Exercises After Back Surgery

After experiencing back surgery, it’s understandable that you have hesitations about how much exercise you can engage in without risking injury. While some exercises may vary based on surgical procedure, physical therapy and exercises can enhance mobility and improve your body function post-surgery. According to Winston Salem Fitness, those who exercise post-surgery are more likely to heal faster than patients who do not.


According to Spine Universe, walking is a low-impact exercise that aids recovery by restoring mobility. Walking does not require excessive twisting of the spine, which can damage the back post-surgery. This exercise also promotes bone growth that can help the spine fuse back together. Don’t expect to be able to walk miles immediately after surgery. Instead start by walking a small amount, such as for 10 minutes. Then add five to 10 minutes every week until you achieve 30- to 40-minute sessions without pain. If you do experience twinges of pain following walking, applying ice to the back may reduce it.


Swimming also is a low-impact activity that is beneficial for you after back surgery. Because your body is supported in the water and takes away some of the weight-bearing trauma that can accompany other exercises, swimming provides a safe way to exercise. While in the water, perform strokes that place the least stress on your back, such as a freestyle stroke. Ones such as the butterfly should be avoided until your back has had sufficient time to heal. Even if swimming is not your activity of choice, you can walk in the shallow end of the water, which will help support your back while you exercise.


Following back surgery, it’s not uncommon for you to experience problems with flexibility. If this is the case, yoga may be an option for you. While you may not be able to fully stretch through all of the poses or twist as much as you typically might, attempting to restore flexibility through slow, controlled motions can help you regain some of your movement after surgery. Before engaging in yoga, identify poses that may not be suitable for you post-surgery–or poses that would be beneficial to you.

About this Author

Rachel Nelson is currently a managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. A writer for more than six years, she has written for the Associated Press and “Charleston,” “Chatter” and “Reach” magazines. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in public administration from the University of Tennessee.