Understanding the Benefits of Physical Therapy After Spine Surgery

Spine surgery is a significant medical intervention that aims to alleviate pain, improve mobility, and enhance the overall quality of life for individuals with spinal conditions.

While the surgery itself plays a crucial role in addressing the underlying issues, the journey to full recovery extends beyond the operating room. Physical therapy after spine surgery is an integral component of the rehabilitation process.

Today we explore the numerous advantages of incorporating physical therapy into post-operative care, highlighting its ability to expedite recovery, reduce complications, and empower patients to regain their independence and enjoy a better quality of life!

What is Spine Surgery?

Spine surgery is a complex medical procedure that is performed to alleviate various conditions and disorders of the spinal column, such as degenerative disc disease, compression fractures, and spinal instability. Although spine surgery can also significantly improve the overall quality of life, the patient’s healing process will likely require several weeks of physical therapy and rest.

What Type of Physical Therapy Will I Need After Spinal Surgery?

Realistic expectations about how many physical therapy sessions you’ll require are crucial from the start and depending on the type of surgery you’ve had. The number of physical therapy sessions necessary will depend on a number of variables, including the complexity of the surgical operation, the extent of the disease being treated, the patient’s age, level of fitness, and motivation.

Following spine surgery, you might require one or more of the following forms of therapy:

  • Body-weight exercises. Heavy weights like those you might use at the gym won’t be provided for you to lift. Instead, a series of “weight-bearing” exercises will be performed in order to gradually start strengthening your muscles and spinal structure.
  • Physical therapy supervised by biofeedback. You can receive immediate feedback on your body’s actions while you finish exercise repetitions by using advanced biofeedback equipment.
  • Body ball workouts. One exercise that might help limber up your hips and loosen up stiff back muscles is to just sit on an exercise ball and spin your hips in small circles. Back discomfort can be brought on by weakness in this region and your back, and loosening your hips with a stability ball will help your body heal more quickly.
  • Aerobic activities. They help enhance spinal conditioning and blood flow.
  • Strength training. You’ll perform movements with resistance bands that improve your range of motion and strengthen your back and core muscles.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

Your goals as a patient will likely be to return to a life that is as functional as the one you had prior to the injury or chronic pain that required a surgical procedure, or if that is not feasible, to one that is as functional as possible.

The advantages of physical therapy (PT) can consist of the following:

Elimination of pain and inflammation

Therapists employ passive techniques such as massage, electrotherapy, ultrasound, heat or cold therapy, and thermotherapy to lessen pain and swelling. Pain medications are another option for helping reduce the pain.

Stabilize the back and neck

In order to strengthen your back or neck muscles, increase your range of physical movement and flexibility, and aid in the healing of the tissues in the areas where your surgery was performed, physical therapy is frequently required after spinal surgery. Neck pain or back pain may significantly decrease with PT.

Safe movement without reinjury

You’ll work on a range of motion therapy, which helps increase movement in all possible directions, stretching to preserve flexibility, strengthening exercises to improve muscle function, and preventing future injuries during therapy sessions.

Muscle strengthening

Your physical therapy program will speed up your recovery compared to what would happen without it. You can receive the therapy at a physical therapy clinic, at home, in a hospital or rehab setting, or somewhere else entirely. 

Physical therapy can improve your blood flow and strengthen your core muscles, which surround your spine, and relieve pressure on it while protecting the area where your surgery was performed. Your spine surgeon will suggest a physical therapy facility for you, ideally one that accepts your health insurance and is nearby so that you can benefit from physical therapy for recovery from spinal surgery.

Prepare you to do daily activities

Your physical therapist will come up with a plan for your normal activities, including any repetitive stretches, motions, and exercises you need to do. As opposed to tedious, repetitive workouts, they usually make exciting games and interesting challenges for you using a combination of exercise bands, weights, and other equipment. When used in conjunction, these treatments can effectively help your entire body heal, restoring your ability to safely get up, sit down, lift, and carry objects.

Improve posture and decrease pain and stress in the surgical site

Physical therapy can significantly contribute to a shorter recovery time by promoting circulation, preventing muscle atrophy, and enhancing overall mobility. This non-invasive approach to rehabilitation provides patients with a holistic and effective means of recovery, minimizing the need for additional invasive procedures and optimizing their overall well-being. A healthy diet may also contribute to a fast recovery.

Made especially for you

A physical therapist will create a post-surgery recovery plan with the patient and family that includes both at-home care as well as therapy sessions. They will also explain some potential pitfalls, such as psychological factors patients may experience, such as frustration, pain, depression, and ups and downs.

How To Make the Most Out of Physical Therapy

Consider your hospital staff a great starting point on your road to recovery, but think of your physical therapist as a health and movement coach who is getting you ready to resume your normal activities. After spine surgery, therapists are frequently your biggest advocates for recovery and will fight for your advancement in the best and safest methods possible without jeopardizing your surgical repair.

Understanding the value of rehabilitation and how it can be used as an effective tool to return to the lifestyle you want will help you get the most out of the recovery process.

After surgery, highly motivated patients who are physically fit and have a basic comprehension of an exercise regimen may not need any professional physical therapy. 

Other people who have less exercise experience could need physical therapy for two or three months.

Physical therapists with experience will stand by your side as you perform each exercise, gently adjusting your technique and range of motion to ensure that your workouts continue to be beneficial rather than harmful. When performing an activity, choosing the wrong position can increase the amount of stress placed on your back muscles, defeating the purpose of the exercise.

Book Your Appointment with Dr. Hamid Mir!

Although problems from general spine surgery are uncommon, it is nonetheless crucial that you know what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

Ask your spine surgeon about thepotential dangers of your particular back or neck surgery and any preventative measures you can take before deciding to go through with the procedure. You can make a well-informed decision about whether or not the treatment is right for you if you are aware of the dangers and can weigh them against the potential benefits.

Dr Hamid Mir is a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon with fellowship training in combined neuro and orthopedic spine surgery techniques who’s based in Orange County, CA. He has 18 years of experience in minimally invasive spine surgeries using advanced microscopic techniques. 

With his expertise and compassionate approach, you can trust Dr. Mir to guide you through the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery process, ensuring the best possible outcomes for your spinal health. Don’t wait; schedule your appointment today and take the first step towards a healthier spine.


Does physical therapy hurt?

People consider physical therapy exercises to be uncomfortable or torturous, but that’s usually an exaggeration because therapists never want to do anything that harms you. However, during therapy, pushing oneself further along in healing does occasionally cause some growing pains.

How is physical therapy evaluated?

A medical history review, physical examination, and diagnostic testing to determine the patient’s post-surgery status may all be included in the evaluation. Reflex hammers, goniometers, and bubble inclinometers are a few examples of instruments and methods the physical therapist may use to assess various facets of the patient’s healing process.

How long does a physical therapy session last?

Your sessions of physical therapy could run anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, and in between sessions, you’ll be given specific exercises to perform at home in order to maintain your progress.