Exercises After Discectomy Surgery

Exercises After Discectomy Surgery

Discectomy is the removal of, or portions of, a vertebral disc from the spinal column. Following any type of spine surgery, you'll need to follow careful instructions regarding movement and exercise offered by your doctor or a qualified and certified physical therapist. Post-surgical rehabilitation and exercise is part of the healing process, and encourages strength, range of motion and independence.


A discectomy can occur in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar region. A common reason for such a surgical procedure is a herniated disc, where pieces of the spinal disc may rub against each other or bulge through the opening in the disc meant for the spinal cord. Swelling in this area places pressure against the nerves, causing pain, inability to perform certain functions comfortably, and for some, severely limited mobility and range of motion.


Following a discectomy, your doctor will advise you regarding movement and exercise, which may be different for every individual, depending on the location and severity of the surgical procedure. Your current overall health and wellness and your age as well as prognosis will determine your rehabilitation schedule. Rehabilitation focuses on strengthening the body's core or trunk muscles, which in turn help stabilize the spinal column.


Start with gentle stretching exercises, but only after you're directed to do so by your doctor or physical therapist. Lie on the floor on your back, knees bent. Keeping one foot on the floor, lift the opposite knee upward toward your chest. Grasp your shin to help you maintain the stretch. While stretching, pull your lower abdominal muscles in and down toward the floor to help protect your lower spine.

You also can deepen and expand the stretch by raising the left arm upward and over the head while at the same time lifting the right knee toward the chest, but only as far as you can without causing pain. Hold in your abdominal muscles during this exercise. Hold the stretch for several seconds and then lower. Repeat on the other side, lifting the right arm up and over the head and raising the left knee.

Supported Exercise

Place a stability or Pilates ball on the floor and kneel in front of it. Slowly roll forward until your torso is supported by the ball, placing your forearms and elbows on the floor for support. Your feet and knees should touch the floor. While keeping the ball still, tighten the abs and lift the right arm off the floor until it's parallel to the floor or your shoulder. If you can, and feel you're stable enough, gently lift the knees from the floor and maintain your balance. Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds, then lower. Repeat the balance and core strengthening move on the opposite side.


As soon as possible, and following guidance by your doctor or physical therapist, engage in slow and gentle walking, starting with short distances and gradually increasing your ability to walk one or two miles, suggests Mayfield Clinic, a neurosurgical practice in Cincinnati, Ohio.