Surgeon Reports Core Strength is Critical to Recuperate from Back Surgery

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Texas Back Institute surgeons report that investing time in core strength is more important that walking, the preferred exercise according to a new CDC study.

“The better the patient’s core fitness is at the time of surgery, the easier the recovery will be.”

A new CDC study indicates more Americans are walking as regular exercise. Unfortunately, the same research shows that fewer than half engage in the minimum recommended 2.5 hours of regular exercise per week. While any exercise is good, according to orthopedic surgeons at Texas Back Institute, core strength is the key to a quick recuperation from surgery.

Dr. Michael Duffy, an orthopedic surgeon at TBI, reports that patients who invest in core strength almost always find it easier to recuperate from spinal surgery. His patient Robbin Hallford, a 48-year-old yoga instructor and mother of three, is a text-book example. She improved her recovery time after spinal fusion surgery because of her extraordinary core strength.

“We wish all our patients had Robin’s commitment to strengthening the core,” says Dr. Duffy. “We’ve seen what a dramatic difference it makes when patients maintain a healthy back and abdominal strength."

Hallford underwent a 360 fusion around her L4 and L5 vertebrae in March of 2011. Since that time, she has recuperated fully and continues teaching yoga. In fact, she is planning to increase the number of classes she teaches - only a year after surgery. “I feel great,” she says, “and I’m more active now than ever!”

According to the medical staff at TBI, core strength is a crucial determinant in the speed and ease of recovery for a spine surgery patient. “Recovery is sometimes predictable,” says Dr. Duffy, “The better the patient’s core fitness is at the time of surgery, the easier the recovery will be.”

Three layers of muscle make up the core - the upper abdominals, the side muscles (also called the obliques), and a much deeper layer of muscle, nearest the vertebrae. According to Duffy, the interior muscles do the important work of supporting the spine - almost like a corset. “The spine can’t support itself,” he says, “the muscles that get the least attention do most of the work.”

Spinal fusion was not Hallford’s first choice, but when she collapsed in pain during one of her yoga classes, she knew she needed surgical relief. Dr. Duffy’s team performed a 360 fusion on her L4 and L5 vertebrae. She was able to start her rehab almost immediately.

“We knew that Robbin’s condition would be considerably improved by a 360 degree fusion,” said Dr. Duffy. “Having a patient who was so dedicated to post-operative physical therapy and rehabilitation really helped her recovery.” Hallford, however, is the exception among Americans.

The CDC study states inactive adults have higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Exercise provides enormous benefits, and now can be equated to better recovery times after surgery.

About Texas Back Institute:
The Texas Back Institute in Plano, Texas is one of the largest multi-disciplinary academic spine centers in the world, often considered the “Mayo Clinic” of spine treatment.
Founded more than 30 years ago, the goal of TBI is to provide the most advanced, patient-focused, integrated care for those suffering from neck and back pain, and to be a resource of research and instruction for the entire spine care community. For more information, see

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