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Yes, you can usually play sports again but only after your spine has recovered from back surgery. It takes most people about 12 weeks after surgery to get back to their normal activities (excluding contact sports). Start by taking short walks and after six weeks you could try swimming. This will put very little strain and pressure on your spine. Ask your surgeon for more advice.
There are different types of back surgery for different causes of back pain. Types of back surgery include discectomy, which is surgery for a ‘slipped’ disc. Other surgeries include laminectomy, which can relieve pressure on trapped nerves that cause pain in your back or legs. And spinal fusion, which can treat scoliosis, where your spine bends to one side.
For more information, see our section: About back surgery.
How long it takes to recover from back surgery will depend on the type of surgery you have. It also varies a lot from person to person. Recovering from open surgery takes longer than procedures that don’t involve making a cut in your back. For example, after decompression surgery, it can take about 6 to 12 weeks to recover. But for vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, you should be back to usual activities almost straight away.
For more information, see our section: Recovery for back surgery.
It can be worth having back surgery if other non-surgical treatments haven’t helped you. It’s important to try other treatments first, such as exercise, physiotherapy , psychological therapies, and visiting a pain clinic. Here they may offer you radiofrequency denervation. These treatments might help and avoid the need to go through surgery. Ask your surgeon what’s best for you.
There are some things that you shouldn’t do after back surgery. For example, up to four weeks after surgery, don’t do any heavy lifting, twisting, or bending forward. It’s also best not to sit or stand in one position for too long.
For more information, see our section: Recovery for back surgery.
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This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals and deemed accurate on the date of review. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.
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