Lumbar back pain is very common, affecting 70 percent to 85 percent of people during their lifetime, according to an article in Asian Spine Journal. If conservative treatment is not successful, surgery might be indicated — and, if you've had low back surgery, there's a good chance your core muscles need some work. In fact, weak muscles might have contributed to the problem that led you to surgery in the first place.
Core-strengthening exercises -- also called lumbar stabilization exercises -- require little to no equipment and can be performed virtually anywhere. Depending on your specific surgery, core strengthening exercises might be appropriate one to three months after your surgery. Certain exercise strengthen muscles while keeping the spine straight, making it safe as long as you emphasize proper posture. These exercises will strengthen your abdominal, pelvic and low back muscles all at the same time, making it easier to fit them into your busy schedule.
Before you attempt any of these activities, consult your surgeon to make sure these exercises are safe for you. You might want to avoid exercising while lying on your back, particularly if your scar is sensitive.
You don't have to walk around balancing a book on your head. Although core-strengthening exercises are an important part of recovery after low back surgery, doing them incorrectly can lead to further injury. That's why proper posture is important. If you've been dealing with back pain for a while, you may have heard the term "neutral spine," but do you know what it means? Simply put, this position maintains the natural curves in your spine. Keeping your spine neutral during core strengthening exercises could reduce your risk of injury.
Sit on a hard surface and place your hands on your hips. Slouch forward and round out your low back.
Next, arch your back and sit up as straight as possible. Alternate between these positions, feeling your pelvis rock forward and backward. The middle point between these two positions is your neutral spine. Try to maintain this position as you perform core strengthening exercises.
Bridging exercises target your back, abdominal and pelvic muscles, giving you more bang for your buck.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet resting on the floor. Rest your arms comfortably at your sides.
Lift your hips up off the ground until your body is straight. Hold this position for a few seconds, then lower your hips back down to the ground. Repeat this 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.
As you get stronger, advance to one-legged bridges, holding one leg straight and off the ground as you lift your hips. You can also place your feet on an unstable surface, such as an exercise ball. Your options are only limited by your imagination!
The bird dog exercise targets your core muscles while adding a bonus workout for your shoulders.
Position yourself on your hands and knees. Line your knees up under your hips and place your hands directly under your shoulders.
Keeping your back straight, lift your right arm straight in front of you and straighten your left leg out behind you. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds, then return to the hands and knees position.
Repeat this exercise on the opposite side. Perform 10 repetitions on each side, working up to three sets in a row.
Planks are exercises that can easily be modified as your core strength improves.
Keeping your body straight, lift it up off the ground, supporting your weight through your elbows and toes.
Hold this position as long as you can, without letting your hips drop. This is your starting point. Slowly add more time until you can hold a plank for 1 to 2 minutes.
Progress this exercise by supporting yourself through your hands rather than your elbows, or propping your feet up on an elevated surface.
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center: Beginner and Advanced Core Exercises
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Spine Conditioning Program
- Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy: Postoperative Rehabilitation Following Lumbar Discectomy With Quantification of Trunk Muscle Morphology and Function: A Case Report and Review of the Literature
- Coppola Physical Therapy: Neutral Spine
- American Council on Exercise: Bird-Dog
- Asian Spine Journal: Operative Management of Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease