Spinal fusion is a commonly performed operation that provides stability to the spinal column by surgically fixing two or more vertebrae together. Traditional fusion surgery is used to help people who are suffering from conditions such as spinal stenosis, and it is often a secondary procedure that is done after surgeries where large portions of the vertebrae are removed.
After the operation is over, one of the key components to recovery is physical therapy, which is sometimes used as a non-surgical spine treatment prior to surgery. Patients who are diligent about sticking to their prescribed exercises enjoy better outcomes than their non-compliant counterparts.
Adequate perfusion, or blood flow, is essential to the healing process. The circulatory system is responsible for carrying oxygen and other components to every part of the body, and a good healthy flow helps speed recovery. Exercise is the primary mode of getting vital nutrients to the operative site.
One of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy spine is to keep the muscles that surround the spinal column strong. After surgery, the smaller muscles along the back may become inactive, and participating in physical therapy is the first step in making them functional again.
Inactivity leads to weakened muscles that easily become stiff and prone to injury. Gentle stretching exercises are some of the first activities that are introduced after surgery and are designed to keep vulnerable, operative site muscles supple.
Just a few hours after the procedure, the patient is assisted to a standing position by a physical therapist so that he or she can take a few steps. As time progresses, distances will increase. Walking is most often the sole activity that patients take part in during the first week post-op. After a few days, more exercises will be added to the regimen.
The first physical therapy exercises are performed in a way that prevents the spinal column from enduring any harmful pressure. The strengthening and stretching routines are all done with the patient lying on his or her back or sitting in a chair. An individual’s program will be modified as he or she progresses through treatment.
If you’re considering spinal fusion and would like a second opinion, schedule a consultation with Dr. Hyun Bae of The Spine Institute Center in Santa Monica. Dr. Bae is one of the leading spine surgeons in Los Angeles and can determine the cause of your pain and provide you with all available treatment options.