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Is Doing Pilates Post Spinal Surgery A Good Idea?

By: Stephanie Ruopp

Is Doing Pilates Post Spinal Surgery A Good Idea?

The short answer is yes!

Our last couple of blogs focused on how Pilates is one of the best exercises for rehabbing from knee, hip, and shoulder surgeries. So it would only make sense that it’s equally beneficial following back and neck surgery.

After all, doing Pilates post spinal surgery will help to strengthen the core muscles of both the spine and the trunk. And all of this leads to spinal stabilization.

Doing it correctly is key though, so you won’t want to go it alone.

Modern Life Is Straining Our Backs

Many of us are no strangers to back pain.

Postural imbalances are becoming commonplace after too much sitting, hunching over technology, and/or driving. Add to that the weekend warrior mentality when it comes to working out and we’re wreaking havoc on our spines. In some cases, even causing injury and damage to the point of needing surgery.

Pilates addresses these postural imbalances by emphasizing the “neutral spine.” This is your spine in its natural state with healthy curves in the low- er, middle, and upper back. It is most easily found when lying on your back on the floor.

To find neutral spine, rest your tailbone on the floor and relax the glutes. Then move your awareness to the middle of the ribcage and gently draw the ribs down toward the floor without flattening the lower back. Finally, lengthen the back of the neck by pulling your chin down to create a small space between the floor and the back of your neck.

You can also find neutral spine while seated by pressing your buttocks against the back of a chair, lift your chest to draw the abs up under the ribcage, then pull your chin back to align your ears over your shoulders.

Neutral spine is the safest position for someone who’s recovering from back surgery. And Pilates exercises – when done under the watchful eye of a professional instructor – are known to help realign the spine and in- crease the strength in the muscles that support the back without creating further damage.

Pilates Post Spinal Surgery

Spinal surgery is no joke. As such, it’s usually a last resort when it comes to dealing with back pain. But if it ends up being your only option, then you can take heart in knowing that introducing Pilates into your rehab plan can help speed up recovery.

In all likelihood, your rehab program with begin with a physical therapist. Ideally, finding a physical therapist with a Pilates background is ideal. He or she will have a strong sense of how to use active trunk and spinal stabilization exercises to safely increase strength and mobility.

You will also learn proper breathing techniques that will keep you from the action of bearing down on the pelvic and lower back muscles which hap- pens when you hold your breath.

Depending on the type of surgery you had, you’ll typically move into an easy and modified Pilates program somewhere between eight and 12 weeks after your surgery.

Over time, Pilates can restore motor control of deep and local muscles in the abdomen and the spine. At the same time, it will strengthen muscles in the pelvic floor, buttocks, and hips.

More specific exercises on different machinery can be incorporated to de- compress or mobilize nerves, restore alignment, and promote effective movement patterns.

Some Floor Exercises Your Pilates Instructor May Recommend

As you progress in your Pilates practice, you will eventually move back down onto the floor. Your therapist/instructor could potentially recommend any (or all!) of the following:

1. Shoulder Bridge

Rising into and coming out of a bridge is a great way to safely restore segmental motion of the spine while facilitating gluteal activation and en- durance. It’s an effective move for tapping into the powerhouse core mus- cles as well as the thighs and the back of the legs.

2. Side Kicks

Pilates treats the body as a whole and interconnected system. So in spinal recovery it’s important to focus on the strength and mobility of the hip joint as well. Side kicks do this while also working the inner and outer thighs and activating the muscle on the outside of the hip (a.k.a. the gluteus medius). Finally, they also challenge rotary control of the pelvis.

3. Modified Hundred

While the hundred works the deep and local muscles of the abdomen and spine, the breath work is of equal importance. Taking the emphasis off of belly breath and moving it to the back helps to circulate the blood and warm up the body.

4. Roll Down

The roll down is perfect for stretching and strengthening the spine by articulating the movement of the vertebrae. It also works the powerhouse. And like the bridge, it facilitates segmental motion of the spine.

Boost Your Post Spinal Surgery Healing with Pilates

If you’re scheduled to undergo or have recently undergone back surgery, then it’s time to consider the best plan for practicing Pilates post spinal surgery.

Contact us today to find out more about our Pilates-based Physical Therapy, as well as our wealth of Pilates offerings with highly skilled instructors.

And bring strength and mobility back to your spine safely and with complete awareness.

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