Whether a patient is having open back surgery for a spinal cord injury or a minimally invasive procedure for a condition such as a slipped disc or spinal stenosis, the operation itself is only the first part of a successful outcome. The post-surgical recovery period is critically important for long-term success, and the proper physical therapy program plays a large role in this process.
Patients for both open and minimally invasive back surgery will require physical therapy. Physical therapy strengthens the muscles in the back and helps heal the tissues in the area where the surgery was performed. In fact, back problems are often caused in part by muscle weakness. Even in otherwise well conditioned individuals, the back muscles around areas exhibiting spinal problems have been shown to be weaker than surrounding muscles, and weak muscles also contribute to poor spine and spinal joint functioning. Thus, one of the goals of post-operative therapy is to strengthen muscles that support the spine. Some of these muscles are in the back, but specific abdominal muscle groups also provide back support. Biofeedback devices can help patients learn how to activate, control and exercise these abdominal muscles, thereby strengthening them.
The amount of physical therapy required will vary based on the procedure performed, and this is one area where surgical options are important to consider. For example, patients undergoing spinal decompression surgery typically have a secondary procedure performed in conjunction in order to stabilize the vertebral segments where the spinal decompression was performed. This secondary operation following the spinal decompression procedure may be spinal fusion or the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) implant. The TOPS Solution preserves the full range of motion of individual vertebra whereas spinal fusion surgery eliminates this independent movement. More important from a recovery perspective, The TOPS solution places no restrictions on patients. You can do whatever you feel like pursuing.
The amount of physical therapy required after spinal surgery will vary from patient to patient, and from procedure to procedure. Make sure you’re aware of the physical therapy associated with the procedure you’re considering.