View Full Version : Getting in shape AFTER surgery

06-10-2013, 12:53 AM
Hi there,

There are a lot of threads about exercising before surgery. But I wondered if we could talk about after. I have gained an embarrassing amount of weight since my surgery about 15 months ago. I am up close to 20 pounds. I attribute it to 1. comfort eating, 2. Reduced activity level, and 3. Loss of muscle mass (which burns more calories). For probably the last six months I have been better about eating, and I continue to plug along with the walking. Typically I walk about 2 miles per day on the treadmill, which takes around 40 minutes. I am more active now as far as being out and about, doing housework and not taking naps. But the scale still isn't going in the right direction. Anyone else have weight gain during the longer term after recovery? (I know most people lose initially.) Also, ideas about ways to lose? My issue is the iliac screw pain acts up when I try to go over 3.2 mph on the treadmill, use the elliptical or stationary bike. I am thinking of starting resistance training with bands (I'm a little afraid of weights, since I didn't use them pre-op). Also considering weight watchers. I really would like to enjoy looking good in my new, straight back, but right now I just feel dumpy.


06-10-2013, 10:54 AM
Hi Evelyn,
I don't have any weight loss secrets, but I wanted to mention that I didn't use weights before surgery and do now. My PT introduced the weights. I just started at a wimpy one pound, but now use 5 lb weights for my upper body and like it.

I gained back the weight I lost after surgery, but have been holding steady. One tool I used for weight loss pre-surgery is www.myfitnesspal.com It's free and you can use it to track your calories and activity level. Used to make me stop and eat one less thing after I logged in what I already ate for the day.

Good luck with your weight loss.

06-11-2013, 11:33 PM
Thanks, Lisa. I should start with the hand weights again. I did use them for a while at six months, but my PT kept me at 2 lbs, which didn't really seem like it was doing anything. Maybe now that my restrictions are lifted I could work my way up to a heavy enough weight to build a little muscle. I will check out myfitnesspal, too.

I used to do step aerobics, Zumba and spinning pre-op. Have not had the courage to try any of those yet. Seems like I should be able to walk a little faster first?


06-12-2013, 04:43 AM
I suggest that you start with 1pound weights. The reps are more important than less reps and muscle flexing. I am still at the one pounders.

06-22-2013, 11:21 PM
Does your pain go down your leg? Mine does at times, and my surgeon is thinking about removing those screws. I'm a year post-op and have a good routine with resistance bands I've been doing for 5 or 6 months. It's for arms, shoulders, upper back. I think I see increased muscle. I don't know if it would help weight loss, but it would be good because you're already doing aerobic. My problem is I can't gain weight, so maybe my workout is burning the calories. I walk 30 minutes a day, too, but only a mile,so not real fast. I plan to add some weights to my routine.

06-23-2013, 02:36 AM
Betsy: I am only 3 months postop, but like you, I have gained weight. I have a weak R leg postop and sometimes L sciatic pain probably due to leg length discrepancy and tilted pelvis. I put a lift in my R shoe that helps. The pain limits my walking ability. I use 1# weights for upper arm strength. I am using some leg bands to stretch my legs some and increase the range of motion in the R leg.

I am going to join a gym mostly for the swimming and plan to do PT in the pool.

Weight watchers is a great idea and I will probably go back.

Good luck to you in getting back into shape. Susan

06-23-2013, 11:05 AM
Dr Bridwell did not allow me to swim, I can get in the pool and hang on a noodle to float and move my legs gently.

My treadmill super walk definetely caused some damage to my hip and the screws. I am totally off in order to get the pain to go before getting back on mini slow.

06-26-2013, 09:18 AM
Muscle burns fat. Weight lifting creates muscle.
Cardio (walking etc) EQUALLY burns fat and muscle. Therefore you might not be getting ahead if you're only doing cardio.
Add weights, light weights for rehab purposes (pt etc) but then do some serious lifting, NOTHING spine compressing though.
All my weights I'm doing are laying down, etc- so that I am able to lift heavy weights without compressing my spine.
Don't be afraid to build muscle it helps with pain relief sooo much.

Most important is eating clean- if it didnt come from the earth don't eat it, if you can't pronounce it's ingredients, don't eat it.
That's especially important as we heal. Give your body REAL food.
Good luck- pm if u need any further help.

06-26-2013, 04:42 PM
Last year (2 yrs. post op), I decided that I was given this gift of a healthy new back and I wanted to do everything I could to maintain it. My weight was up (never lost any after surgery) although I attribute that to having the appetite of a 30 year old and the metabolism of a 50 year old! Anyway, I had done some PT and they had shown me some exercises to do with weights and machines but I was still very intimidated and nervous about injuring my back. So I took a copy of my x-rays, went to my local gym and said, "Ok, who here can help me learn to exercise?" They hooked me up with a very patient and knowledgeable young man who had a phys ed. degree and specialized in exercise physiology. We're in our 2nd year of working together and I am probably healthier than I have ever been in my life. Haven't lost a lot of weight, but I am definitely stronger and I know I'm doing all the right things, esp. for core muscles. We alternate between upper and lower body in each session, but always work in some core. Some days I just hate to go, but I'm paying for it so that forces me to get there. I don't do anything that twists or anything where I have to lie on my stomach to move any weight. Both he and I are amazed at the progress I've made and I am someone who never went to the gym before in my life. My suggestion would be to do your homework on finding a good trainer and let them at least get you started in the right direction.

06-26-2013, 08:56 PM
I recommend water aerobics in addition to the walking that you are already doing. Janet gave me exercises to do with weights while laying on my back on my bed. I did these fairly early in my recovery. I have worked up to 5 pound weights and felt like it helped with toning. At 2 years post op, I started doing push ups and planks. I used to do step aerobics, too, but have some fear of falling so I do "step ups" on our carpeted basement steps with basic steps of step aerobics. It gets my heartbeat up faster than anything else I do. Janet also told me which machines I could use at the Y and which ones to avoid. At a year, I went to a PT in my hometown and took my x-rays and a list of do's and don'ts from Janet. Thankfully she was conservative in what she asked me to do and stayed within the guidelines from Dr. Lenke and Janet. Good luck!

06-26-2013, 10:24 PM
Hi girls,

can you please share with me what weight machines you can use at your gym? I have started doing a little weight training to augment my regular swimming. The machines I do are hip adductor, hip abductor, row, and some overhead pulldown thing that works the upper and mid-back. I tried doing a very light routine of these machines at ~6 months and got terrible muscle spasms, so I quit until after one year post-op. I need to make it a more regular routine.

Any advice would be helpful. I also swim laps for 45-60 minutes 3-4 times per week.

06-26-2013, 11:13 PM
Hi Gayle,

I use all of the machines that you had listed. In addition, I use the pectoral fly/rear deltoid machine which can also be used to strengthen your deltoid musicles by repositioning the bars and facing the machine instead of having your back to it. I also use this machine with just my left arm since the PT in St. Louis said at my 2 yr post op appt that my left side is considerably weaker than my right. I never go above 40 lbs on this machine and even less like 25 lbs when working rear deltoids.


06-27-2013, 12:12 AM
Thanks, everyone. I did get the list of allowed machines from Janet, as well as the hand weight exercises. I stopped doing the hand weights a while ago because I didn't feel like I was making progress. But now that I can progress to higher weights (restrictions lifted), I think I will start them again.

Right now I've got both my kids home for the summer, so the gym isn't really an option until mid-August. The kids are 6 & 10, so too old for the child care at the gym but too young to leave at home. But I do have a treadmill, elliptical and Wii at home for exercise. I think I will focus on these plus the hand weights for now and then start with a trainer in August. I like the idea of taking in the X-rays--thanks! I have been scared I would just get a trainer who doesn't really know what they're doing. But I guess if I show them Janet's list, it should be okay.

I have also been trying to eat South Beach style, which does help. Whole grains, lean meats, fruit, veggies & healthy fats.

Gayle, I will see if I can post the "okay" list from Dr. Lenke's PT tomorrow.


06-27-2013, 08:48 AM
One thing my surgeon said to make sure any PT or trainer knew was never to do any "bridging". That's where you are laying on your back and have your head down and raise your buttocks up, or something like that, and it puts a lot of stress on your spine. I think it's a fairly popular thing to do, so I thought I would just mention it.

There are a ton of threads about exercising that you might want to look at. This is one post that I did a LONG time ago and doesn't include what I ended up doing by the end of my PT... because I know I used ankle weights, working my way up to 10 lb. hand dumbbells (is that what they are called), lifting them in different ways from a prone position, etc. These are basically core exercises I did at 11 months. At 6 months I did arm and leg exercises. Another good one for your calves is to stand on a stair on the ball of your foot, lower your heel below the stair, and then come back up a little above stair level. Best wishes!


06-27-2013, 09:10 AM
Here are the machines I "use" or "don't use" at the Y based on Dr. Lenke's physical therapist recommendations:
Assisted Chin-ups-1 year-No 2 years-yes
Back Extension-1 year-no 2 years-no
Ab Crunch-1 year-no 2 years-no
Torso Rotation-1 year-no 2 years-no
Hip Abduction-1 year-yes
Rotary Hip-no
Glute-1 year-no 2 years-no
Rotary Calf- 1 year yes, but only 1 leg at a time
Seated leg curl-yes but only 1 leg at a time
Seated leg press-never
Dual Axis Pull Down-1 year-yes
Row Rear Delt-1 year yes
Overhead press-1 year-no 2 years-light weights only
Fly-1 year yes
Chest press-1 year yes
Arm Curl-yes
Arm extension-yes
Planks-1 year-No 2 years-yes
Weights to side or Overhead-1 year-NO 2 years-yes if light weights

06-28-2013, 12:44 AM
That's a great list, Karen. Thank you. Janet have you more detailed instructions than she gave me. I am going to print this out and take it with me.

06-28-2013, 12:49 AM
Susie Bee -- I'm printing yours, too. Thanks!! :-)

06-28-2013, 07:12 AM
Janet gave me a printout with exercises I could do early in my recovery and added some to it when I went for check-ups, but the list on my previous post was from my YMCA. I took that with me to each visit and went over it with Janet. I just didn't want you to think she slighted you by not giving you as many exercises to do. For the first year, I stayed out of the workout room at the Y and only did Janet's list of exercises at home, walked, and did water aerobics.

07-17-2013, 01:10 PM
Hi Evelyn,

I'm 4 years post-op and recently started "Pure Barre", which is a lot of isometric movements, strengthening and lengthening--basically a combination of yoga, pilates and ballet movements. There are a lot of barre places popping around everywhere (big fitness trend, lots of home workout DVDs), and I would suggest something similar that doesn't require a large range of motion and doesn't put pressure on your joints. It really got me back in shape without putting pressure on my back. That's why I like these classes, because even though I'm 4 years post-op, I still find some discomfort with high impact exercise..even running. The stretching/lengthening aspect of this kind of workout did wonders for my back muscles. It incorporates some weight training for your upper body, and I usually use around 3 lb. or 5 lb. weights.


07-19-2013, 02:52 AM
Thanks, I will check it out!!

07-19-2013, 10:59 PM
I love barre classes, I was taking them 4-5 times a week before my surgery. I can't wait to go back but I'm thinking maybe at 1 year. I recommend Bar Method as it was developed by physical therapists.