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Is Physical Therapy Necessary Following Discectomy Surgery?


4.5 - Do-You-Need-Physical-Therapy-After-a-Discectomy

Physical therapy is often recommended after a patient has a spine-related surgical procedure. However, depending on the type of discectomy performed and the patient’s lifestyle and goals, physical therapy may or may not be required. Read on to learn whether physical therapy is necessary following discectomy surgery.

The Type of Discectomy 

A discectomy can be performed in one of two ways—a traditional method or a minimally invasive method. The minimally invasive version of a discectomy is called a microdiscectomy.

If you will be having a traditional, or open, discectomy, there will be a larger incision and more disruption to nearby tissues. For this reason, you may need physical therapy after having this type of discectomy, since you are more likely to experience post-surgery discomfort or issues with regaining flexibility and range of motion. If you are having a microdiscectomy, the need for physical therapy depends on the following factors:

• The extent of your post-surgery discomfort
• Your post-surgery activity goals
• Whether you are having difficulty regaining full mobility
• Recommendations from your doctor based on your health and medical history

These factors also apply if you have a discectomy. Even with a more complex procedure, it is possible to forego physical therapy if you respond well to surgery.


If your goal is simply to experience less pain each day, you may not need a very complicated physical therapy plan. If your discomfort following surgery is fairly minor, you may even be able to go without physical therapy altogether. However, if you lead a more active lifestyle, physical therapy can be beneficial by helping you safely increase your activity, which also reduces your risk of reherniation and other post-surgery issues.

Benefits of Post-Discectomy Physical Therapy

Regardless of the type of discectomy you have, it is often best to participate in a customized physical therapy program. Each approach to physical therapy is tailored to the individual’s unique needs and goals. Benefits associated with physical therapy after having a discectomy include:

• Less post-surgery pain
• Increased mobility, flexibility, and range of motion
• Faster and more productive
discectomy recovery
• The ability to return to work sooner
• Achieving activity goals in a more productive and safe way
• Less reliance on pain medication

Making the Most of Post-Surgery Physical Therapy

If you decide to develop a physical therapy plan following your discectomy, it is important to fully commit to your recommended therapies and exercises. This means keeping up with your appointments and providing feedback so your physical therapy plan can be adjusted as necessary. Also, pay attention to advice your doctor provides about diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors.

Even though a discectomy 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 procedures or even
spinal fusion surgery. 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 performed 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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