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Will I Be Able to Lift Weights After Having Discectomy Surgery?


For many patients, a top goal of a discectomy surgery is to reach a point where normal activities and routines can be safely resumed without pain or distracting discomfort. When proper precautions are taken, it is often possible to accomplish this goal. This article explains what to keep in mind when part of your daily routine includes lifting weights.

Lifting Is Best Avoided for the First 4-6 Weeks

The general recommendation with more strenuous activities like lifting weights is to wait at least a month after a discectomy. The main reason for taking this precaution is to reduce the risk of reherniation. This refers to any new issues affecting the same disc if only part of the disc material was removed. Your doctor is more likely to advise you to stick to the 4-6 week guideline if you had an open discectomy rather than a
microdiscectomy, a less invasive form of discectomy that requires only a small incision.

You May Be Able to Do Light Weightlifting Sooner

Heavy weightlifting is best avoided until your doctor gives you the okay and beyond a point where reherniation is a significant risk—especially with any lifting involving the lower back area. However, if your recovery from a discectomy is going well, you may be able to lift lighter weights sooner. Even if your doctor says lifting light weights is fine, it is still important to pay attention to any signs suggesting it is best to take a break, such as:

• Unusual pain spikes
• Lingering discomfort after you are done lifting
• New types of discomfort you were not experiencing before

Prepare Yourself to Get Back to Lifting Weights

This is usually something patients can do around the six-week point post-surgery, when physical therapy typically begins. At this point, you will be performing lighter forms of exercise and stretching routines that strengthen the muscles around your surgery location. Doing so makes it safer to transition back to a regular routine with weightlifting. Exercises that can help you get ready to lift weights again after your discectomy include:

• Walking and other aerobic activities to increase circulation
• Gentle stretching to maintain and increase flexibility
• Water-based activities to increase core strength
• Light weight-based exercises with guidance from a physical therapist

Take Proper Precautions when Lifting Weights Again

For safety’s sake, the weight you are lifting before you are fully done with recovery should not be too heavy. You can always compensate for the lighter weight by doing more reps if you are able to do so comfortably. Once your doctor gives you the okay to get back to lifting weights in a way that fits into your regular routine, make sure you take reasonable precautions. This means paying attention to form and technique. Additional precautions to take when lifting weights post-discectomy include:

• Lifting with a partner to ensure you are maintaining correct posture
• Staying hydrated as you lift to keep tissues around the affected disc healthy
• Taking short breaks between reps or sets
• Modifying your routine if you notice discomfort after lifting

Even though a discectomy is a common and generally quite successful back surgery procedure, a hole is frequently left in the outer wall of the disc. In fact, 70 percent of all reherniations come from large holes in the disc. These reherniations often require additional surgery or even fusions. Fortunately, there is a new treatment specifically designed to close the large holes that are often left in spinal discs after discectomy surgery. Barricaid is a bone-anchored device proven to reduce reherniations, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment or how to get access to Barricaid, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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