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7 Tips for Walking After Back Surgery

Successful completion of surgery and the initial recovery phases are huge milestones worth celebrating.

Sometimes though, anxiety about moving again keeps you from celebrating this step. Feeling jittery and wondering how to start walking after back surgery? Taking those initial steps post-surgery can be daunting. You’re not alone.

Regaining mobility is a critical yet challenging step in your recovery process. We understand how emotionally taxing this time can be. Recovery isn’t just a physical challenge but a journey that requires patience and persistence.

Conflicting advice and not knowing the steps that lead to recovery breeds fear. That’s why we at Clearcut Physiotherapy believe in keeping patients informed and involved in their healing journey.

This article outlines seven practical tips for you to safely and effectively start walking again after back surgery.

1.  Start Slow: The First Steps Matter

Taking your first steps after back surgery should be about quality, not quantity. Begin with gentle, short walks around your home. This isn’t the time to push limits. Focus on laying a solid foundation for your recovery.

During these initial strolls, maintaining good posture is crucial. Keep your spine aligned and your movements smooth. The correct posture helps prevent strain on your back and promotes healing.

Recently, one of our clients made this mistake. In his eagerness to get back to his usual routine after surgery, he initially neglected his posture. He soon realised that rushing could set him back. Thankfully, he came to us just in time and we could help him recover. By refocusing on his alignment during short walks, he improved faster while feeling stronger each day.

Our advice is to always start slow after back surgery and focus on maintaining the right posture while walking.

2.  Use the Right Tools

You may need support when walking again after spinal surgery.

Walking aids, such as walkers and canes play a pivotal role in this stage. These tools become extensions of your limbs by helping you maintain balance and reduce the risk of falls.

Our physiotherapists help you choose the right tool and adjust it to your height. Think of these tools as the scaffolding of a building. A walker or cane that’s too tall or short can impede your recovery by throwing off your posture.

Remember the client we mentioned earlier? He found that using a walker after back surgery as per our prescription gave him the support he needed to maintain good posture. It constantly reminded him to align his spine correctly as he walked. Similar to how a well-built scaffold supports and aligns with the structure it surrounds.

3.  Customised Physiotherapy with Technology-Assisted Tools

Physiotherapy is a constantly evolving field thanks to the advances in technology. Tools like virtual reality (VR) and wearable technology now provide an interactive and engaging experience. These innovations simulate real-life activities and provide real-time feedback.

Imagine strapping on a VR headset and walking through a virtual park! This kind of technology helps you practise your walking skills within a controlled environment. It’s also excellent for your mental health, motivation and of course safely improving your gait, balance, and muscle strength.

Dynamic technologies can make rehab exercises a stimulating part of your recovery journey.

Image Alt Text	Patient testimonial for rehab at Clearcut Physiotherapy in London.

4.  Create a Gradual Walking Plan

Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.

Setting incremental goals can help you manage your progress effectively without feeling overwhelmed. Designing customised plans is one of the ways we help you regain mobility after back surgery.

Here’s a simple generic walking plan we recommend, from the day of your surgery to six weeks post-op:

  • Week 1: Focus on standing and balance exercises with support.
  • Week 2-3: Start with short walks multiple times daily, as tolerated, gradually increasing the time as comfortable.
  • Week 4: Introduce varied surfaces and slight inclines to challenge and improve your stability.
  • Week 5-6: Increase duration of walks, exploring more challenging paces and terrains.

Notice how in this plan, each week builds upon the last. This allows your body to adapt and strengthen at a natural pace.

Remember, every small step you take is a big leap forward in your recovery. Keep going, you’re doing brilliantly!

5.  Listen to Your Body: Recognize Pain and Fatigue

Walking too much after spinal fusion surgery and pushing through pain isn’t a badge of honour. It’s a risk that can set your recovery back.

When it comes to walking again after spinal surgery, here’s our mantra: Understanding and respecting your body’s signals is crucial in your recovery process.

Our therapists help you differentiate between ‘good pain’ (the mild discomfort that comes from stretching and strengthening your body) — and the warning signs of something more serious.

Sharp, persistent pain or pain that increases with activity indicates that you need to pull back. Remember that walking again after spinal surgery takes time and pacing yourself is key. Adjust your activity levels based on the pain and discomfort you feel.

6.  Explore Aquatic Therapy

Walking too much after spinal fusion surgery can actually be harmful in the long run.

Aquatic therapy is a fantastic alternative option. Water’s buoyancy lets you move with less pain. It reduces strain on your back and strengthens your muscles. Water resistance also provides a gentle way to improve endurance while minimising the risk of injury.

For aquatic therapy, look for local pools that offer guided sessions. These are typically led by trained physiotherapists who can tailor exercises to your specific needs.

During a session, you can expect to perform various exercises designed to enhance your back’s mobility. We don’t currently offer aquatic therapy at Clearcut Physiotherapy.

7.  Stay Consistent and Patient

Consistency is the cornerstone of your successful recovery. It’s easy to feel discouraged when improvements aren’t instant. Walking again after spinal surgery is more about the journey than the destination.

Sticking to your recovery plan, even with minimal progress is crucial for healing.

Learning to be patient with yourself is worth the time invested. Your body is doing the hard work of healing. Trust that it knows what it’s doing. Your job is to support it with regular, consistent efforts.

Each small step builds on the last and contributes to a stronger, healthier you. Stay focused on the long game and remember we’re cheering you on every step of the way.

Your Next Steps

That concludes the answer to your number one question: How to start walking after back surgery. The key is starting slow and using the right tools to care for your body. You need expert guidance to feel stronger and maximise your healing. That’s just what we excel in at Clearcut Physiotherapy. 

If you need more help or a bit of encouragement, pop into one of our clinics today. We’re in Eltham, Battersea, and Norbury. We’d love to help you on your path to recovery.

Stop by, let’s chat about your progress and see how we can help you keep moving forward!

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