Can You Overdo Your Recovery? | Virginia Spine Institute
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Can You Overdo Your Recovery?

Authored by Justin Geisler, Virginia Spine Institute. January 16, 2024

It seems every time we turn around there’s a new tool or technique to help you recover. Whether you’re injured, or recovering from surgery, there’s some kind of gadget out there to help you — from massage guns to compression boots, therapy machines or recovery pants. So we want to know — is it possible for people to overdo it with all this stuff? What do we need to think about in our recovery… and are there any signs that what we are doing isn’t helping at all?

Here are 4 common questions I get as a physical therapist.

What’s the right recovery mindset?

Many of the patients I work with are recovering from neck or back surgery and what I tell them is to expect progress…that comes with fluctuations. Not every day is going to be great and you won’t necessarily improve every single day.

That said, I do expect overall pain intensity to get less over time and to see people able to increase their activity over time. But the exact time can vary widely, depending on type of surgery, individual factors and more.

What are the key elements of recovery?

I find people often neglect some of the most foundational elements affecting recovery.

The number one recovery focus I stress is sleep. There is such a robust recovery process that happens when we sleep. It is huge. So if someone comes in and says they are only sleeping five or six hours — the first thing I’m going to do is push them to strive for seven or eight hours minimum. That has to be the first step — before overburdening someone with a bunch of exercises they won’t likely even have the energy for.

The other thing I really push is protein. With every patient I’m helping, I want to know if they’re eating enough protein because we know that protein supplementation can decrease how much muscle loss occurs after you have a surgery or after an injury and we want to decrease muscle loss, especially early on in the rehab process.

I also ask my patients to pay attention to their calorie intake. Sometimes people aren’t as hungry when they’re recovering but our bodies burn through a lot of calories and energy trying to heal.

What are some common mistakes people make when recovering from injury or surgery?

I see both sides of the coin — people who overdo it with too much activity too fast and others who don’t do enough.

A lot of people want to push themselves hard after Disc Replacements for example because their range of motion has been preserved and they typically have less pain and feel really good after surgery. So I have to educate people and remind them that their body is still healing and they need to take it slow.

For those with a more sedentary lifestyle that weren’t exposed to that much activity before the surgery, I stick to simple things like trying to walk every day or a few days a week.

Are there gadgets and tools that can help with recovery?

Look online and you’ll see all sorts of ads for gadgets and gizmos promising to jumpstart your recovery. I recommend talking with an expert to understand how much inflammation you’re experiencing and what tools could help or hurt that. Keep in mind — there are a lot of claims around a lot of recovery modalities, but they aren’t all strongly supported in evidence and literature. Also, the use of devices at home can easily be overdone and if you over do it — you can make things worse rather than better.

This holds true for workouts in the gym too. If you feel beat up after every workout, it’s time to take a look at what you’re doing. Some soreness may be expected but we do want people to feel good after activity. If you get to a point where you are feeling more fatigue overall from a week to week standpoint, or you’re having more soreness than usual and it’s leading into the next workout, that’s when you need to consider if you’re overdoing it and would benefit from dialing it back a bit.

Sometimes with recovery, less is more — at least in the beginning.


Virginia Spine Institute’s reputation is unmatched as a world-renowned luxury destination in spinal healthcare, dedicated to providing an elevated level of concierge care for those suffering from neck and back conditions. For three decades, their proven methods have led them to dramatically improving the quality of life for over 100,000 patients, from 32 countries.

People seek care from Virginia Spine Institute because of their elite team of board-certified spine-specialized physicians offering unique approaches to safe and effective back and neck pain relief. As one of the few centers that begin treatment with non-surgical options before recommending surgery, 90% of their patients get better without spine surgery. Through a comprehensive model, Virginia Spine Institute is able to offer regenerative medicine, non-operative treatments, minimally-invasive spine surgery, and physical therapy through their team of spine specialists.

The team’s dedication to detail and patient success is a shining light in the field of spinal healthcare. As pioneers and leaders in this field, they have also accomplished many of the world’s firsts in spine surgery by using modern treatments and cutting-edge technology not offered anywhere else.

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