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What to Expect from Physical Therapy after Back Surgery?

February 6. 2024

Physical therapy is a crucial component of the recovery process after back surgery. The specific expectations may vary based on the type of surgery, individual patient factors, and the surgeon’s recommendations. However, here are some general aspects you can expect from physical therapy after back surgery:

Pain Management

Initially, the focus may be on managing pain and inflammation through appropriate exercises, modalities like ice or heat, and manual therapy techniques.

Mobility and Range of Motion

Gradual introduction of exercises to improve mobility and range of motion in the spine and surrounding joints. This may involve gentle stretching exercises.

Strengthening Exercises

Progressive strengthening exercises for the muscles supporting the spine. This can help stabilize the spine and improve overall function.

Core Strengthening

Emphasis on core strengthening exercises to enhance stability around the spine. A strong core can help protect the spine and reduce the risk of future injuries.

Posture and Body Mechanics

Education on proper posture and body mechanics to prevent strain on the spine during daily activities. Learning how to move and lift correctly is crucial for preventing further issues.

Functional Activities

Gradual incorporation of functional activities relevant to daily life, ensuring that patients can perform their regular tasks without causing harm to the healing spine.

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility exercises to improve the suppleness of muscles and joints, preventing stiffness and promoting better overall movement.

Patient Education

Providing information about the surgery, expected recovery timeline, and guidelines for at-home exercises and activities. Patients are educated on signs and symptoms to watch for and when to contact their healthcare provider.

Individualized Care

Physical therapy plans are individualized based on the patient’s specific condition, the type of surgery performed, and any unique considerations or limitations. Regular monitoring of progress with adjustments made to the therapy plan as needed. The therapist and healthcare team will work closely with the patient to ensure a safe and effective recovery.


It’s crucial to follow the guidance of the healthcare professionals, including surgeons and physical therapists, and to communicate any concerns or changes in symptoms during the rehabilitation process. Every patient’s recovery journey is unique, so the specific details of the physical therapy plan may vary.