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Do I Need a Walker after a Discectomy?


12.22 - Do I Need a Walker after a Discectomy-min
A discectomy is a type of surgery that removes part or all of a spinal disc that is pressing on a nerve and causing pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the lower back, buttocks, or legs. The surgery can relieve the symptoms of a herniated disc, sciatica, or spinal stenosis and improve the function and mobility of the spine. 

Recovering from a discectomy can be a challenging journey that requires careful consideration of post-operative care. One common question that arises is whether a walker is necessary during the recovery process. This article explores the factors that determine the need for a walker after a discectomy and provides valuable insights for individuals undergoing this form of back surgery.

Understanding Discectomy 

Before discussing the postoperative phase, it is crucial to understand what a discectomy entails. A discectomy is a surgical procedure designed to relieve pressure on spinal nerves caused by a herniated or ruptured disc. During the surgery, the damaged part of the disc is removed, alleviating pain and restoring normal function. While the procedure aims to enhance overall wellbeing, the recovery period plays a pivotal role in achieving successful outcomes.

Immediate Postoperative Period

In the initial days following a discectomy or less invasive microdiscectomy, the patient may experience varying degrees of pain and discomfort. The use of mobility aids, such as a walker, is often recommended to provide stability and support during this crucial phase. The decision to use a walker depends on several factors, including the patient’s overall health, the extent of the surgery, and the presence of preexisting conditions.

Factors Influencing the Need for a Walker

  • Surgical extent – The size and complexity of the discectomy can significantly impact the postoperative mobility of the patient. If the surgery involved multiple levels of the spine or extensive tissue removal, a walker may be recommended to minimize strain on the healing area and prevent falls.
  • Individual health and strength – The patient’s overall health and physical strength are key determinants in assessing the need for a walker. Those with preexisting mobility issues or weakened musculature may find a walker beneficial in maintaining balance and reducing the risk of falls during the early stages of recovery.
  • Pain management – Pain is a natural part of the recovery process, and effective pain management is crucial for a smooth recuperation. If pain levels are high, a walker can provide added support, reducing the burden on the spine and allowing the patient to move with greater ease.
  • Rehabilitation plan – A well-structured rehabilitation plan is integral to the recovery journey. Physical therapy sessions, tailored exercises, and gradual mobility improvements are typically components of this plan. Depending on individual progress, the use of a walker may be recommended initially and gradually phased out as mobility improves.

Benefits of Using a Walker

  • Stability and support – A walker provides a stable and supportive platform, reducing the risk of falls during the initial stages of recovery. This is particularly beneficial when navigating uneven surfaces or when mobility is compromised.
  • Confidence boost – Using a walker can boost the patient’s confidence as he or she regains mobility. The added support instills a sense of security, encouraging individuals to engage in prescribed exercises and daily activities without fear of injury.
  • Posture assistance – Maintaining the correct posture is crucial for a successful recovery after a discectomy. A walker can aid in proper body alignment, preventing unnecessary strain on the spine and supporting the healing process.

Gradual Transition

While a walker may be essential in the immediate aftermath of a discectomy, the goal is often to gradually reduce reliance as strength and mobility improve. Healthcare professionals closely monitor the patient’s progress and adjust the rehabilitation plan accordingly. This phased approach ensures individuals regain independence in their daily activities while minimizing the risk of setbacks.

Consultation with Healthcare Professionals

Decisions regarding the use of a walker should always be made in consultation with healthcare professionals, including surgeons, physical therapists, and primary care physicians. These experts assess individual needs, monitor progress, and provide personalized guidance based on the unique circumstances of each patient.

How to Use a Walker after a Discectomy

If your doctor recommends using a walker after a discectomy, follow these tips to use it safely and effectively:

  • Choose the right type and size of walker – There are different types of walkers, such as standard walkers, two-wheeled walkers, three-wheeled walkers, and four-wheeled walkers. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist to choose the best type of walker for your needs and preferences. You should also adjust the height of the walker to match your level of comfort and posture.
  • Learn how to walk with the walker – You should learn the proper technique of walking with the walker, which involves placing the walker about one step ahead, stepping into the walker with the weaker or more painful leg first, followed by the stronger or less painful leg, and repeating the process. Avoid leaning on the walker or dragging it along, as this can cause instability or injury.
  • Use the walker only when needed – You should use the walker only when you feel unsteady or uncomfortable walking without it and gradually reduce your dependence on it as you recover and regain strength and balance. Avoid using the walker on stairs, uneven surfaces, or slippery floors, as this can increase the risk of falling or tripping.

In the journey of recovery after a discectomy, the use of a walker can be a valuable aid in ensuring a safe and effective recuperation. The decision to use a walker is influenced by various factors, including the extent of the surgery, individual health, and the guidance of healthcare professionals. While it may be a temporary necessity, the ultimate aim is to support patients in gradually reclaiming their mobility and independence. If you are contemplating the use of a walker after a discectomy, consult with your healthcare team to determine the most suitable approach for your unique recovery journey.

Even though discectomy surgery is a common and generally quite successful procedure, a hole is frequently left in the outer wall of the disc. In fact, patients with these large holes in their discs are more than twice as likely to reinjure themselves by having what is known as a reherniation. 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-anchoreddevice 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 isperformed 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 directly.

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