What Activities Can I Do After Spine Surgery?

It is important to strengthen the muscles that support your spine following any type of spine surgery. If you have recently undergone spine surgery, there are different physical activities you can do depending on the state of recovery you find yourself in.

Gentle Stretching

Right after surgery, some surgeons advise their patients to perform gentle stretching exercises to reduce scarring of the nerve root.. Stretching exercises should be done 5-6 times a day for 6-12 weeks. The first 6-12 weeks after surgery is when scarring occurs.


One type of stretch you can practice is to stretch your hamstrings. These are the muscles in the back of your thighs that run from the pelvis down to the knee to help bend the knee. You can do a hamstring stretch by lying on your back and bending one of your hips, grasping your thigh just above the knee. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then relax. Alternate legs. Repeat this stretch 3 times on each leg.

You can also try knee-to-chest stretches. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the bed. Lift one leg bent at the knee and pull it up to your chest. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat it three times on each leg. Breathe normally while performing the stretch.


Another good stretch to try is the calf stretch. Stand against a wall or flat surface. Point your toes directly toward the wall and hold the heel of your back foot down. Lean into the wall to that you feel a stretch in the back of your calf and hold it for 30 seconds. Alternate legs. Repeat this stretch three times on each leg.


When you are a bit more mobile, strengthening exercises are the key to making sure your back surgery served a purpose. A strong back is more capable of handling stress and pressure, thus doing a better job at protecting your spine.

Upper Back Strengthening

To strengthen your upper back post-surgery, sit in a chair with a back support and tighten your stomach muscles. With your arms and elbows bent and stretched to your sides, pinch your shoulder blades together as you press both arms backward. Hold for 5 seconds for 10 repetitions. Breathe normally throughout the exercise.

Ankle Strengthening

This exercise is basically standing on your tippy-toes. With your hands sitting on a sturdy countertop for balance, rise up on your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Lower your heels to the floor so that your feet are flat. Repeat 10 times holding for 5 seconds each time and breathe normally throughout the exercise.

Movement is incredibly important following surgery to prevent muscular atrophy and blood clots. It prevents stiffness and soreness. Doing these exercises with the guidance of a physical therapist will help you improve your back condition following spine surgery. For more information, contact The Spine Institute of Marc A. Cohen, MD.