Walking can be a very important part of your rehabilitation and healing process. Exercise increases circulation of blood, and therefore oxygen, to your muscles and body tissues. The increased oxygen assists your healing and can decrease your recovery time. A regular walking routine could improve your fitness to a higher level than before your injury and/or surgery.
IN THE BEGINNING
In the hospital, you may begin walking 5-15 minutes, 2-3 times per day. A walker may be used to assist with decreasing the pressure on your spine as well as provide support for any leg weakness. Your goal should be to progress your walking without the assistance of the walker, as appropriate. Continue to increase your walking duration at home with more frequency, i.e. 6-8 times per day, within your home or close surrounding neighborhood for the first week.
ADVANCING YOUR PROGRAM
Gradually progress your fitness walking time to 20-30 minutes or 1 mile, twice a day, along with you daily upright activity routine in your home. The goal of 2 miles daily should be accomplished by 3-4 weeks after your surgery. Perform your fitness walking at least 5 days per week.
A good pair of walking or athletic shoes is most appropriate. Always make sure you have at least a thumbs width room between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe. This should be measured in the afternoon when your foot may be more swollen. A visoelastic insert (i.e. Sorbathane, Spenco) for your shoe can greatly reduce the impact stress on your spine. These can be purchased at a local running or drug store. Layer your clothing to allow for proper temperature control while walking outdoors. It may be appropriate for a light jacket early in your walk to keep your back warm, and then remove once your activity increases your core body temperature. Continue to wear your corset or back brace, if instructed by your physician, while you walk.
POSTURE WHILE WALKING
Keep your chest facing forward and your head held high while walking. You should be looking in front of you approximately 3-5 yards. Allow your arms to swing gently by your side. Arm movement can improve your circulation, heart rate, and strength to your back.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
Keep your walking path as level as possible; avoid steep up and down hills. Choose a loop around your home or a school track early on in your program to allow for needed rest or decreased walking distance, if needed. Avoid poor weather conditions, either too hot or cold. Walk with a companion for safety and motivation, do not walk with a pet on a leash.
Consider bringing water and a cell phone for safety.
It is normal for your breathing rate to increase while exercising, but if you have abnormal difficulty breathing and/or pain with breathing – STOP and contact your physician. Decrease your walking duration and/or frequency if you begin to experience increased pain, especially in your back or legs.