I want to talk about the importance of physical therapy in the ALIF or really any surgical recovery process. I had my first physical therapy appointment finally last night after work. I learned some amazing and also very helpful things. First I want to say that I didn’t mean to wait 3 months after surgery to start this process. I was due to start the day after I went back to the hospital November 4th with the pulmonary emboli. After that I was told I couldn’t really do it until the Coumadin was working effectively which as I mentioned in previous posts it never did so I am on a different blood thinning medicine now. Before this I knew it was important but I found out it is much more important than I even knew!
The other important thing to mention is that I had some symptoms that I really couldn’t figure out. One of them is that my scar began to hurt, really, really, hurt about a month ago, so 2 months post surgery. I even told my surgeon about this and he looked at the scar from about 3 feet away and said “it looks great, it’s just still healing” so I went along with that. Well in the past couple of weeks it has been so bad that it makes me catch my breath at times and I kept thinking it was very strange until last night, I mentioned this to my therapist and she told me that my scar had “adhesions” and was “adhered”.
- This explains medically what adhesions are: “Abdominal adhesions are bands of scar tissue that form between abdominal tissues and organs, causing them to stick together.
Abdominal surgery is the most frequent cause of abdominal adhesions. The tissue develops when the body’s repair mechanisms respond to any tissue disturbance, such as surgery, infection, trauma, or radiation. Although adhesions can occur anywhere, the most common locations are within the abdomen, the pelvis, and the heart. Most commonly, adhesions cause pain by pulling nerves, either within an organ tied down by an adhesion or within the adhesion itself.”
Now, here is the great part, this is very treatable with massage and if I had known that and begun massaging the scar as soon as it healed I could have prevented this pain but I didn’t know. She just took some lotion and began at the top and worked her way up and down the length of it, for about 15 minutes, very slowly, but I did feel it loosen up although it did hurt for her to do this especially at the bottom of the scar. The adhesions were causing me to walk with a slight lean forward and also had moved my bladder to the left just enough to make me feel the urge to urinate nearly constantly. Walking leaning forward has caused my hip ligaments to shorten which we are going to treat with stretches that we began last night and I will continue daily. Already today I feel an improvement. Some of that urgency is gone and I already feel that my posture is improving.
Exercises: Hamstring stretches: Bend one knee toward your chest while lying on your back, hold it with your hands and make your hands do all the work while you keep the other leg as straight as you can. Pull your leg toward you as far as you can without pain and hold for 15 seconds, repeat 5 times on each side.
While lying on your back, straighten one leg straight up in the air while holding with your hands, keep the other leg bent at the knee with your foot flat. If you can’t reach then use a towel lengthwise to hold your straightened leg instead. Hold this for 15 seconds and repeat 5 times on each side.
With the leg straight in the air “floss” the nerves in the leg by slowly and gently bending your ankle toward you and back. This helps the nerves return to freely moving inside the myelin sheath they are encased in and causing better mobility and less pain from them being hung up from damage.
Gentleness is key, this should never be done to the point of causing pain. If it hurts then it is too much. I have to be patient, these ligaments got tight like this over time and it will take time to undo the damage. I now have even more hope of having less pain in the future now that I know there is so much I can do to improve my flexibility and gait and by thinning out my scar with massage. I hope that my experiences have helped somebody with a back injury somewhere. If you have any questions please feel free to post them as a comment or go to the “connect with me” button in my menu, it will send me an email.