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Rehabilitation for Spine Surgery Recovery

Spine surgery is a major undertaking, and rehabilitation is an important part of helping patients get the most possible benefit from their surgery. Essentially, rehabilitation (physiotherapy, exercise) can help patients recover from spine surgery as quickly and completely as possible.

It can be thought of as alignment and balance for your body. If you buy new tires for your car, they won’t last as long if they are not aligned and balanced and the new tires will be a waste of money. Your spine surgery is like new tires, and a physiotherapist’s role is to do the alignment, balance, and engine tuning to make sure that the effects of the surgery are as positive as possible.

There are several ways that a physiotherapist typically will work with a patient to help him or her get back into good physical condition and heal from the injury and back surgery.

1. Pain Control after spine surgery
A physiotherapist is trained to help manage pain following back surgery. Controlling pain is an important first step in allowing patients to regain their strength, as it is very difficult to complete a rehabilitation program if one is in a great deal of pain.

While a certain amount of pain is common in the recovery process, there are several means that a physiotherapist may use to help minimize pain, such as:

  • Ice application
  • Certain positions of the spine
  • Certain types of movements
  • Electrical devices (e.g. TENS units)

Many of the techniques for back pain relief are simple and easy to learn and can be done at home or at work throughout the day. For many patients, it is surprising to learn how much simple use of ice packs and/or changes in movements and positions can help alleviate post-operative pain.

Ideally, a physiotherapist will also provide information and education to improve a patient’s overall health and recovery after spine surgery through lifestyle changes, such as drinking enough water throughout the day and finding a comfortable sleeping position.

2. One-on-one training after spine surgery
The therapist will typically develop a training program tailored for the patient, taking into account the patient’s specific surgery, body type and tissue conditions.

Therapists focus on muscle facilitation with areas where the muscles may need special retraining to gain strength and provide stability following the back surgery. This type of exercise therapy may focus on:

  • Muscles in the incision area
  • Muscles that may have been weakened by nerve problems before the surgery
  • Small muscles that work around each vertebra and help stabilize the spine. Most people (even those without spine problems) do not use these muscles very often. However, if these small muscles are trained properly, they can provide excellent stabilization that can protect the spine and protect the newly operated area to prevent future problems.

Individualised physical therapy may also help with areas where the patient’s mobility and flexibility has been limited by spine surgery. Many spine patients have problems with restrictions in their hips or shoulders or other areas of the spine. In these cases, the therapist can help the joints and the muscles involved regain the movement in relation to an individual’s body type and physical activities, and will work in the best way with the newly operated spine.

Physiotherapists are trained to be sure to select movements that can be done safely around the spine surgery.

Click here to learn about Rehabilitation via Exercise

Click here for a list of Private Rehabilitation Centres in Victoria

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