Core Strengthening Exercises Post Lumbar Spinal Surgery

Back surgery can take a toll on your emotions. If you're tired of resting and want to get active, you may be on the lookout for safe core exercises after a spinal fusion. Or perhaps you're worried about hitting the gym after months of pain and recovery.

Planks are a great core exercise after lumbar spinal surgery. Credit: Zinkevych/iStock/GettyImages

However you're feeling, you should know that you're not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain in their lifetimes. Furthermore, at least one in four adults has had this pain in the past three months. While not all of these patients undergo surgery to fix their pain, many do.

Warning

Do not attempt any exercise until your surgeon or physician determines that it is safe. Exercising before you are ready can cause further damage to your back.

Patience Is Key After Surgery

Depending on the type of surgery you had, you may have to wait up to six months after your operation before you can start exercising again. However, once you and your medical team feel comfortable with the idea, you can return to working out. If you want to make the most of your surgery, be sure to strengthen your back with safe ab exercises after spinal fusion.

Most importantly, take baby steps as you ease back into working out. Whether you want to exercise after spinal fusion for scoliosis or get back to a sport you love after an injury, it's important to pace yourself. Both the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Council on Exercise recommend starting slowly in this way.

Read more: The Safest Ways to Exercise Your Back After Spinal Fusion Surgery

1. First Steps: Stability

Whether you're an athlete or barely worked out before your surgery, it's important to start with some light mobility and stability work. Try a few basic but necessary core exercises after a spinal fusion. If something hurts, be sure to slowly move yourself out of the position and rest. It's more important to avoid injury than to get as many repetitions in as you can.

Move 1: Ankle Pumps

  1. Lie flat on your back
  2. Move your ankles so that your toes point toward you
  3. Flex the ankles so that the toes point away from you

Move 2: Heel Slides

  1. Lie flat on your back
  2. Bend one knee so that the sole of the foot goes to the ground
  3. Straighten the knee back out
  4. Repeat on the other side

Move 3: Hip Bridges

  1. Lie flat on your back with your hands palms-down on the ground next to you
  2. Put the soles of your feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart
  3. Lift your hips into the air while your shoulder blades and feet remain in place
  4. Hold this position for about 20 or 30 seconds
  5. Slowly release and lay flat again

Read More: Yoga & Spinal Fusion

2. Next Phase: Strengthen with Movement

When you feel comfortable with some of the stability exercises, you can try a few strengthening core exercises for after a spinal fusion.

Move 1: Stability Ball Pelvic Tilt

  1. Sit on a stability ball with knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground
  2. Place your hands on your hips bones
  3. Slightly contract your core muscles to tilt your pelvis forward
  4. Gently send the pelvis back, creating a subtle arch in the lower back
  5. Repeat steps three and four for one minute

Move 2: Bird Dog

  1. Get on all fours with knees beneath your hips and hands beneath your shoulders
  2. Extend your left foot with the toes pointed downward
  3. Extend your right arm with palms facing in and thumb pointing upward
  4. Hold the pose for a few seconds, unless you feel pain in the lower back
  5. Bring the left knee and right elbow in to meet near your naval
  6. Repeat on the other side

Read More: Exercises After Low Back Surgery

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