Physical therapy after surgery

Patients who undergo surgery to treat a spine condition may be recommended to start a physical therapy regimen to help the muscles and spine heal properly. Many patients have been inactive for months and years prior to the surgery due to the pain of their spine condition. Physical therapy helps to rebuild and strengthen those unused muscles to help prevent future injury now that the patients are up and moving around again.

The purpose of physical therapy is to regain mobility and range of motion, as well as flexibility and strength. Strengthening the core muscles of the body reduces the pressure on the spine to stabilize and support all of the body’s weight. Additionally, physical therapy and exercise may help to reduce some excess body weight and relieve even more pressure from the spine.

If you undergo spine surgery or spinal fusion, prepare for your surgeon to recommend a physical therapy plan as part of your recovery. Make sure you ask the surgeon any questions you have about the recovery period and inform your nursing team of any concerns you have about postoperative physical therapy. To learn about various postsurgical exercises and alternative methods for a healthy recovery, read the following article.

Exercises for physical therapy

For your post-surgery physical therapy, your physical therapist will most likely have you begin with isometric exercises and isotonic exercises. Isometric exercises allow the muscle to contract but do not require much movement or repetitive motion. Isometric exercises require repetitive movements but can be modified to fit your fitness and comfort level. This will allow you to ease into the physical therapy routine without hurting your muscles or causing injury.

After your doctor gives you clearance, your physical therapist might recommend the following exercises:

  • Partial sit-ups. Lie on your back with your legs bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles and sit up a few inches, keeping your lower back on the floor. Hold for 20 seconds and release.
  • Unilateral leg lifts. Lie on your back with your legs straight. Lift one leg 30 degrees off the floor, trying to keep your lumbar spine even with the floor. Tighten your core muscles and hold for 20 seconds.
  • Pelvic tilt. Lie on your back with your legs bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your pelvis a few inches off the floor. Feel a tightening in your gluteal muscles. Hold for 20 seconds.

You may also find it helpful to watch the videos on to learn more postsurgical physical therapy exercises.

Additional tips for a healthy recovery

Work with your doctor to design a postoperative recovery plan. This may include over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), massage therapy, nutrition and lifestyle counseling. If you have undergone surgery at Laser Spine Institute and you have questions about your postoperative care and recovery period, please contact our 24/7 SPINE LINE to speak to one of our registered nurses.

In the event that you are suffering from chronic neck or back pain and have yet to take the step toward finding lasting relief, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. We are the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and are confident that we can help you on the road to recovery. Through a free MRI review,* we can determine if you are a potential candidate for the outpatient procedures performed at our state-of-the-art surgery centers.