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Activities that May Be Permanently Restricted Following a Discectomy


5.5 - What-Are-the-Permanent-Restrictions-After-a-Discectomy

A discectomy is a surgical procedure that removes part or all of a damaged spinal disc to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves and reduce back pain. It can be done as an open surgery or a minimally invasive microdiscectomy, depending on the location and severity of the disc problem. While a discectomy can be a highly effective treatment option for certain spinal conditions, it is important to understand the permanent restrictions that will be in place following the surgery. This article discusses what these permanent restrictions are and how they may impact your life post-surgery.

Common Restrictions After a Discectomy

While the specific restrictions may vary depending on the individual patient and his or her specific condition, there are a few general restrictions most patients can expect to experience following a discectomy. These include:

Lifting and Carrying 

Following a discectomy, the patient will typically need to avoid lifting or carrying anything heavier than 10 pounds for the first six weeks post-surgery. This restriction is in place to prevent any further damage to the spinal discs or the surgical site. Lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds can put too much stress on the spine and cause the remaining disc material to bulge or rupture. Use proper lifting techniques, such as keeping your back straight, bending your knees, and holding the object close to your body. If you need to lift something heavier than 10 pounds, ask for help or use a device such as a cart or a dolly.

Bending and Twisting 

Patients will also need to avoid any bending or twisting movements that could put undue strain on the spine. This means avoiding activities like gardening, cleaning, or even reaching for something on a high shelf.

Engaging in High-Impact Activities 

Activities that involve jumping, running, or contact sports can also put too much pressure on the spine and increase the risk of disc reherniation or spinal instability. You should avoid these activities for at least six months after your surgery and then only resume them with your doctor's approval and under supervision. You should also wear appropriate protective gear, such as a helmet, pads, or braces, when engaging in these activities.

Smoking and Drinking Alcohol 

Smoking and drinking alcohol can impair your healing process and increase the risk of infection, bleeding, and blood clots. Smoking can also reduce the blood flow to your spine and weaken your bones, making them more prone to fractures or osteoporosis. Drinking alcohol can also interfere with your pain medication and cause liver damage or addiction. You should quit smoking before your surgery and avoid drinking alcohol for at least two weeks after your surgery.


Patients may be restricted from driving for a period of time following their herniated disc surgery. This is because the physical act of driving can put strain on the spine and the surgical site. Your doctor will advise you on when it is safe to resume driving.


While it is important to stay active and mobile following a discectomy, patients will need to avoid any high-impact or high-intensity exercises. This includes activities such as running, jumping, and weightlifting.


Sitting for long periods of time can put pressure on the spine, which can be detrimental to the healing process following a discectomy. Patients will need to take frequent breaks to get up and move around periodically throughout the day.

Tips for Living with Restrictions

While permanent restrictions may seem daunting at first, it is important to remember that they are in place to help promote healing and prevent further damage to the spine. As you adjust to your new lifestyle post-surgery, there are a few things you can do to make the transition easier:

Get Support

Do not be afraid to ask for help from friends and family during your recovery period and as long as needed afterward. Simple tasks like grocery shopping or cleaning can be difficult while you are healing, so having a support system in place can be incredibly helpful.

Focus on Nutrition

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can promote healing and speed up the recovery process. Make sure to include plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. You should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and flush out toxins.

Stay Active

While you may need to avoid certain high-impact exercises, it is important to stay active and mobile. You should exercise regularly to strengthen your core muscles that support your spine and improve your flexibility and posture. Walking, swimming, and gentle yoga can all be great ways to stay active without putting undue strain on your spine.

Follow Your Doctor's Instructions

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for your incision site, manage your pain, prevent infection, and rehabilitate your spine. You should follow these instructions carefully and report any signs of complications, such as fever, redness, swelling, drainage, or increased pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs. You should also attend your follow-up appointments and physical therapy sessions as scheduled.

Understanding the permanent restrictions that come with a discectomy is an important part of the recovery process. By following your doctor's instructions, making lifestyle adjustments, and getting support from friends and family, you can successfully navigate life with these restrictions.

Although discectomy surgery is generally a very successful procedure, patients with a larger hole in the outer ring of the disc have a significantly higher risk of reherniation following surgery. Often, the surgeon will not know the size of the hole until beginning surgery. A new treatment, Barricaid, was specifically designed to close the large hole often left in the spinal disc after discectomy. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. In a large-scale study, 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in the 2-year study timeframe. 

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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