» Blog
» Physical Therapy After Spinal Surgery
Physical Therapy After Spinal Surgery

Physical Therapy After Spinal Surgery

Physical therapy after spinal surgery is one of the most significant aspects of the entire recovery process. It is only with physical therapy that you can experience the maximum benefits from your surgery. Participating in a physical therapy program for at least 6 to 12 weeks after spinal surgery will help you experience a quicker and easier recovery. In addition, the right therapy will also treat your pain and reduce the possibility of injuring your spine. In this article we will discuss the benefits of physical therapy and outline the best physical therapy options for patients who have recently undergone spinal surgery.

Benefits of Physical Therapy after Spinal Surgery

Participating in a 6 to 12-week physical therapy regimen after spinal surgery offers the following benefits:

  • Helps you to regain your mobility and endurance
  • Strengthens your muscles
  • Enhances your flexibility
  • Minimizes your back pain
  • Reduces the possibility of scar tissue development
  • Boosts your overall stamina

Best Physical Therapy Options After Spinal Surgery

It’s really important to consult your physical therapist within 5 to 7 days of spinal surgery, as they will provide you with specific recommendations on the exercises that you should perform for optimal recovery. Since surgical techniques vary from patient to patient, certain exercises aren’t applicable for every individual. Your surgeon’s technique and your individual diagnosis will determine the kind of physical therapy that you will be required to perform. There are various therapies that your physical therapist may recommend after spinal surgery, including, but not limited to:

Manual Therapy

Manual therapy is a special form of physical therapy that is delivered with the practitioner’s hands instead of a machine. As a part of this therapy, practitioners try putting pressure on the patient’s muscle tissue with their hands. They then use this pressure to manipulate the patient’s joints, which helps to increase joint mobility and decrease pain. Some of the common manual therapies include spinal manipulation, soft tissue therapy, and spinal mobilization. Manual therapy offers rapid pain relief, boosts your muscle function, and loosens the stiffness of your joint.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Various stretching and strengthening exercises may be recommended by your physical therapist to help improve spinal stability, increase spinal mobility, and strengthen the muscles of your back and abdominal region. Two common exercises that are recommended include the seated hamstring stretch and pelvic tilt. We’ve outlined how to perform each of these exercises below.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Typically performed 1-7 days after spinal surgery, the seated hamstring stretch strengthens your muscles and aids in your overall spinal mobility. You can perform this exercise while sitting on the edge of your chair. Here’s what you need to do-

  • Begin by sitting on a chair with another chair placed in front of you
  • Rest your left foot on the ground and raise your right foot onto the chair in front of you
  • Straighten your back and lean forward over your right leg until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your right thigh
  • Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds
  • Switch legs and repeat
  • Aim for 2 sets of 3 repetitions of this stretch on each side

Pelvic Tilt

Ideally performed to keep your lumbar spine stable, the pelvic tilt also boosts your stamina and enhances your overall spinal flexibility. This exercise is typically performed 1-9 weeks after your spinal surgery. Here’s what you need to do-

  • Begin by lying on your back on the floor
  • Bend your knees and pull your belly button in towards your spine
  • Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds
  • Relax
  • Aim for 10 repetitions of this exercise

Muscle Facilitation

Usually performed by therapists, muscle facilitation focuses on the areas where your muscles require special attention to restore their strength and improve their overall stability. These exercises usually focus on-  

  • Muscles in the area of your incision
  • Muscles that had been weakened by inherent nerve problems prior to your surgery
  • Smaller muscles that work near the vertebra to stabilize your spine. Although many of us don’t use these muscles quite frequently; when stabilized, they can protect your spine and the newly operated area, thereby reducing the possibility of future injuries


Physical therapy can help to restore strength in your spine and enhance the mobility of your spine after spinal surgery. However, if your pain persists even after several weeks post-surgery, it is highly recommended that you consult with one of the physical therapists at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation. They can ensure that you are performing the exercises correctly and can also make recommendations on additional therapies that may be warranted.