Since any surgical site will heal with scar tissue, some surgeons feel that to minimize scarring of the nerve root, gentle stretching exercises should be done in the early postoperative period.

The stretching exercises should be done about 5 to 6 times a day for 6 to 12 weeks, since this is the time period in which the scarring occurs

The safest way to stretch is to lie down and maximally flex the hips and gradually extend the knee. This maneuver will also stretch the hamstring muscles, which is important for rehabilitation of the back.

It is generally advisable to do the stretching exercises frequently and gently. Stretching too hard may result in pain, and one should only take the stretch to the point of pain, and not beyond, to avoid inflaming the nerve.

Find examples of these stretches at:

Use Ice and Heat to Ease the Pain

Comfortable clothing and body positioning, and frequent ice application (especially in the first 48 to 72 hours) can also aid in pain management. Icing after activity such as walking and stretching can also be beneficial. Early on, the application of heat to the surgical area can increase blood flow to the tissues and may cause slight increase in swelling and pain so should instead be considered at a later point. Heat can be helpful early on to relieve tension or muscle pain in other regions of the body and might be worth trying. Often pain and stiffness will improve in response to frequent position change, or short walks either indoors or outdoors.


Regular physical activity help prevent constipation, makes you feel better about yourself, helps manager your weight, improves large back muscle tone and core strength and can prevent future episodes of back pain. It is important to let pain be your guide and balance activity with rest early after surgery.

During the first two weeks after surgery the walking goal is 1-3 miles per day or walking for 1 hour. You can divide this up during the day as tolerated.

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