If I Have Spinal Surgery, Should I Wait Before Starting Physical Therapy?
While spine surgery is not for everyone, for those who must undergo surgery, I am often asked my opinion as to whether physical therapy is needed after surgery. Some patients and even doctors have been nervous about early physical therapy, preferring to wait 4-6 weeks prior to starting PT.
However, one disadvantage of waiting is that during the first few weeks after surgery, patients have relatively little feedback from a health care professional on how to move, and bend and take care of their back. Whereas, if involved in physical therapy, the patient is able to learn and be more closely monitored as he/she heals.
Here is some reassuring news:
A new meta-analysis in February 2016, by Snowdon and Dr. Peiris, (Arch PMR 2016;97:292-31) studied patients who participated in a comprehensive physical therapy program within 4 weeks after surgery. This group was compared against groups that received no physical therapy, rest, less active physical therapy, or sham physical therapy.
The conclusions of this report are that early comprehensive physical therapy (done within the first 4 weeks after spinal surgery) does NOT cause bad outcomes and leads to POSITIVE pain reduction compared with control groups.
Thanks again for reading!