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How Do You Get Back in Shape after a Microdiscectomy?


2.16 - How Do You Get Back in Shape after a Microdiscectomy-min

How to Exercise Safely after a Microdiscectomy

A microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive surgery that removes part or all of a herniated disc from the spine. It can relieve pain, numbness, and weakness in the lower back and legs. However, it also requires some recovery time and precautions to avoid re-injury. This article will discuss how to get back in shape after a microdiscectomy, including when to start exercising, what exercises to do, and what activities to avoid.

When to Start Exercising after a Microdiscectomy

The time frame for microdiscectomy recovery varies depending on the individual and the severity of the condition. Generally, most patients can resume light activities, such as walking and household chores, within two weeks after the surgery. Driving may also be allowed if the pain is well managed without opioids. However, contact sports, heavy lifting, and other strenuous activities should be avoided for at least six weeks or longer.

Before starting any exercise program, it is important to consult with your surgeon and follow his or her instructions. Some surgeons may recommend starting physical therapy sooner, while others may prefer that you wait until at least six weeks post-surgery. Physical therapy can help you improve your strength, flexibility, and posture, and it can prevent scar tissue formation and nerve damage.

Exercises to Do after a Microdiscectomy

The type and intensity of exercises you can do after a microdiscectomy depend on your pain level, healing progress, and personal goals. In general, low-impact exercises that do not bend, twist, or compress the spine are preferred.

  • Start slowly – Begin with low-impact activities such as walking or swimming. Gradually increase intensity and duration as your body adapts. Listen to your body and avoid pushing too hard too soon.
  • Strengthen your core – Focus on core exercises to support your spine. Gentle exercises like pelvic tilts, cat-cow stretches, and bridges can help you rebuild core strength without straining your back.
  • Stretch for flexibility – Incorporate stretching into your routine to enhance flexibility. Gentle yoga or Pilates can be excellent choices, emphasizing controlled movements that will not compromise your surgical site.

Here are some specific examples of exercises that may be beneficial after a microdiscectomy:

  • Opposite arm/leg raise – This exercise works the core muscles and increases balance. To do this exercise, get down on all fours with your knees and hands on the floor. Keep your spine straight, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees aligned directly under your hips. Reach out with one arm, keeping it straight and level. At the same time, extend the leg on the opposite side, keeping it straight and level. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then gently lower your arm and leg to the starting position. Repeat this exercise with the other arm and leg. Try to do 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.
  • Press-up – This exercise stretches and strengthens the lower back muscles. To do this exercise, lie on your stomach with both hands under your shoulders. Raise your upper body onto your elbows while keeping both hips on the ground. Hold this position for five seconds, then slowly return to the floor. Aim to do 10 repetitions. When this exercise becomes easier, you can try to hold the position for longer or raise your upper body onto your hands instead of your elbows.
  • Upper back extension – This exercise targets the upper back muscles and reduces tension and discomfort. To do this exercise, lie face down and clasp both hands behind your lower back. Raise your upper body off the ground while looking straight down at the floor. Keep both hips flat on the ground and pinch your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for five seconds, then slowly lower your upper body back to the ground. Unclasp your hands and return to the starting position. Aim to do 10 repetitions. This exercise is more advanced, so you may want to wait until you are further along in your recovery before trying it.

Activities to Avoid after a Microdiscectomy

While exercise is important for your recovery, some activities may be harmful or risky after a microdiscectomy. These include:

  • Bending, twisting, or lifting – These movements can put pressure on the spine and cause reherniation or nerve damage. Avoid bending forward or sideways, twisting your torso, or lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds for at least 6 weeks after the surgery. If you need to pick something up from the floor, use a grabber tool or squat down with your knees and hips, keeping your back straight.
  • Contact sports – Sports that involve collisions, falls, or sudden movements can injure the spine and delay healing. Avoid sports such as football, hockey, basketball, soccer, and martial arts for at least three months after the surgery. You may also want to avoid sports that involve running, jumping, or swinging, such as tennis, golf, or volleyball, until you are fully recovered and cleared by your surgeon.
  • Sitting for long periods – Sitting for too long can stiffen muscles and joints and increase pain. Try to limit sitting to 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and get up and move around every hour. Use a lumbar support pillow or a rolled-up towel to support your lower back when sitting. Adjust your chair and desk height to keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees and hips at 90-degree angles. Avoid slouching or leaning forward when working on a computer or reading.

Getting back in shape after a microdiscectomy can be challenging, but it is possible with patience and perseverance. By following your surgeon’s advice, starting a gradual exercise program, and avoiding risky activities, you can improve your physical and mental health and enjoy a better quality of life.

Even though microdiscectomy 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 reherniate.Reherniations often require additional back 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 today.

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