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What will my activity restrictions be after scoliosis surgery

Dr. Michael F. O'Brien

Denver Orthopaedics

As previously mentioned we encourage activity after spinal surgery in general and in scoliosis surgery also. Initially that activity will be a walking program followed as soon as possible by reinstitution of aerobic recreational and exercise activities including bicycle riding, stationery bicycles, swimming, treadmill walking, stair-master, etc. By the time patients reach 3 months from surgery they are generally well enough healed and feeling well enough that many wish to get back to more vigorous recreational and sporting activity. Primarily we ask that you stay away from recreational and sporting activities that either intentionally or could by accident result in severe twisting or bending of the spine or collisions. However, by one year generally this restriction is lifted except for all but the most aggressive contact sports.

Dr. Baron S. Lonner

New York, NY

You will be allowed to walk and sit for as long as tolerated. Running, lifting, bending, and twisting are not permitted until healing is complete. A small degree of bending if necessary will not cause a problem, but should be avoided.

Dr. John T. Smith

University of Utah Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

The initial recovery after scoliosis usually takes about a month. During the first month, patients are "tired", and still require a decreasing amount of pain medicine. Many patients need a nap during the day. By one month after the surgery, most patients are ready to return to school, and feel well enough to do so. However, you will have some significant activity restrictions for the first six months of surgery.

The reason for the activity restrictions is that it takes about six months for the fusion to mature and heal from a biological standpoint. Until the fusion is solid, it is best not to overly stress the hardware that is maintaining the correction. Just like when you bend a paperclip, the hardware can actually break with repetitive stresses. Fortunately, modern fixation is strong enough that this occurrence is much less common than in the past.

The specific activity restrictions after surgery may vary from surgeon to surgeon. My recommendations are that for the first three months you don't lift more than 20 pounds, carry a heavy backpack, or participate in sports that involve running, jumping, twisting types of activities. After about three months post surgery, I allow kids to swim or ride a stationary bike for exercise. At six months, kids can usually resume full activities other than contact sports.

Dr. David W. Polly, Jr.

Minneapolis, MN

Your limitations depend on how long a fusion you had and where it is located. Typically I tell my patients that they can go back to sports that are contact sports (basketball, soccer,etc) but not collision sports where the goal is to take out the other player (hockey, rugby, football, full contact martial arts). Gymnastics is usually tough because your ability to twist and flip is limited. Rhthmic gymnastic and cheerleading type activities are usually ok.

Dr. James Mooney, III

Detroit, MI

Activity restrictions vary based on the time after the surgery. Initially, any type of sporting activities is severely limited at least for the first three months. Lifting is limited for varying amount of time based physician's preference. Overall, contact sports, tumbling and gymnastics are severely limited throughout life after scoliosis surgery.

Dr. Christopher L. Hamill

Buffalo General HospitalBuffalo General Hospital

After one year you can be active in all sports except possibly full contact sports.

Dr. Thomas G. Lowe

Woodridge Orthopaedics & Spine Center, P.C.

There will be some restrictions right after surgery while the spine and the fusion is healing, but generally at the end of six months, there will be no activity restrictions following the surgery.

Dr. Frank J. Schwab

New York, NY

During your recovery from surgery you must avoid any heavy lifting, bending or twisting. Walking is great exercise and is generally advised. However, vigorous activity must be avoided until there is evidence of bone healing (fusion) which is usually observed by 6-9 months post-operatively.

Dr. W. Christopher Urban

Glen Burnie, MD

During the first few weeks, patients are encouraged to gradually begin a walking program. This will help to build endurance and strength. Most routine activities can also be resumed within the first few weeks. Until the spinal fusion heals, patients should avoid excessive bending, twisting, or lifting more than 15 pounds. This healing usually takes about nine months. After that time most sports, such as, basketball, soccer, and running are allowed. Depending on the type of surgery performed, your surgeon may permanently restrict collision sports such as football, rugby, or hockey.

Dr. Robert S. Pashman

Los Angeles, CA

In most cases, activity restrictions are lifted 12 months after surgery. These restrictions differ from patient to patient based on the type of surgery that the patient is to undergo and on the age of the patient.

Dr. Jean-Pierre C. Farcy

New York, NY
M.M.C. Spine Center

Usually none after two years and with a green light from your surgeon you can participate in all activities.

Dr. Scott J. Luhmann

St. Louis, MO

Once the surgical incisions have healed, the intermediate activity level (one to six months postoperatively) after surgery depends on multiple factors, many of which are determined during the scoliosis surgery. Long-term activities not recommended are collision sports, such as football and rugby, with other activity limitations depending on surgical factors in a case-by-case basis.

Dr. Dennis G. Crandall

Mesa, AZ

Avoid bending, and stooping as much as possible. Limit lifting for the first 6 months. Walking and swimming are the best things you can do for exercise. After 9 - 12 months, you can do almost anything, including snow skiing if you want to.

Dr. Patrick Bosch

Albuquerque, NM

A patient’s activity level is gradually increased after surgery. Patients usually are out of bed the day after surgery. Walking progresses through the first week before discharge. For the first 2-3 months, certain activity restrictions, such as no bending, twisting, or lifting are recommended. Athletic activity is usually put on hold for 6 months, but non-impact conditioning can be added within 3-6 months.

The commentary above recounts the experiences of these physicians. Medtronic invited them to share their stories candidly. Keep in mind that results vary; not every patient's response is the same. Talk with your doctor to learn more about any products that are mentioned above.

It is important that you discuss the potential risks, complications and benefits of spinal surgery with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your doctor's judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.

  • Published: June 20, 2002
  • Updated: April 19, 2010