Heal low back pain with Pilates post spinal surgery

Reasons for spinal surgery

Spinal surgery is usually done post a slip disk or prolapsed disk injury. Most of these injuries occur due to insufficiency of the core, which protects the spine. When the inner core muscles are weak, our body cannot remain in neutral and makes compensatory postures. In these postures, we tend to develop pains. Ironically, in episodes of pain, the core switches off. As a result of this, we use our body incorrectly and can injure our spine.

An injury in the gym

Weightlifting and strength training in the gym are the most common forms of exercise. However, spinal injuries in the gym are equally common.

These injuries occur due to the wrong loading of the spine. What needs to be understood is that not just our spine as a whole, every vertebral section of the spine has a neutral. When you do heavy loading exercises, and a particular segment is not staying in neutral, it can cause a slip disk.

As a last resort, she turned to Pilates. It has only been two months of training at Moushu’s Pilates, but Taniya is surprised by her own body’s ability to recover. When done under the right guidance, rehab Pilates can be a game-changer post-surgery. Taniya is now able to do movements she had thought she would never be able to perform.

Rehab Pilates for the spine

Before we get to the program that helped Taniya, it is important to note that exercising in pain is a big NO. Only once your doctor has given you go ahead and you have completed the required rest period, can you get back to moving.

Screws and plates are fixed in the surgery of the spine to correct the slip disk. These need to be worked around. There is high potential for recovery, albeit with some dos and don’ts.

Dr. Moushumi Kuvawala, who has experience of over 25 years as a physiotherapist as well, designed the program for Taniya. It is similar to the progression we follow for any new client or those with low back pain.

Finding the neutral:

Stabilising the core:

Once we have found the neutral, it is important to start activating the core. The core is the powerhouse of the body and it is the first to switch on before any movement is initiated. Getting the core to reactivate post pain is the challenge. Pilates, as it is now popularly known, is a core strengthening workout at its crux and thus this becomes easy in Pilates.

Spinal mobility:

In a lot of cases, surgeries for spinal injury lead to fusion of the vertebrae. It is highly likely that other sections above and below the surgical area are susceptible to injury too. Thus, mobilising the spine becomes key post core activation. However, this has to be in balance with core strengthening as we do not want the client to get hypermobile and injure the other segments of the spine. Dr. Moushumi has seen many cases where overcompensation had led to multiple surgeries before they came to her for Rehab Pilates. Thus, we work on flexion, extension, side bending and rotation in a controlled environment with props and equipment which aid the client.

Upper extremities:

We slowly move out to the extremities to get mobility back to the shoulder joint. The movement in the shoulders and neck can be affected by the limited movement in the spine during the post-surgery phase.

Lower extremities:

Stabilising the spine over the hips is one of the most important components to allow for sitting and standing without support. We work on strengthening the glutes and mobilising the hip joint.


Once the client is comfortable in all the above movements, we add functional movements like squats and lunges to help them get back to regular life. Of course, these functional moves get a Pilates twist on the equipment and are dynamic, apart from being extremely beneficial.

Load bearing:

Lastly, when the client has achieved normal function through rehab, we add load and balance challenges, keeping safety first though.

The detailed exercises are featured in the YouTube video below.

Road to recovery

It isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be difficult either. With a little consistency from your end, and the extreme care and the expertise of our team at Moushu’s Pilates, you can set yourself free from the limitations of pain. Spinal surgery isn’t a dead end; it’s an obstacle you can overcome.

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