"Rehabilitation and exercise are an essential part of recovery from a lumbar spine fusion. Careful planning and follow through on a prescribed physical therapy program will go a long way in helping the patient recover from the fusion and have the best prospects for pain relief over the long term.
Patients who have had or are contemplating lumbar fusion surgery are understandably concerned about making sure the fusion heals as intended. For this reason, many patients are afraid to be active and some do not want to move at all, fearing that they will risk having the fusion not set up properly.
In actuality, and contrary to this fear, movement is essential to foster healing.
There are precautions to keep in mind—most patients avoid bending, lifting, and twisting—but staying active with short, frequent, gentle exercise is strongly recommended and delivers many benefits.
Benefits of Physical Therapy After Fusion
Careful, progressive return to activity and exercise after a fusion has a number of advantages, including:
Movement activates supporting muscles. Following surgery or an episode of injury, smaller muscles in the area may become inhibited (turned off). These muscles have a great responsibility in maintaining stability of the spine. Encouraging the muscles to function properly will also reduce stress through the surgical site by active stabilization.
Gentle stretching promotes flexibility. During periods of inactivity, range of motion can be lost, and stiffness soon settles in. Very gentle stretching of the core back and abdominal muscles, as well as the hip muscles attached to the spine and pelvis, will make all movement easier, even just getting out of a chair."