Water Exercises After a Lumbar Fusion

Lumbar, or spinal, fusion is a corrective surgery to repair sections of your spine that are damaged due to degenerative conditions. During the surgery, the bones in your spine will be fused, or glued together. Post-surgery, you'll participate in physical therapy as part of your rehabilitation. Water exercises can be beneficial to your recovery process; the altered state of gravity you experience in the water takes pressure off of your back and joints as you exercise.


Walking is an ideal form of exercise for you to begin soon after your surgery, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Walking in water is one of the easier pool exercises that you can use to strengthen your back about a month into your recovery, according to Wyoming-based practice Gem City Bone and Joint. Begin your water exercises by walking forward--slowly to ensure you keep your balance--but stopping before you tire. Check with your doctor to determine if your spine is stable enough to participate in backward-walking in the pool. One you have mastered walking without pain, you may be able to increase your speed until you are jogging.

Core Stabilization

One of the benefits of water exercise for sufferers of back pain and other conditions is that the exercises can minimizes trunk movement; while you are recovering from a lumbar fusion, you need to refrain from bending and twisting your back while the fusion "sets." Stabilization exercises can help you strengthen the core muscles of your back and abdomen that support your spine.

Immerse yourself in the pool so that your head and shoulders are above the water level. Press your back up to the wall of the pool and bend your knees so that you are mimicking a sitting position. Tighten your stomach muscles and lean against the wall with your feet flat on the bottom of the pool. This core stabilization exercise is called a wall sit. Give yourself more support by pressing your arms against the wall as well; as you become stronger, bring your arms to the front of your body in a hand-clap position as you perform your wall sit.

Another core stabilization water exercise is the leg stretch. Sit in the shallow end of the pool so that your bottom is on the pool floor and your head and neck are above the water. Lift one leg at a time against the resistance of the water.

Treading Water

Treading water is an exercise that requires muscle control, but can also be used to strengthen your core muscles during the recovery phase. Dr. Lawrence Jenkins of Gem CIty Bone and Joint suggests treading water as part of your continuing rehab. Wait at least 3 weeks after surgery before you begin this type of workout, and reserve your strength; going all out while you tread can wear you out quickly and contribute to pain and slowed healing.

Therapy Times suggests making windshield wiper-type movements with your arms as part of a yoga-based pool exercise program designed to minimize back pain; you can also use these movements while you tread water.