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Strengthening your core before spine surgery to make recovery faster

Core Strength & Spine SurgeryCore Strength and Spine Surgery photo by daverose259 / CC 2.0

Your core and spine surgery

How’s your core? It’s a question you might expect to hear from a trainer at the gym, but if you’re considering spine surgery to get rid of your back pain, don’t be surprised to hear it from your surgeon, too. That’s because the core muscles, especially your abdominals, provide support and stability to your spine. A weak core can lead to a back injury and can also slow down your healing post-surgery.

Exercise in general is one of the keys to ongoing good health, and when it comes to reducing back pain, the data is impressive. “A report in the January 2016 journal JAMA Internal Medicine that reviewed 23 studies of 31,000 people concluded that exercise alone reduced risk of lower back pain by 35 percent,” said LIVESTRONG. “Exercise was also found to lower risk of using sick leave because of lower back pain by 78 percent.”

However, certain kinds of exercise are more effective than others when it comes to your back, and, before doing anything, you’ll want to talk to your spine surgeon. What you think is harmless could actually be doing more damage.

“Exercise is good for low back pain—but not all exercises are beneficial,” said WebMD. Some exercises may aggravate pain. Standing toe touches, for example, put greater stress on the disks and ligaments in your spine. They can also overstretch lower back muscles and hamstrings.” Sit-ups—the kind where you actually sit all the way up—can also be hard on your back, because they “put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine.”

  • The McKenzie Method: The McKenzie Method of exercise is a standardized approach that focuses on the “core muscles that are essential in supporting and minimizing strain on the spine,” according to spine-health.com. The program specifically classifies spinal problems allowing exercises to be specifically recommended based up the specific area to be treated.
  • The Crunch: Crunches in which you don’t raise your upper half up all the way are generally recommended for strengthening the core because that pressure is reduced. They can also be done on an exercise ball to cushion the area. Lauded for being a low-impact exercise, planks are one of the fitness industry’s favorite tools for building core strength.
  • The Plank: “One widely agreed-on remedy for low-back pain that will also tighten your stomach is the plank,” said LIVESTRONG. “According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a plank has the advantage of requiring very little movement while contracting every layer of abdominal muscles. When done properly, it engages the deep abdominal muscles, as well as the hip, shoulder and upper-back muscles.”

Experts recommend that an exercise program for core strength be initiated at least three months before spine surgery, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started as soon as you you can, even if you have a shorter lead time. If it looks like surgery is going to be needed, your spine surgeon will provide a plan of action for you in the days, weeks, and months leading up to your procedure.

If you’re ready to treat your chronic back pain, contact DISC Spine Institute, DFW’s leading experts in spine surgery and minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain. Treating back pain is easier than ever today, with minimally invasive treatments that mean short hospital stays, and shorter recoveries.

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