Can I Do Yoga After Back Surgery?

August 23, 2014

Yoga can be an excellent way to improve flexibility and mobility of the spine, as well as core strength. It is also an excellent tool for opening up the chest and relieving an over-stretched back and shoulders, as well as strengthening the core. Core strength is an important part of a healthy back. A strong core supports the spine from the front.

Over-stretched muscles are weak muscles. Working on a computer, driving, texting and many other aspects of the modern lifestyle all cause the shoulders to come forward by shortening the muscles of the chest. This leads to the muscles of the back becoming over-stretched and weak. Many yoga poses focus on opening the shoulders and chest, which relieves the over-stretched back and can allow the muscles to begin to return to their normal position.

Since yoga is full of isometric exercises, it can also strengthen weakened back muscles, which can often be a problem for people who have had chronic back issues. Building strength in back muscles help support the spine, which can sometimes improve lingering back issues that persist after surgery. Sometimes these issues come from muscular imbalances due to compensating for the injured spine. Yoga can help to reverse these imbalances and restore muscle tone.

Nonetheless, some yoga poses could cause injury after surgery, depending on the type of surgery and the area affected. It is important to speak to your surgeon or physical therapist about movements or positions you should avoid before taking a yoga class. When you take a class, make sure to arrive early so that you can speak to the instructor and inform him or her about your condition and your specific needs. Restorative yoga is probably a good place for most spine patients to start, especially if they have never done yoga before. It is important to defer to your physician or physical therapist’s advice.

Is It Safe to Get a Massage After Back Surgery?

August 10, 2014

Many of my patients ask me if they can receive a massage after the spine surgery. I always encourage them to see a licensed massage therapist after their incision site or sites have healed fully. It is important for the spine patient to tell the massage therapist where and what kind of spine surgery they received. Some massage therapists may ask for a doctor’s note or clearance before massaging a client who has received spine surgery recently.

I am happy to clear my patients for massage, as it can help improve circulation to ischemic muscles and help muscles that are both too tight and overstretched. Chronic back pain can lead to postural compensation patterns which can continue even after the back injury is repaired. When paired with physical therapy or exercise, regular massage can help stimulate the muscles to return to their proper postural alignment. Massage therapists can also sometimes help patients stretch and work on improving patients’ active and passive ranges of motion.

Massage also relaxes the patient, which allows the body to rest and heal. A relaxed patient has a better overall prognosis than a stressed patient. Massage is becoming a part of a more integrated, holistic way of looking at modern medicine. Though I work principally on the spine, I make sure that my patients also try to take care of their muscle. It is unfortunately quite common that patients experience back pain after spine surgery. This is often caused by tight or overstretched muscles rather than a dysfunction of the spine. Unfortunately muscles don’t just snap right back into place on their own after spine surgery, but through a combination of physical therapy and massage, the spine patient can restore his or her body to a strong, healthy, comfortable postural alignment.

Core Strength for the Reduction of Back Pain

August 6, 2014

The spine is supported by many muscles in the back, but it is also protected and supported by the muscles of the abdomen or core. Many people do not realize how important it is for the spine to be supported in both the front and back. It is especially important for those with a weakened spine or back muscles to develop strength in the abdominal muscles.

Core strength can be built with exercises that do not strain the back. Many people find that standard crunches, sit-ups and other abdominal exercises are painful, especially if they have a tight or injured lower back. Instead of doing these back straining workouts, which could ultimately do more harm than good, simply increasing one’s time in the plank and side plank positions is very beneficial for strengthening the core. If you have trouble with the standard plank at first, you can modify it by lowering your knees and work up to standard form. Both of these exercises are simple ways to build core strength without hurting or straining the back. Many back patients are found to have a weak core, which can increase their pain and suffering, as their spine lacks frontal support.

Plank Pose for Core Strength
Plank Pose
Side Plank for Core Strength
Side Plank

If you can hold both plank and side plank poses for at least a minute each, work on increasing to three minutes. Once your core is strong enough to hold both poses for at least three minutes, you might want to ask your doctor or physical therapist if pilates or yoga might be good methods for continuing to build core strength.

Images courtesy of YogaOutlet.com