Exercises to Avoid After Back Surgery: Postoperative Care


Back surgery is a significant procedure that often requires a meticulous postoperative care plan, including an understanding of which exercises to avoid to ensure a safe and effective recovery.

This blog post provides an in-depth look at exercises that should be avoided after back surgery. Drawing upon expert advice and medical guidelines, it’s designed to offer readers valuable insights into managing their post-surgery activities for optimal healing.

The Necessity of Exercise Restrictions

After back surgery, the body needs time to heal and adapt to the changes. Engaging in inappropriate exercises can not only delay healing but also risk further injury. It’s crucial to adhere to a specific set of guidelines that outline which activities to avoid. Medical professionals stress the importance of following a carefully tailored exercise plan post-surgery.

Risks of Ignoring Restrictions

Backpain and exercises

Ignoring exercise restrictions can lead to a range of complications, including increased pain, herniation of the surgical site, and even permanent damage. According to the Mayo Clinic, engaging in high-impact activities or exercises that strain the back too soon after surgery can significantly impede the recovery process It is, therefore, essential to understand and avoid specific exercises to safeguard the surgical outcomes.

Specific Exercises to Avoid Post-Back Surgery

High-impact cardio exercises, such as running, jumping, or any activity that involves a lot of bouncing and jarring movements, should be avoided. These activities put excessive stress on the spine and can disrupt the healing process. Johns Hopkins Medicine advises patients to steer clear of high-impact aerobics following back surgery.

Strength Training with Heavy Weights

Lifting Heavy Weights after back surgery

Lifting heavy weights or engaging in intense strength training can be detrimental post back surgery. These exercises can strain the back, leading to complications in the surgical area. Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding weight lifting, especially involving the back and shoulders, to prevent undue stress on the spine.

Flexion and Rotation Movements

Exercises that involve bending forward (flexion) or twisting (rotation) of the spine are particularly risky after back surgery. These movements can place excessive pressure on the spine and surgical site, potentially causing harm. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons advises against activities that involve significant bending or twisting of the back during the early recovery phase.

Alternative Exercises Suitable After Back Surgery

Gentle exercises, such as light stretching and walking, are often recommended after back surgery. These activities can help maintain flexibility and improve circulation without putting undue strain on the back. Harvard Health Publishing emphasizes the benefits of gentle stretching and short walks in the initial recovery period.

Water Therapy and Swimming

Water therapy and swimming are excellent low-impact exercises for post-back surgery recovery. The buoyancy of water reduces stress on the spine while allowing for gentle movement and exercise. Spine-health recommends water therapy as a safe and effective way to maintain mobility and strength post-surgery.

Supervised Physical Therapy

Engaging in a supervised physical therapy program is crucial for a safe recovery. Physical therapists can tailor exercises to the individual’s needs, ensuring they are safe and effective. According to WebMD, supervised physical therapy is a key component of post-surgical rehabilitation, helping patients regain strength and mobility without risking injury.

Long-Term Strategies for Maintaining Spinal Health

Spinal Health

For long-term spinal health, developing a sustainable and safe exercise routine is key. This involves incorporating exercises that strengthen the core muscles, improve flexibility, and enhance overall fitness without straining the back. Harvard Health Publishing advises incorporating low-impact activities such as yoga and Pilates, which are beneficial for strengthening the core muscles and improving spinal health.

Importance of Lifestyle Changes

In addition to exercise, lifestyle changes play a significant role in maintaining spinal health. This includes maintaining a healthy weight, adopting proper posture, and using ergonomic furniture.

Ongoing Monitoring and Adjustments

Regular check-ups and ongoing monitoring are crucial for long-term spinal health. Adjustments to exercise routines and lifestyle may be necessary based on changes in health, age, or activity levels. Mayo Clinic recommends regular consultations with healthcare providers to ensure that any changes in health or lifestyle are appropriately addressed in the exercise regimen.


How soon after back surgery can I start exercising?

The timeline for resuming exercise varies depending on the type of surgery and individual recovery. Generally, light activities like walking may be started soon after surgery, but always consult your surgeon for specific guidance.

Can I do yoga or Pilates after back surgery?

Yoga and Pilates can be beneficial post-surgery, but it’s crucial to wait until your doctor approves these activities. Start with gentle forms and avoid poses that strain your back.

Are there any dietary considerations to aid in recovery from back surgery?

A balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals can aid in healing. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, ginger, and omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial.

How do I know if an exercise is too strenuous post-surgery?

Any exercise that causes pain, discomfort, or strain in the back area should be avoided. Always start with low-impact exercises and gradually increase intensity under professional supervision.

Can I use pain as an indicator of whether an exercise is safe?

While mild discomfort may be normal, sharp or increasing pain is a sign to stop and consult your healthcare provider. Pain should not be used as the sole indicator of exercise safety.

Are there any specific equipment or tools recommended for post-surgery exercises?

Equipment like stability balls, resistance bands, and foam rollers can be useful. However, it’s important to use them under the guidance of a physical therapist.

How often should I exercise after back surgery?

The frequency of exercise should be based on professional advice. Initially, short, frequent sessions are often recommended, gradually increasing as your recovery progresses.


Recovery after back surgery requires a careful balance between rest and activity. Understanding and avoiding certain exercises is crucial for a safe and successful recovery. By following medical advice and engaging in appropriate, low-impact exercises, individuals can navigate their recovery journey more effectively.

Always consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance and never rush into exercises that could compromise your recovery.