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Those facing back surgery often ask “how long after back surgery can I bend over?” Partially, what they are asking is what their recovery looks like, and when they can expect to return to daily activity. We completely understand these concerns and want to discuss recovery time from back surgery.

Part of what makes this discussion a bit tricky is that there are many factors that go into the timeline to return to daily activities, including bending, lifting, and twisting. For example, we’d want to consider

  • The type of back surgery you’ve received. What to expect 6 weeks after spinal fusion surgery is different from what to expect 6 weeks after a lumbar disc replacement, for example. 
  • The patient’s general overall health. The recovery process for those who are generally physically active may be different from the process for those who aren’t.
  • Adherence to postoperative care instructions. Following postoperative care instructions such as limiting certain activities, taking prescribed medications, and attending physical therapy sessions can help speed up the healing process.

Even with these variables, there are still some general conclusions that we can draw about bending after spinal fusion or other procedures. 

Why Is Bending Over Restricted After Back Surgery?

Bending is generally restricted after back surgery for several reasons. These may include:

Protection of the surgical site 

Bending over can put pressure on the surgical site, which can cause damage to the healing tissues. By restricting bending over, the surgical site can be protected, and healing can occur without interference.

Prevention of excessive strain on the back muscles 

After surgery, the back muscles may be weakened or damaged, and bending over can put additional strain on these muscles. This can slow down the healing process.

Minimization of postoperative discomfort 

Bending over can cause pain and discomfort after back surgery, particularly if the surgical site is still healing. By restricting bending over, patients can minimize postoperative pain and discomfort.

After specific surgeries

For instance a microdisc surgery – this could cause you to re-herniate. For a lumbar fusion, it puts a fair bit of strain on the instrumentation. Let’s be careful after specific surgeries.

When Can You Start Bending Over After Back Surgery?

A man stretches his back

The timing for when you can start bending over after back surgery can vary depending on the type of surgery and the individual patient’s healing progress. In general, patients are advised to avoid bending over for at least the first few weeks following back surgery.

Your surgeon will likely provide specific instructions based on your individual case, but some general rules of thumb include:

Follow your surgeon’s instructions

Your surgeon will provide specific instructions on when you can start bending over and to what extent. It is important to follow their instructions carefully to ensure a successful recovery. It’s also important to ask questions if things aren’t clear to you. For example, you may want to know what to do if you accidentally bent over after spinal fusion surgery, and your doctor will be in the best position to give you advice.

Gradual progression

Even after your surgeon clears you to start bending over, it is important to do so gradually. Start with small movements and gradually increase the range of motion over time.

Use proper technique

When you do start bending over, use proper technique to minimize strain on your back. This may involve bending at the knees instead of the waist or using support to reduce the load on your back.

Attend physical therapy

Physical therapy can help patients recover from back surgery and improve their range of motion. Your physical therapist can provide guidance on when to start bending over and how to do so safely.

The Bottom Line

Nobody will be better prepared than your surgeon to tell you how long after spinal fusion until you can bend over. This means that it’s a great idea to pick the right surgeon right from the start. At Desert Spine and Scoliosis Center, Dr. Baig makes a point of educating his patients about their conditions, what they can expect throughout treatment, and how to get optimal results in recovery.