Exercise after Scoliosis Surgery

In a particularly severe case of scoliosis, surgery may be the only way to prevent the patient's spinal curvature from continuing to get worse. Spinal fusion surgery, while generally effective, is a major operation from which it typically takes months to fully recover.

After undergoing this type of surgery, it is often necessary to make some lifestyle changes in order to minimise your recovery time. For instance, bending, lifting and twisting should all be avoided in the weeks immediately following a spinal fusion procedure, as your spine and incision will need time to heal.

Later in the recovery process, you can start to consider your regular exercise routine. Many patients who undergo scoliosis surgery are able to maintain their usual lifestyle after the operation, but changes do sometimes need to be made to reduce pressure on the spinal area.

Can you exercise after scoliosis surgery?

Yes, you can, although the more important question is how long you ought to wait before exercising again. As mentioned above, heavy lifting, bending and twisting are all strictly off-limits to begin with; indeed, intense exercise of any sort is best avoided at this point. However, low-impact exercises - such as walking and swimming - will benefit both your health and the ongoing fusion process.

Before you can return to your usual sport and exercise habits, your skin will need to heal from the incision and your bones will need to fuse together again. This can take anywhere from 6-9 months. Your surgeon will be able to tell you when you're sufficiently healed, at which point you'll hopefully be able to ease back into more physically-demanding exercises and activities.

What exercises can you do after scoliosis surgery?

As a general rule, anything that puts too much pressure on your spine is best avoided after scoliosis surgery. Heavy weightlifting, high-impact sports like rugby, and exercises that involve your abs can all damage your spine again and should be removed from your exercise regime.

Exercises that involve flexion of the spine or neck, such as sit-ups and squats, can place pressure on the discs above and below the spinal fusion site. These should also be avoided as much as possible, although they can be replaced with more gentle stretching exercises.

It is best to swap high-intensity exercise for more frequent low-impact exercise after scoliosis surgery. Recommended post-surgery activities include:

  • Swimming
  • Gentle yoga
  • Bicycle rides
  • Elliptical machine training

In this way, you can still maintain an active lifestyle without fear of damaging your vertebrae, discs or spinal cord.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we believe that exercise is the best method for fighting spinal curvature. We treat both patients who are looking to avoid surgery and those who have already had a spinal fusion. Our non-surgical ScolioGold treatment courses combine stretches, exercises, and massages to reduce the angle of your spinal curve and improve your quality of life. Contact us now to arrange an initial consultation.

Worried that your scoliosis will prevent you from taking part in your favourite sport? Read about some of our sporty success stories here!

Scoliosis Surgery

Earlier this year, we answered some frequently asked questions about scoliosis surgery to provide you with more information on the spinal fusion procedure that is often used to correct severe spinal curves. Since then, we've been asked a number of other questions about this operation, so we thought we'd assemble another list of frequently asked questions to give you a little more insight into what scoliosis surgery is really like.

Q. Does scoliosis surgery hurt?

A. You won't experience any pain during the surgery because you'll be under general anaesthesia, but you may experience some discomfort after the operation. While you recover, you will be given PCA (patient-controlled analgesia) - a pump that delivers morphine or other painkillers into your system when you press a button. This will control the pain for the first few days after surgery.

Most patients are moved off PCA after 2-3 days and then begin a course of oral pain medication. When discharged from hospital, a prescription for pain medication is provided. In most cases, children are usually off medication within two weeks; however, adults may require medication at diminishing doses for weeks or even months after surgery.

Q. Does scoliosis surgery leave a scar?

A. Yes, you will be left with a scar but it will gradually fade over time. The length of the scar depends, at least in part, on how many curves there are in your spine. If you have just one spinal curve, your scar should be roughly 10 inches long. However, if you have two or more curves in your spine, your scar may begin in the middle of your shoulder blades, and may finish as far down as your pelvis. Surgeons will try to keep the scar as thin as possible by placing the sutures beneath the skin. Some surgeons may even use a special type of glue that promotes wound healing.

Q. Does scoliosis surgery make you taller?

A. Yes - but the length of your spine will not have changed. The increase in height is due to your spine being straightened and therefore appearing longer. The increase in height depends on the severity of your spinal curve.

Q. What kind of doctor performs scoliosis surgery?

A. Both orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons can carry out a spinal fusion procedure. Scoliosis surgery was originally carried out exclusively by neurosurgeons, but nowadays, orthopaedic surgeons are equally well-qualified to undertake the majority of spinal operations.

Q. How long does scoliosis surgery take?

A. The spinal fusion procedure tends to take 4-6 hours, but the time can vary between patients. The surgeon will take as long as necessary to ensure the patient receives the best results.

Q. Can you exercise after scoliosis surgery?

A. Yes - in fact, exercise helps with the rehabilitation process. Physical therapy is encouraged as it stretches and strengthens the muscles around the spine, and also improves neuromuscular stability. However, it is recommended that you don't do anything too strenuous, as it could worsen your condition.

Further reading:

Scoliosis SOS is a UK-based clinic providing non-surgical treatment for scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine. Click here to learn about our treatment methods, or get in touch to arrange an initial consultation.

Scoliosis correction

While scoliosis cannot truly be 'cured', there are a number of ways to treat the symptoms of this condition and reverse the progression of the Cobb angle. Scoliosis correction is always dependent on the severity of each case; for some patients, surgery may be the only option, but in most cases, non-surgical treatment methods can be highly effective.

In either case, the main aim of any scoliosis correction effort should be to improve the quality of life for the patient.

Scoliosis Correction Surgery

If the patient's Cobb angle is greater than 40-50 degrees, surgery will likely be recommended. In especially severe cases, this may be the only way to stop the condition from worsening.

Spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion surgery corrects scoliosis by anchoring the spine to a series of rods. These rods act as a splint, which holds the spine in place and reduces the angle of the problematic curve. Once this has been done, a bone graft (sometimes real, sometimes synthetic) is used to fuse it with the spine, hopefully preventing the curve from progressing any further.

If you want to learn more about the actual surgery process, you can read all about it here

Scoliosis Correction Treatments

Although spinal fusion is generally a safe procedure with proven benefits, there are always risks associated with any surgical procedure. As a result, many scoliosis sufferers choose not to undergo surgery, and that’s why we offer a range of non-invasive treatments for scoliosis correction.

Scoliogold treatment

The ScolioGold Method

Our ScolioGold method is made up of a combination of well-established scoliosis treatments, including the Schroth method. These non-surgical techniques are scientifically proven, and used together, they ensure that each and every aspect of the patient’s condition is treated. Our personalised treatment programme can help reduce your Cobb angle, relieve pain and lessen the appearance of the curve, which can boost self-esteem and body image. In order to effectively improve scoliosis symptoms, we assess each individual case and create the treatment plan around the patient's specific needs.

To learn more about the various treatments that make up the ScolioGold method, please click here.

We have successfully reduced our patient's Cobb angles, which improves posture and overall quality of life. We do this without any invasive surgical procedures, so if you are worried about the risks of surgery for any reason, we are happy to help. To have a look at the results of our ScolioGold treatment, view our before and after pictures.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we assess every patient’s condition and create a plan tailored to help improve their individual symptoms. To find out more about what we can do to help correct scoliosis, please contact us today.

Spinal Fusion Surgery
 
Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that is commonly recommended in severe cases of scoliosis. In the UK, spinal fusion surgery will usually be considered as a treatment option once the patient's spinal curve measures 40 degrees; in some other countries, it may not be recommended without a Cobb angle measurement of at least 50 degrees.
 
 

Does spinal fusion surgery have a high success rate?

There are lots of stories on the Internet about spinal fusion procedures that didn't have the desired effect (i.e. reducing curvature, preventing further progression of the curve, and easing symptoms such as back pain). There are even some accounts of operations that made things worse, leaving the patient in more pain and even less able to move around freely.
 
It is true that spinal fusion surgery can go wrong, but in the majority of cases, there are no significant complications and the treatment works well. As Leah Stoltz, founder of the Curvy Girls support group for young scoliosis sufferers, told us when we interviewed her:
 
"Something I've noticed a lot is that you really only hear scary or worrisome stories of surgeries not going well. For the innumerable number of cases that go well, they don't necessarily need to talk about it as much...that's one of the reasons I try to talk about [my experience of spinal fusion surgery] so much."
 
According to the University of Washington's Department of Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, the average curve correction achieved when spinal fusion is carried out on someone under 16 with idiopathic scoliosis is roughly 70%. The operation carries a 2-3% risk of complications.
 

What complications can arise?

When complications do arise from spinal fusion surgery, they vary greatly in severity and seriousness. Possible complications include:
  • Infection
  • Failed fusion
  • Paralysis
However, as stated above, the risk of complication - especially severe complication - is very low.
 

Alternatives to spinal fusion surgery

If your scoliosis has progressed to the point where you are being considered for surgery, you have probably already tried other treatment methods such as bracing. However, even advanced cases of scoliosis (40-50 degrees and over) may be treated via a non-surgical, exercise-based programme such as ScolioGold.
 
ScolioGold
 
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we have treated countless scoliosis patients who thought that surgery was their only remaining option. The ScolioGold method, our own carefully-selected combination of non-surgical treatment techniques, has proven very effective in relieving pain, reducing curvature, improving mobility and muscle balance, and improving overall quality of life.
 

Useful Links:

After Scoliosis Surgery
 

Some scoliosis sufferers undergo spinal fusion surgery to correct their spinal curve. As with any surgical procedure, there are many risks involved - risks that put many people off the idea of scoliosis surgery altogether.

 
For some people, however, surgery is the only treatment available. If you are preparing for a spinal fusion procedure, you should bear in mind that surgery is not an instant miracle cure - after scoliosis surgery there is a long recovery period, and the exact results of the operation can vary.

What happens after the operation?

After scoliosis surgery, you will be required to stay in hospital for a certain amount of time, with the exact duration differing from one case to the next. The discomfort that immediately follows spinal fusion surgery is generally greater than for other spinal surgeries, and patients usually stay in hospital for three or four days after the operation, but a longer stay after a more extensive surgery is not uncommon. If you have undergone extensive surgery, or if you're an elderly patient, it is recommended that you stay in a rehabilitation unit after release from hospital.

How long will it take to fully recover and return to a normal lifestyle?

After surgery, it usually takes a while before the patient can return to a normal active lifestyle. This is because the surgeon will need to see evidence of the bone healing first; the speed of the fusion process varies greatly because all bodies heal (and incorporate the bone graft fusing the vertebrae together) at different rates. In some cases, you won't see any evidence of the bone healing until at least 6 weeks after the surgery.
 
During this period, the patient's activity is restricted. Large-scale bone healing doesn't take place until three or four months after surgery. After this period, the patient's activity can be increased.
 
Some spinal fusion patients are required to wear a back brace for a period of time after the operation. The decision to use a brace and the degree of restrictiveness depends upon your surgeon’s preference and other factors related to your surgery.

How long will I need off work?

Time off work also varies depending on how extensive your surgery was and also what type of job you do. Downtime can vary from 4-6 weeks (common for a single-level fusion in a young, healthy patient with a desk job) to as much as 4-6 months (which may be necessary after more extensive surgery on an older patient with a more physically demanding occupation).

How can Scoliosis SOS help?

It is difficult to predict the length of your recovery period and the amount of pain and discomfort you will feel after undergoing spinal surgery - these things vary greatly from one patient to the next. However, if you wish to speed up the recovery process and reduce any pain you're still experiencing, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help! Our ScolioGold method can help to reduce back pain, improve mobility, speed up the correction of a spinal curve, and correct any secondary curves that may have developed above or below the fusion site. 
 
Our ScolioGold programme is largely based around the Schroth method - however, unlike many other clinics, we don't solely use Schroth exercises to treat scoliosis. Instead, we compliment it with a range of non-surgical spinal treatment techniques, resulting in a more well-rounded treatment regime.
 
If you wish to find out more about our ScolioGold method and how it can help you recover from scoliosis surgery, please contact Scoliosis SOS and book an initial consultation today.
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