So you’ve had surgery on your back or neck. What happens next?

Your recovery program will depend on the type of surgery you have received, the degree of structural change prior to surgery and specific instructions given to you by your surgeon. At Superspine, we have a long history of liaising with neurosurgeons and spinal orthopaedic surgeons, so we have a lot of experience in managing people following discectomy, laminectomy, disc replacement and fusion surgeries in both the lumbar and cervical spine.

Three recovery plans: Low, medium and high intensity rehabilitation programs.

Its very common for people to be uncertain about what to do post surgery. Usually we start with an initial physiotherapy session at about two weeks post-surgery. At this session we talk through what you need to do or not do, and what your recovery strategy options are.

Low level recovery programs are used when there there is minimal pain after surgery and no movement deficit. You just require a little initial caution and basic exercise that can be mostly self-managed. Walking is recommended along with simple home exercises, and a graduated return to activity and full movement.

Medium level recovery programs are the most common and are typical for people returning to work and moderate level home duties. Medium level programs are individually structured, and run over a 12 week period. These programs have a mix of strength, mobility and cardiovascular exercises. They often include Pilates and use of the DAVID strength training equipment.

High level recovery programs are required for people in manual jobs or those people who aim to return to some type of recreational or professional sport. High level programs have a similar structure to medium level programs but run over a longer period with more intensive training.

Key recovery concepts

  1. You are in control. We can explain your choices but you choose how, where and when you exercise.
  2. You will need to regain strength, mobility and function. The key concept here is that your body is likely to be less capable and resilient than it was before your injury occurred. If pain has been present for more than 4-6 weeks, your muscles will be weaker and you may have reduced fitness and mobility. Some spinal structures are also likely to be more sensitive. Although time is a vital component of healing, if you remain weaker you are likely to have increased vulnerability to re-injury. So some recovery training is wise. It is the same logic that athletes use following injury. Recovery strategies are likely to reduce recurrence by preparing the body to safely perform activities.
  3. Restoring movement is not just about making back muscles strong. You need to regain normal movement and function which usually means exercising legs, back , trunk and cardiovascular fitness. Strength and endurance exercises will target a wide range of muscles (not just the back) and tasks, such as bending, lifting, squatting and even rolling over in bed. Sometimes movement pattern retraining is needed, especially when ‘guarding’ or protective movement strategies persist following surgery. This may require learning to relax and move ‘normally’. For some people, it also means pacing your exercise so you don’t progress too slowly (becoming overly cautious) or too fast (overloading the repaired area). It also means modifying certain activities if they are painful.
  4. Although we teach you what to do, you are the one who needs to do the work. Exercise works best when implemented around three to four sessions per week. Superspine offers supervised exercise sessions but a weekly supervised session can be combined with self managed exercise at home, at the local gym or pool.