AIS Idiopathic Scoliosis Posterior Spinal Fusion Sports

Is Physical Therapy necessary AFTER Posterior Spinal Fusions for Idiopathic Scoliosis?


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So you or your child just went through a four-hour posterior spinal fusion for scoliosis, a three-day hospital stay, has stopped their postoperative prescription pain meds, is finally sleeping and eating normally and your thoughts are about how to get back “to normal”. What is the next step in recovery?

Commonly the next question asked is should physical therapy be done now?

Well, the next two questions you should answer are:

Was physical therapy being done BEFORE surgery?          

Why was physical therapy previously prescribed and for what part of the body?

-If it was for the arm, hips, or legs then in general the previous PT regimen can be restarted as soon as you are comfortable. However, please check with us to verify.

-If there was physical therapy being done preoperatively for the spine, such as for back pain, then this can be discussed and decided upon at the 6-week postoperative visit. The first goal of recovery is to be able to painlessly resume the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), which are the day-to-day activities we all must do, such as walk, use stairs, eat, get dressed, attend school.  Posterior Spinal Fusion for Idiopathic Scoliosis does a nice job of improving back pain, and is not required, but keep reading as some patients may want to and benefit from physical therapy.

There are a couple of facts or point to understand:

  1. The muscles of the shoulder, back and neck get weak after surgery due to the healing process and the overall decreased physical activity immediately after surgery.
  2. Muscle strength and range of motion can be regained after surgery by slowly increasing one’s activity back to “normal”.
  3. Physical therapy can accelerate regaining of muscle strength and endurance, and range of motion.

If physical therapy was NOT done before surgery, then the answer is “no” you do not have to do physical therapy. However, this does not mean you should be inactive. In general patients who do fitness and/or athletic activities have less pain after surgery. Patients who participate in aerobic activities, at least every other day, for 20-30 minutes (meaning raising one’s heartrate and breaking a sweat) have LESS back pain than inactive patients. So we encourage all patients to do aerobic activities long-term for their physical and mental health.

[Courtesy Venti Views]

However, if you are an athlete and wish to resume sporting activities ASAP, then physical therapy can accelerate regaining of strength and endurance.

What should PT work on?

Aerobic conditioning

Shoulder, back and core strengthening


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