Hello! My name is Erica Bryant and I am a physical therapist at Valley Medical Center. I am excited to be joining Dr. Lundin and Dr. Thompson as a new contributor to the VMC Spine Blog.
Springtime is here bringing sunshine and warmer temperatures (we hope!), making it the perfect time for you to get started on a walking program. Walking is healthy for the spine because it increases your core and leg strength and improves your endurance. Walking can be part of a conservative treatment plan for low back pain. It’s also a great form of exercise before and after spine surgery because it is low impact on the body.
Before initiating a walking program after surgery, talk with your spine surgeon regarding any precautions. In most cases, it is encouraged to engage in light activity following surgery, as tolerated. I recommend to my patients that they start with short 5-10 minute walks on flat terrain, using an assistive device for support as needed. Then, gradually increase walking time by about 5 minutes, as tolerated and as long as you are pain-free. Multiple short walks throughout the day allow your muscles time to rest and help you build up your endurance. You may be overdoing it if you are feeling a significant increase in pain level following your walk, if you are having any sharp pains around your surgical site, or if you are feeling muscle soreness lasting more than 2 days.
If you have severe back pain, walking outdoors or on a treadmill may not be an option. Water walking at your local pool (forward, sideways, and backward) is a great alternative for you to get the benefits of walking without the pain. Exercising in water decreases the load on your body, including low back, hips, and knees. This allows you to move more freely than you would on land.
Please feel free to post any questions you have about starting a walking program pre- or post-surgery.
Thanks for reading!
Erica Bryant, DPT
Valley Rehabilitation Services