may lead to scar tissue forming along the surgical location. Unless exercises are done to stretch and mobilize the area over time, patients may develop long-term or permanent disruption to mobility and experience chronic pain.
Scar Tissue Development
Post-surgical exercises are required to prevent and break up any scar tissue developing. Muscles and tendons become tense, limiting the range of motion as time goes on. Although scar tissue itself is incapable of pain sensations, the nerve root develops fibrous adhesion leading to pain, according to Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., M.D., of Spine-Health. Using slow stretching exercises helps reduce fibrous adhesions from forming. Speak with your surgeon before staring any exercises to make sure you will not set back the success of your surgery.
Mobility in the Spine
Stretching is necessary for the health of your spine. The many ligaments, tendons and bones carry your weight when standing, walking and running. The spine is designed to absorb the shock that moves up and down your spine when you move while also providing mobility to move side to side and twist. Stretching keeps all components more free and increases blood flow with nutrients to the spine. Depending on where your surgery was performed, you may have increased limitations in certain areas such as the neck or lower back.
Start by stretching your neck and working your way down to utilize muscles that are already more limber. Stretch your neck by doing flexion and extension, looking up and down. Look right to left and also tilt your head trying to touch your ears to your shoulders. Shoulder rolls loosen the lower neck and upper back. Do shoulder rolls forward and backward for maximum effect. Stretch your hamstrings while laying down after surgery, supporting your back while bringing your knees up to your chest. You can also do hip twists while laying down for added support; bend your knees up and slowly twist them to the side while extending your legs.
Prevention of Scar Tissue
Surgeons expect a certain amount of scar tissue after surgery. Even the most minimal procedures result in scar tissue and mobility issues. Start moderate stretches early in the postoperative process five to six times daily for at least six to 12 weeks. This is the period when scars develop and will be mitigated most effectively.