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Exercises After ACDF Surgery for a Stiff Back With Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain and is a potential complication following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery. While recovering, avoid aggravating your pain by bending your head backward or forward, sitting for prolonged periods of time, performing chores like housework and lifting any objects heavier than five pounds. Performing gentle exercises may relieve a stiff back and pain though.
The ACDF surgery relieves symptoms associated with a herniated disc in the neck, including arm pain, hand pain, reduced coordination and weakness. A herniated disc is when one of the discs between the spinal vertebrae pushes out of position and may put pressure on the nerves nearby. Pressure on the nerves in the neck can cause issues in the arm. ACDF surgery often relieves this arm pain. The surgery leaves a small scar on the neck and requires only a day or two in the hospital. You may experience trouble swallowing for a few weeks; this is the most common complaint.
After ACDF surgery it is best to return to normal activities slowly. Walking short distances and working up to one to two miles per day is beneficial. Seven out of 10 Americans experience lower back pain during their lives and walking is generally helpful for back pain, according to an article published in "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine in April 2005. Walking speeds healing, increases flexibility and makes you stronger; it can also reduce future chances for back pain. Your doctor may give you a collar to wear around your neck when you go home; wear this when you walk.
A stiff back with limited mobility in the spinal column due to tight muscles and connective tissue can increase back pain. A stiff neck sometimes comes along with a stiff back. Stretching exercises to increase flexibility allow for a return of mobility in the back, which reduces stiffness and pain; improved flexibility also reduces the chances of future injuries. An example of a back stretch is the standing backward bend. Place your hands on your hips and slowly lean backwards as you arch your back until you feel a pain-free stretch. Hold the position for five seconds. Perform five repetitions.
Strengthening exercises for the abs, back and hips help you regain normal back function and maintain a healthy spine that is less likely to develop another disc herniation. Ask your doctor if you are ready for strength training before you begin an exercise regimen. An example of an exercise that may reduce lower back pain is oblique trunk raises. This exercise targets the muscles on the front and sides of your waist. Lie on your back. Then, lift your head and shoulders as you twist and reach your arms toward your opposite hip. Hold for five seconds, then lie back. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.
- Ivan Cheng, MD: Cervical Spine Surgery -- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion, ACDF
- Mayfield Clinic: Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion, ACDF
- Mayfield Clinic: Exercise for a Healthy Back
- Better Homes and Gardens: Why Walking is Good for Back Pain
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Low Back Pain Fact Sheet
- Spine-Health: Stretching for Back Pain Relief
Sarka-Jonae Miller has been a freelance writer and editor since 2003. She was a personal trainer for four years with certifications from AFAA and NASM. Miller also worked at 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness and as a mobile trainer. Her career in the fitness industry begin in 2000 as a martial arts, yoga and group exercise instructor. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University.