When it comes to back surgery, you often hear stories of those who successfully recover and then others who never do. Certainly the type of surgery is a consideration; however, post-surgery rehabilitation is a key factor to regaining maximum potential after any type of back surgery.
I’d like to share an inspiring case study. Roberta Jennings suffered from sciatic pain down her right leg which in a year had dramatically reduced her quality of life. She is an artist and standing to paint was reduced to an hour; she couldn’t carry over a pound, and sitting or lying down was her only relief. She was diagnosed with a forward slippage of vertebrae L4 over L5 (spondylolisthesis). Treatment included epidurals, stem cells and physical therapy, but provided little relief. After two years, she had a fusion of L4-L5 which delivered instant results.
Ten weeks after surgery she came to Kinetix seeking strength training. Starting with a thorough understanding of her condition, we set a goal to get her strength, stamina (and life!) back, emphasizing a slow, concentrated approach. Throughout her training, building lower abdominal strength, endurance, and basic daily living movements were the focus. This foundation is imperative. “Knowing and feeling what muscles needed to be active as I was doing exercise was the key to my successful rehabilitation,” says Roberta. “Without thinking, I can now feel the support to stand for long periods of time, do laundry, and lift from the floor without worrying that I am going to injure myself.”
At one year, Roberta was medically cleared to do whatever she wanted. Her doctor encouraged her to continue to build functional strength. “One year after surgery, I can now play 18 holes of golf with no pain and can paint standing for more than 7 hours. I feel strong and confident in everything I do.” She is now able to carry over 60 lbs in each arm, squat with 100 lbs, and push a sled carrying over 275 lbs. It is her strong attitude, belief in her ability, and the will to succeed that has allowed her to commit to her strenuous regimen, and to get her life back.
Advanced conditioning post-surgery should be implemented once the soft tissue strength, movement mechanics, and range of motion have been adequately restored. Fear of re-injury and trauma from the surgical procedure are noteworthy concerns and should be addressed. It’s also important to note that being too conservative months after surgery can impair one’s ability for full recovery. The body will adapt to the physical stress that is placed upon it, and will successfully handle increased loads, as long as it’s done in a linear fashion and with uncompromised form.
Michael Butler is co owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center and can be reached at (760) 200.1719 or at [email protected]