Sitting Comfortably after Back Surgery
Once you've gotten through back surgery, you're most likely eager to start your pain-free life. Unfortunately, simple activities like sitting can be a struggle. How do you overcome the battle to sit comfortably after back surgery? Here, we have the information you so desperately need.
What to Expect Immediately after Back Surgery
The hours immediately after back surgery are particularly important for proper recovery. Your nurses will help you roll out of bed to stand for a few minutes within hours of leaving the recovery room. Using a "log roll" technique, you'll turn your hips and shoulders at the same time (to avoid twisting and bending) before standing up. You won't sit for more than a few moments as this can put pressure on the surgical site. In the days following surgery, you'll gradually sit for longer periods of time. Nurses and physical therapists will teach proper technique for getting in and out of bed, walking and sitting.
The Recovery Period
Once you're home after back surgery, sitting comfortably is all about technique. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons advises that "for at least the first 3 months, sit only in chairs that have arms. Do not sit on low chairs, low stools, or reclining chairs. Do not cross your legs at the knees. Keep your affected leg out in front of you. Get up and move around on a regular basis-at least once every hour."
Patrice Winter, PTMS, physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association adds, "sitting puts a lot of internal pressure on the discs of the spine and can cause pain and damage. In the post-surgery stage, it's usually more comfortable to walk, stand or lie down. When it's time to return to work, many patients feel best if they use a standing desk, slightly higher than a kitchen counter. Stand on one foot and place the other on a slightly higher footrest. This reduces pressure on the spine."
Returning to Normal
After recovery, sitting comfortably depends on how you sit, not what you sit on. Winter says, "Most of us collapse into a chair like a sack of potatoes. Sitting should be dynamic and active. You should feel your abdominal muscles contract. You want to perch and create a tripod of support for your back using your bottom and both feet. Sit at the front part of your seat with your buttocks slightly higher than your knees and both feet flat on the floor."
What about supportive devices? Lumbar support pillows, ergonomic chairs, knee chairs, and back braces may be fine for immediate recovery, but Winter believes the key to sitting comfortably after back surgery is using strong core muscles. "If you use a pillow to support your low back but then collapse over it and create an arch, you're going to hurt your back. It's more important to sit properly than depend on equipment."
The one piece of equipment Winter loves is the exercise ball because it forces people to sit correctly. "If you don't use proper body mechanics when sitting on a ball, you'll fall off." Use the right size ball instead of an expensive office chair. It should be big enough that your knees are above your bottom. Your feet should provide a wide base of support and the ball should be pumped up and firm.
Once you've learned to "sit correctly", make sure you get up and move around every hour.
American Physical Therapy Association
Patrice Winter, PTMS, spokesperson APTA, faculty George Mason University.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Preparing for Low Back Surgery
Last Reviewed 5/2010
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Hotter Temperatures Linked To Kidney Stones
- 2. Summer Bug Bites: What to Look For
- 3. Skin Health Advice with Dr. Kenneth Beer
- 4. Summer Safety Tips That Every Parent Needs To Know
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.