Recovery and rehabilitation

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It’s been just over a week since my surgery, and I’ve dis­charged from St. Vincent’s in Fitzroy and am now clos­er to home at St. John of God in Bal­larat, about five min­utes from my home.

With the post-oper­a­­tive recov­ery done — such as dress­ing, drain­ing and car­ing for the surgery wound, mon­i­tor­ing for and avoid­ing infec­tion, etc. — get­ting my body over the shock of the surgery itself has been a suc­cess. Now my task is to reha­bil­i­tate my mus­cles and my spine to try and get as close to my pre-injury life as pos­si­ble over the next 3–12 months, with some mod­i­fi­ca­tions and slight longer-term restric­tions. It has occurred to me that not only should I doc­u­ment this for my own rec­ol­lec­tion, but that per­haps a read­er with back prob­lems and a love for fish­ing, cycling, hik­ing and so on may get some insights as well.

St. Vincent’s Hos­pi­tal in Fitzroy isn’t strict­ly a reha­bil­i­ta­tion hos­pi­tal so my ini­tial recov­ery was more focused on the post-op stuff, how­ev­er I still saw a phys­io­ther­a­pist who gave me some small exer­cis­es to under­take, and some very strict restrictions/limits on my move­ments. Then when I moved to St. John of God I start­ed the prop­er reha­bil­i­ta­tion reg­i­men, which I’m part-way through right now and about which I will go into more detail in my next post in a few days.

Restrictions/limits at this stage of my recovery

  • No bend­ing above the hip at all.
  • No lift­ing of any­thing more than 1kg.
  • No twist­ing at all. This one was described as Rule Numero Uno.
  • No sit­ting for more than 15 min­utes, 20 min­utes as an absolute maximum.
  • Lay­ing flat in bed, no raised hos­pi­tal bed, no sit­ting up in bed. I am allowed to have a pil­low beneath my knees to neu­tralise the cur­va­ture of my spine a little.
  • I can walk 50–100 metres at a time with a walk­ing frame. I spent my walk­ing time doing laps of the Neu­ro­sciences Ward.

Spinal Rehabilitation Exercises

Exercise/ActivityWeek 1
Walk­ing: Assist­ed~100m laps of ward
4× daily
Using walk­ing frame
Walk­ing: Unassisted
Hip knee rolls10 left, 10 right
4× daily
Mini squats5 reps
2× daily
Glute squeezes10 secs × 10 reps
1× daily
Calf rais­es10 reps
2× daily
Seat­ed leg extensions
Swing back leg
Stand and sit
Trans­verse abdomi­nus contractions
March­ing on the spot


Walk­ing has been encour­aged as the ulti­mate recov­ery exer­cise for spinal surgery, by every­body from the neu­ro­sur­geon to the phys­io­ther­a­pist, occu­pa­tion­al ther­a­pist and nurs­es. Walk­ing was assist­ed with a walk­ing frame which had 2 wheels at the front, and stop­pers at the back.

Lay­ing on my back, with my knees bent togeth­er at 45 degrees, then slow­ly and gen­tly drop­ping both knees to each side. By the time I left St. Vincent’s I’d worked up to being able to do 10 drops each side.

Very care­ful­ly and gen­tly squat­ting from a stand­ing to a sit­ting pos­ture with­out bend­ing my back, using my glutes and hamstrings.

Lay­ing in bed and squeez­ing my glutes togeth­er, hold­ing for 10 sec­onds for ten repetitions.

Stand­ing against a bench or oth­er sup­port, lift­ing up on my toes to stretch my calves, 10 each side.

Sit­ting upright, and lift­ing each leg to straight­en it as far as pos­si­ble, push­ing down with quads.

Other posts about my spinal injury and recovery

Category: Spinal Injury & Recovery
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