Exercises After Low Back Surgery

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, back pain is one of the most common medical issues in the U.S. The good news is, most cases of lower back pain do not require surgery.

Yoga is a great way to exercise and stretch the lower back.
Image Credit: nortonrsx/iStock/GettyImages

However, lower back — or lumbar — conditions that compress your nerves might require surgery. These conditions often occur from bulging or breakdown of disks that provide cushioning between the bones in your spine, or bone spurs along your spine, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Exercises after back surgery can help restore a range of motion and strength so you can regain function. For best results, perform these exercises under the direct supervision of a physical therapist.

Read more: 6 Lower Back Pain Exercises to Ease Your Aching Muscles

Exercises After Lumbar Surgery

There are several different types of lower back surgery that can relieve pressure on compressed nerves, according to Mayo Clinic. A diskectomy is performed to remove part of a bulging disk.

A laminectomy involves removal of part of the bones in your spine. More severe cases might require fusion, or permanent fixation between two or more bones in your spine, as explained in an August 2016 article published by Asian Spine Journal.

Exercises after back surgery will vary, depending on your specific procedure. Your doctor may also restrict your activity for up to 12 weeks after surgery to allow you to heal before initiating exercises.

The focus of a workout after back surgery is typically to strengthen the abdominal and lower back muscles that support the spine, as recommended by Princeton University Athletic Medicine.

Move #1: Abdominal Draw In

This exercise strengthens deep abdominal muscles that help support your lumbar spine.

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
  3. Tighten your lower abs and press your lower back into the ground.
  4. Hold for three seconds, then relax.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

As your strength improves, hold this position and march your feet, or lift one knee at a time toward your chest.

Read more: Stretches to Improve Low Back Flexibility

Move #2: Plank on Forearms

This exercise strengthens your abdominal muscles and back extensors, a group of muscles that run along the sides of your spine.

  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
  2. Straighten one leg at a time and place your toes on the ground, as if you are going to perform a push-up.
  3. Keeping your abs tight, lower down on to your forearms.
  4. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat three times.

As you get stronger, gradually build up your time until you can maintain a plank for one minute.

Move #3: Superman

This move also targets the back extensors.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out straight ahead.
  2. Lift one arm about two inches off the ground.
  3. Hold for two to three seconds, then slowly lower back down.
  4. Repeat with the other arm.
  5. Keeping your knee straight, squeeze your buttocks and lift your leg a few inches off the ground.
  6. Hold for two to three seconds, then lower your leg back down.
  7. Repeat with the opposite leg.
  8. Perform 10 repetitions with each extremity.

As your strength improves, lift your opposite arm and leg at the same time.

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