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Back surgery is a serious event which can leave you immobilized and in pain, or nervous about getting back to physical activity, even if it could be the best thing for you.
Genuine concerns and fears surface when you make your first move after back surgery. It may have been a chronic injury or an accident, but whatever the reason, back surgery is serious, leaving patients on high alert for future injury. Nothing is worse than wanting to get back to a physical lifestyle but stopping yourself from enjoying out of fear.

Take the First Safe Step

The first step is to get cleared by a doctor. It is imperative that your physician give you the green light to start getting active. Most likely, they'll warn you to start slowly and progress comfortably. Since maintaining a physical lifestyle is necessary to maintain good health, reduce stress and better manage body weight, health professionals will, in nearly all instances, recommend some sort of cardiovascular activity. Once you are cleared, its time to prepare yourself to face your fears and get active.

Avoiding exercise after back surgery is risky, and can lead to future problems, pains and discomfort. Aside from how important it is to keep the body moving, exercise will keep the muscles of the back flexible, and increase strength evenly. Avoiding exercise can lead to stiffness and improper movement between the vertebrae, as well as muscle imbalances. The longer the body goes without exercise, the more difficult and time consuming recovery becomes.


This is a basic of human movements. Walking engages the whole core, which is the trunk of the body, including the muscles which hold the spine upright. After surgery, these muscles may be weak, so walking is a good way to get your heart rate up while conditioning the muscles to function again as a proper unit. Walking is both low impact and can be safely done in a controlled environment. If walking outdoors makes you nervous as a result of traffic or uneven ground, walking on a treadmill will do the trick.

It is important to walk at a speed or incline which is challenging enough to raise your heart rate and sustain it for a few minutes. For many who are coming out of surgery, cardiovascular endurance and capacity may have significantly dropped depending on how long you've been immobilized for. There is no rule which says cardio must be vigorous to have a positive effect. Even a light walk, as long as it makes you sweat and gets the heart going, is going to have lasting effects.

The Recumbent Bike

A good way to get the heart going while remaining in a seated position is with the recumbent bike. Rather than sitting in an upright position which puts strain on the lower back, the recumbent bike provides a comfortable seat with back support. Starting out with a light pedaling with no resistance provides a safe and effective workout. These bikes are usually found at a well equipped gym. They are also low to the ground, and don't require any awkward movements to mount; they can be accessed just as easily as car seats.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Cardio Exercises after Bback Injury” by Rachel Nelson. Published March 2011, Accessed on February 2011. Retrieved from:
  • “Can I exercise after spine surgery?” by Nicola Hawkinson, RN, DNP. Published January 2008, Accessed on February 2011. Retrieved from:
  • Photo courtesy of wonderlane on Flickr:
  • Photo courtesy of 28541412@N04/4301070267 on Flickr: