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What Happens if You Don’t Do Physical Therapy After Back Surgery?

Recovering from back surgery without physical therapy (PT) is like trying to brew a perfect cup of tea without boiling water—it just doesn’t work.

Skipping PT can leave you grappling with more than just pain. Muscle strengthening after back surgery is mission critical, something PT helps you achieve. Without physical therapy, you may prolong your recovery and limit your mobility in ways you can’t imagine. 

Physiotherapy after back surgery isn’t just about getting back on your feet. It’s about reclaiming your life and ensuring your lifestyle and movement improve so you don’t end back in the hospital.

Let’s understand what may happen if you don’t do proper back surgery rehab.

1.  Delayed Healing and Recovery

Physical therapy (PT) is not just a bunch of routine exercises that help your muscles develop and make you look fit. It’s a critical component of healing after back surgery.

PT helps blood circulation, getting essential nutrients and oxygen into the tissues that need repair. Better circulation reduces prolonged swelling and inflammation. It improves the condition of the muscles and structures in your back, which help to support your posture, movements, and activity.

If left unmanaged, the swelling from your back surgery can hinder your recovery.

We include targeted exercises designed for post-back surgery into your back surgery rehab regimen. This helps you accelerate this healing process by making it as swift and effective as possible.

2.  Muscle Weakness and Reduced Capacity for Activity

Without physical therapy, you risk muscle atrophy. It’s the shrinking and weakening of muscles due to inactivity.

This is particularly concerning for muscles that support the spine, such as the core and lower back muscles. These muscles can quickly weaken if they are not actively engaged through physiotherapy after back surgery.

The impact of this weakening extends beyond loss of muscle mass. It compromises your overall strength and daily functionality. That gradually makes simple tasks more challenging and painful.

Regular PT sessions are essential for muscle strengthening after back surgery. That’s another reason post-back surgery rehabilitation is crucial for long-term back health.

3.  Stiffness and Loss of Flexibility

Inactivity or a lack of proper physiotherapy following back surgery can lead to significant stiffness and a loss of flexibility in joints and muscles due to deconditioning. 

This stiffness is often exacerbated by scar tissue formation and adhesions around the surgical site. Scar tissue’s fibres are deposited in an unstructured fashion. As a result, they behave as a knot and limit the muscle’s and skin’s range of motion. Hence it can restrict your movement and hinder the recovery process.

Physiotherapy after back surgery plays a critical role in combating these effects. Our experts help integrate movement into your routine to keep your body as limber as possible.

Through massage, stretching and mobility exercises, we help you maintain and enhance flexibility. This aids in healing while improving overall function, making daily activities less daunting.

4.  Increased Pain and Discomfort

An injury not only affects the main injured segment, but also damages various structures around the injury site.

For example, when you experience a blow on your back while wrestling with your mates, your muscles and soft tissue structures may be damaged along with an injury on the vertebra (backbone).

The longer you live with your injury, the more extensive the damage may become. That’s because our bodies are incredibly adaptable. We begin changing movement patterns and muscle activation sequences as soon as we experience pain, stiffness, discomfort or external limitations to movements.

So, you must correct all these surrounding structures after back surgery to get as healthy as possible.

Physical therapy is an invaluable, holistic pain management tool. Back surgery rehab includes guided movements and specialised pain relief techniques to mitigate discomfort.

Skipping PT not only slows the healing process but also increases your risk of developing chronic pain because you may not have fixed the supporting structures of your back.

Patients who forego regular physical therapy miss out on specific strategies such as:

  • Manual therapy.
  • Heat and ice therapy.
  • Electrical stimulation.

These practices are designed to reduce pain and enhance muscle function. They are crucial to help you manage pain effectively without excessive reliance on medications.

5.  Risk of Re-Injury or Complications

Physical therapy teaches you safe movement patterns and postures essential for recovering after back surgery.

Without the guidance of a trained physiotherapist, you are at a higher risk of falls, strains, or other injuries. These risks are higher when attempting everyday activities that involve bending, lifting, or twisting.

Back surgery rehab educates you on how to perform these movements correctly. This greatly reduces the likelihood of re-injury and helps to ensure a smooth and safe recovery.

Patient testimonial for rehab at Clearcut Physiotherapy in London.

6.  Poor Posture and Alignment

Proper posture plays a pivotal role in your recovery process and overall spine health. Rehab reinforces good posture habits vital in preventing undue stress on the spine.

Do you know why there’s always so much emphasis on posture?

Because our bodies, like machines, have ways to conserve energy and reduce excessive overloading. Our postural muscles work the least when you are in healthy natural postures such as standing relatively straight or sitting on your hips with a S- curved back (not a C curve like you are right now while reading this).

You may unknowingly adopt poor posture habits without regular physiotherapy after back surgery. This leads to misalignment and increased stress on the spinal structures.

Over time, this poor alignment may cause chronic pain and other long-term spinal health issues.

We help teach you ways to maintain proper postures for different activities of daily living. That may help offload the back as much as possible and transfer the load to stronger structures. Hence, physical therapy is indispensable in maintaining long-term spinal health.

7.  Reduced Functional Independence

Muscle weakness and stiffness resulting from inadequate post-surgery rehabilitation can severely impact your quality of life. This can leave you dependent on others for daily activities like dressing, cooking, and walking.

Physical therapy addresses these challenges by prioritising muscle strengthening after back surgery. Specific functional exercises such as seated leg lifts or standing push-ups are designed to target muscles used in everyday tasks and train you to become independent. 

This is how you progressively restore your ability to perform daily activities on your own.

8.  Development of Compensatory Movement Patterns

When the body experiences weakness and pain, it often adapts by developing new, compensatory movement patterns.

While these adaptations may provide short-term relief, they can lead to additional strain on other body parts such as the hips or knees. This results in new areas of pain and dysfunction.

Physiotherapy after back surgery teaches you proper movement techniques that prevent these compensatory patterns.

Maintaining the correct posture and strengthening the core and related musculature is important. Our physiotherapists help you maintain proper biomechanics and prevent the negative spiral of compensation is crucial.

9.  Increased Scar Tissue Formation

Post-surgical inactivity can lead to the excessive development of scar tissue, notorious for restricting flexibility and mobility.

Physical therapy helps manage and mitigate the formation of scar tissue through:

  • Massage.
  • Mobilisation.
  • Targeted exercises.

These techniques help to break down scar tissue. Specific exercises promote range of motion and flexibility so the scar doesn’t impede your recovery or movement capability.

Ready to Get Back on Your Feet?

After back surgery, the road to recovery can seem long, but you don’t have to walk it alone. Muscle strengthening after back surgery is key to getting back to your daily routine and enjoying life without limitations.

Ready to improve your strength, mobility, and independence?

Our clinics in Eltham, Battersea, and Norbury are here to help.

Book your appointment today and let our expert physiotherapists guide you through a personalised recovery plan. Each step with us brings you closer to a healthier, more active life!

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