Physical Therapy After Back Surgery

Back surgery is a significant event. Therefore, it is customary to have rehabilitative support such as physical therapy to help heal the surgical tissues, improve range of motion, and strengthen back muscles afterward. Depending on the type of surgery, physical therapy may start as early as 2-3 weeks after with complete healing by one year.

There are many types of back surgeries and many levels of physical therapy. These services can range from reading care information in an educational leaflet to personally guided in-depth exercises. The level of support differs for each patient and type of surgery.

Back injuries can take a toll on your daily activities


One of the most common back surgeries is lumbar spinal fusion. After lumbar spinal fusion for strength, range of motion, cardiovascular endurance, and patient education, physical therapy is necessary. Although anxiety due to pain may be high, early physical activity after surgery is encouraged. Research shows therapy focusing on the patient’s core and spinal muscles is vital for complete recovery from lumbar spinal fusion. In this case, treatment involves learning transfer techniques and neutral spine control exercises.


The necessity of physical therapy after back surgery has proven to aid healing and prevent failed surgeries. In addition, the process of helping increase flexibility by stretching the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the spinal column also aids in limiting the formation of internal scar tissue, preventing stiffness.


While planned movements and education are basic to physical therapy, they can also involve other components. For example, after lumbar surgery, one successful approach involving physical therapy is a cognitive-behavioral-based self-management approach. This adult lumbar spine surgery postoperative rehabilitation is called Changing Behavior through Physical Therapy (CBPT). This program successfully improved patient pain, disability, physical and mental health, and physical performance.


Traditionally, back surgery has been performed under general anesthesia. The patient is made to be unconscious and often awakes after surgery to a sense of disorientation, nausea, and vomiting. Surprisingly, a new approach called “awake spine surgery” has shown increased healing time with fewer adverse reactions. As the name implies, patients are not unconscious during surgery but are partially awake with regional anesthesia during the procedure. This approach is new and, so far, has shown promising results, particularly for patients who cannot tolerate general anesthesia. Some can even have a conversation during their procedure. In addition, this minimally invasive surgical approach provides faster healing time and easier participation in physical therapy.

Healing properly from back surgery is vital to assure proper functioning in the future. Although the most basic type of postoperative physical therapy is walking, your physical therapist will provide you with care for your own rehabilitative needs.

Come visit us for physical therapy for your back injury at Everett Spine and Rehab, in Washington state.

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