Back surgery is considered major surgery, and it is most successful when undertaken as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Rehabilitation in the form of physical therapy is critical to getting you back on your feet as soon as possible, as well as in ensuring that you recover as completely as you can.
Physical therapy after back surgery takes several forms as you progress through the healing process. Here is what to expect.
Immediately After Surgery
Back surgery is painful, but your physical therapist will help you get the pain under control. This allows you to rest and regain your strength, and sets the stage for a strong exercise regimen. After all, it is very difficult to exercise when you are in intense pain.
At this point, the overarching goal is to control pain. Strengthening the spine will come next, after the pain is under control. Exactly which techniques are used depends on your individual circumstances. However, these are among the most common:
Targeted spinal positioning during sitting or lying down
TENS units or similar electrical devices
During this phase, your physical therapist will also work with you on simple lifestyle changes to improve your overall health and speed your recovery. For example, finding a comfortable position to sleep in while you’re healing and drinking extra water throughout the day can have a dramatic impact on your progress.
Targeted Surgical Recovery
Once your pain is under control, your physical therapist will develop a customized plan to help your body recover from surgery. The type of surgery you had, your overall body type, and many other factors play a role in creating your unique plan. In general, though, surgical recovery will focus on a few key areas:
Muscles near the incision
Muscles that were weakened by your condition prior to surgery
Healing Through Exercise
Although it may, at times, seem overwhelming, exercise is the absolute key to proper healing. It can eliminate fatigue, help you safely transition back to normal life, and assist in minimizing or even preventing future pain or injuries.
There are many different exercises available to patients in various stages of recovery from back surgery, and not all exercises are appropriate for everyone. Your physical therapist will create a customized exercise program based on your needs. You will learn each exercise from the therapist and then practice at home. Remember that the more you put into active recovery, the more you will get out of it. If you work hard and follow your physical therapist’s instructions, you will have the best chances for resuming activity at virtually any level.
During your one-on-one physical therapy sessions, you will have lots of opportunities to ask questions about your condition, your recovery, and your prognosis. Whether you are wondering when you can return to a certain activity or interested in alternative pain management methods such as acupuncture, your physical therapist can also act as a one-stop shop for further education. Physical therapists typically have close relationships with spine surgeons, so if yours doesn’t have a particular answer right away, he or she can normally get that answer before your next appointment.
As you recover from back surgery, you will experience a range of emotions and physical ups and downs. Although you will grow stronger and healthier over time, the progression is not always linear. At times, you may feel frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed. These feelings are normal. Keep doing your best, accept bad days as they come, and maintain a rock-solid commitment to full recovery. Your physical therapist will be by your side to help you stay motivated and ensure the best possible outcome.
Founded by physical therapy innovator Dr. Joseph Simon, the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan. We offer several dedicated programs for different conditions, along with the latest innovations in physical therapy for all. If you are ready for the latest treatments for pain or injury, call us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.