Exercise after back surgery may speed recovery

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Exercise therapy after surgery for a slipped disc may help people get over their pain and disability more quickly, a research review suggests.

People who suffer persistent pain from a slipped disc in the lower, or lumbar, spine are often treated with surgery, but the value of post-surgery exercise therapy has been questioned. Some surgeons believe that many patients do not need rehabilitation at all — with one concern being that exercise soon after surgery may actually cause re-injury.

But in the new review, which covered 14 previous clinical trials, researchers found that in general, patients who received exercise therapy got over their pain and physical limitations sooner. And there was no evidence that rehab raised the risk of repeat surgery.

The results are published in the Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international research organization that evaluates medical evidence.

According to lead researcher Dr. Raymond Ostelo, the findings suggest that it is a “good idea” to get into an exercise program and return to daily activities as soon as possible after lumbar disc surgery.

“It seems that exercise programs lead to quicker relief from pain and disability compared to no treatment,” Ostelo, of VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, told Reuters Health.

In addition, he and his colleagues found, exercise programs that were more intense tended to yield better results than low-intensity exercise.

Still, the studies Ostelo’s team reviewed were varied in the rehab programs they used. So it’s still not clear what types of exercise are most effective for recovering from lumbar disc surgery, according to Ostelo.  Continued…

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