The Importance of Post-Spinal Surgery Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is vital to healing after spinal surgery. Stretches and strengthening exercises help someone to get back their range of motion, balance, and control. You’re going to have to strengthen those muscles that were just operated on to get back to full capacity, and physical therapy will help with that.

Popular Types of Spinal Surgery Physical Therapy

There are many types of physical therapy. The ones we have listed here are ones that may be required after surgery, but this varies from person to person. Spinal surgery physical therapy will likely consist of:

  • Aerobic Exercises – After a spinal surgery are often recommended to improve conditioning and blood flow 
  • Resistance Exercises – These will be necessary for most people to help build their back and their core muscles. 
  • Body Ball Exercises – A stability ball will be used for these exercises. You may be asked to sit on an exercise ball and do muscle exercises such as hip rotations to help loosen tight back muscles and to help make your back more agile. This region of the body being weak is one thing that may contribute to your back pain.
  • Biofeedback Guided Therapy – As you complete your exercise repetitions, if you use biofeedback machines, you’ll get immediate feedback.

Physical Therapy Steps

Physical therapy after spinal surgery is imperative to your health. It’s usually a good tool to help anyone build and strengthen the muscles that were the initial cause of pain and disc issues. The first part of spinal surgery physical therapy is a physical therapy evaluation. Those may include, but are not limited to:

  • Taking medical history. Your physical therapist will first take either a verbal or written history. You’ll be asked questions about how the injury occurred, how you’re feeling right now, and if there were any complications after the procedure. This is a good time to bond with and get to know your therapist.
  • Range of motion is measured. Your therapist may use machines such as an inclinometer for a goniometer to measure your range of motion throughout therapy. 
  • Strength will be measured during your first visit. Your physical therapist will measure your physical strength and weaknesses. If you’d had muscle weakness or muscle paralysis from nerve compression, they’d measure those muscles. The strength of your back and abdominal muscles may be checked, and hip and thigh muscles and muscles in the lower leg may also be assessed.
  • Postural assessment will likely be done by your physical therapist. That means that they will look at your spike when you’re standing and sitting. If necessary, they will help you adopt and maintain the proper posture while standing and sitting. 
  • Scar tissue assessment (if necessary) will be done by your physical therapist to make sure that skin or scar tissue isn’t causing problems or restricting your range of motion in any way.
  • Neurological screening will likely also be performed. This is where your physical therapist may test your reflexes with a light hammer and your ability to tell the difference between a “light” or soft touch and pressure.
  • Flexibility assessments will be done after surgery. This is where your physical therapist will assess muscle groups like hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles. 
  • Functional assessments where your physical therapist will go over your overall function after you’ve had surgery. These are important as they help determine your physical therapy goals. This is where your physical therapist assesses questions like -can you work? Can you drive? Can you participate in your normal activities? Is your function limited in any way? 

Your physical therapist will help you stay on track with how well you’re following and able to follow your directed protocol. 

When to Start Spinal Surgery Physical Therapy

Your physical therapist will work with you to determine risk factors that you may face in the future and to come up with a prevention plan. You should wait to start physical therapy until 4-6 weeks after your spinal surgery. Depending on any post-surgery complications such as an infection or heavy bleeding, you may need to wait even longer before starting spinal surgery physical therapy. Physical therapy sessions can last from three weeks to as long as even six weeks post-surgery.

Contact Florida Spine Associates

Your doctor will most likely be the one that’s going to prescribe either a surgical or a non-surgical rehabilitation plan regarding the medical problems that you’re experiencing with your back. However, you can contact us to set up a consultation and allow us to tailor a treatment plan to suit your needs.