Non-Medication Methods of Pain Management

You can use alternative methods of pain relief besides medication following surgery, but you must be careful to avoid overexerting yourself. If you have elected to undergo minimally invasive spine surgery, the treatment protocol will include instructions to carefully follow after the procedure as part of the plan to get you back on track.

Depending on the repair in the spine, you will get explicitly individualized instructions from your doctor on what to do and what not to do with regards to exercise. You have to be careful with exercise while you are recovering and repairing a fragile, yet critically significant part of your body, though physical activity in proper doses is a crucial component of becoming stronger than you were before, which is the ultimate goal of undergoing any corrective procedure.

Non-Drug Pain Relief

Certain forms of non-drug pain relief can offer help for postoperative back surgery patients. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another. Examples of non-drug pain relief include:

• Acupuncture

• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

• Meditation

• Relaxation Techniques

• Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – this therapy uses low voltage electricity to relieve back pain.

Physically Active Methods of Pain Management

Exercise is not recommended immediately after surgery, because you need time to heal. Following your doctor’s recommendations, you may begin exercise and strengthening as part of your pain management program within a few days. Trying to get back into regular activity too early could further or additional injury, but most people can begin physical activity for pain management after seven days following their procedure. Patients are generally encouraged to walk as much as possible in the days immediately after the procedure takes place.

Recovering patients can do different types of exercising, such as swimming and stretching. Your physician may recommend only a light walk and low-impact exercising, avoiding any strenuous activities in the immediate zero to seven days after the procedure.


Patients are encouraged to walk as much as possible immediately after the procedure. Light walking activates the core without the dangers of significant impact, and it is a great way to keep the body moving without requiring strenuous effort.


Stretching is fine, if you are aware of how far to push yourself when choosing how to stretch. In the immediate zero to seven days, all patients should take it easy and not do anything too strenuous.


In the immediate post-operative periods, the physician generally advises the patient to take it easy, do some light walking, and avoid swimming. Once recovery is off to a good start, swimming is a great way to stretch and strengthen without impact.


Yoga can mean a lot of different things and can be extremely strenuous exercise. Practicing yoga can be an excellent way to stretch and strengthen a recovering spine, but it must be done with moderation so that you do not unintentionally overexert yourself.


We do not recommend physical therapy immediately after spine surgery. Discuss therapy with your doctor, who can advise you on when to seek therapy. This typically is after the post-operative period when the basic healing and pain has subsided.

What to Avoid

If you have any weakness in your arms or legs, you may not want to partake in certain physical activities that put you at risk of having a fall. Sometimes when individuals are taking narcotic medications, they can have balance issues. Try to avoid anything that requires balance to take extra care to avoid falls.

Alternative Methods

Recovering patients can use a back support if it is a lower-lumbar brace or use a TENS Unit, a small electrical machine that can help reduce muscle spasms. These are two highly effective ways to treat pain without taking medications.