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How Long after a Discectomy Can I Walk?


Walking as soon as possible is often encouraged after most types of spine surgery, since it's a gentle form of exercise that provides important and beneficial muscle and soft tissue stimulation. This is usually the case after a discectomy is performed to remove all or part of a herniated or damaged spinal disc (also commonly known as a "slipped disc" or “ruptured disc”). Here's what you need to know about walking and exercise after a discectomy.

Assisted/Brief Walking Fairly Quickly after Surgery

It’s usually possible to take short walks the first full day after disc removal surgery. This can involve walking with some assistance from a medical professional or with the use of a cane or walker. Initially, walking is limited to brief periods until you regain your stability and strength.

Dealing with Initial Post-Surgery Discomfort

When first walking after a discectomy, you may have initial discomfort related to the healing and recovery process. This is normal and expected, but do talk to your doctor or surgeon if your discomfort feels out of the ordinary or lingers once you start walking again. Otherwise, post-surgery pain as you get back to walking is often manageable with:

• Ice applications to minimize inflammation around the surgery area
• Heat therapy to facilitate the healing process and ease soreness as you walk
• Anti-inflammatory medications and/or any other post-surgery meds your surgeon recommends

Walking & Light Stretching

Within the first few weeks after discectomies, patients are typically encouraged to combine walking with light stretching. It's important to have sufficient muscle stimulation to reduce the risk of issues with scar tissue. Also, this is a step that helps spine-supporting muscles regain strength, which takes direct pressure off a healing spine. During the early part of your
discectomy recovery period, walking and light stretching is likely to involve:

• Walking at a steady pace for 20–30 minutes a day or what's comfortable for you
• Doing hamstring stretches to target muscles that support your lower back
• Gently stretching the group of muscles and tendons along the sides of your spine

Establishing & Achieving Post-Discectomy Exercise Goals

After a discectomy, you'll likely be given a general outline of goals for activities and exercises. The recommendations are typically specific to your capabilities, overall health condition, rate of recovery, and level of pain. According to Spine Health, post-discectomy exercise goals often include:

• Adding more stretches to target spine-supporting muscles
• Learning correct postures for walking, sitting, and standing
• Strengthening lower back and leg muscles
• Restoring range of motion and flexibility

Keeping Activity Restrictions in Mind

Surgeons typically recommend being mindful of activity restrictions as you get back to walking, performing
lower back pain exercises, and stretching following a discectomy. These usually apply during the first 2–3 weeks post-surgery. The most common restrictions on post-surgery activity include:

• Not lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk
• Not twisting or turning excessively
• Not bending at the waist, especially if your surgery was in the lower back area

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, 70 percent of all reherniations come from large holes in the disc. These reherniations often require additional surgery or even fusions. Fortunately, there’s 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 it’s been shown 95 percent effective. This means 95 percent of Barricaid patients in a randomized study didn’t undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in the 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and doesn’t 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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