I have a few rehab secrets for use at home. As usual, I insist you solemnly promise to check with your doctor. Every type of spine surgery (mine was lumbar fusion) is different, and every patient is different.
Physical Therapists (PTs) were sent to me, as were visiting nurses, who were not all RNs. The PTs had incredible schedules, called at all hours, and needed as much as a four-hour window when they might appear. The last one, however, was as good as the best one from the rehab unit.
Some written instructions from the surgeon's office seem worth repeating:
"If your back is tired, rest. If it feels stiff, stop. If your back hurts, you have done too much."
I had been taught in the rehab unit to do a few simple exercises like:
Lying in bed on my back, I would push the back of the knee into the bed. This is good for one particular leg muscle that I had never before thought about, and I still do this one in bed when I first wake up. Another was pulling my heel toward my buns, then extending the leg again. Rest and do the other leg.
At home, the PT had me start the bed exercises with the butt squeeze or bun clench. That sometimes felt like it was pulling on a back muscle, but it wasn't really painful. I also moved one leg at a time from side to side. She assured me that yes, that would help my standing balance.
note: I have buns, unlike some of the PTs. I always have one leg bent when I exercise the other leg in bed. Regardless of what a rail-thin PT would like.
Lying on my back in bed without a pillow under my legs has always given me a backache, long before surgery. Note: Ever since first diagnosis a couple years ago, I've kept a big pillow in bed to rest my legs on.
Ever since the surgery, just changing my position has helped almost any leg nerve pain.
In my posture chair, and only in my posture chair for back support, I also did sitting leg lifts with foot on the footstool; and sitting knee lifts from foot on the floor, resting between legs.
After lifting a few ounces strapped to my cane, both arms at once, with the PT, I started using an 8 oz bottle of lotion in each hand. And only in the posture chair.
The PTs had me walk on the patio with the walker for five minutes. This included a step down to the landing and a step down to the patio.