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What’s the Time Period for Full Recovery after a Discectomy?


A discectomy is like any type of surgery in that you'll need to give your body and spine time to heal and recover. It is a process that involves following your doctor's recommendations, taking proper precautions, and taking the steps necessary to help spine-supporting muscles regain strength. In this article we look at how long it typically takes to make a full recovery from a discectomy.

Average Time for a Full Recovery

Your full recovery time following a
discectomy primarily depends on how your surgery is performed. If you have a microdiscectomy, which is common today, total recovery typically takes 6–12 weeks. However, full recovery time is usually longer for patients who have traditional or "open" spinal disc surgery, since the incision is larger and there’s more healing involved.

Key Factors Affecting Recovery Time

Every patient is different, so your full recovery time may be shorter or longer than what is considered average. Your experience depends on some key factors, including:

• Your normal level of activity
• The nature of the work you perform
• How well you’re able to pace yourself as you get more active

With work, you may be able to get back to your job sooner if it’s not too physically demanding. On the other hand, it may be 2–3 months before you can safely get back to a more physically demanding occupation.

Working Your Way Toward a Full Recovery

When you first get back home, it's okay to rest for a day or two to give your spine time to heal after a discectomy. You’ll also be given directions from your surgeon regarding bathing and your other daily routines. However, the road to a full recovery also involves steadily increasing your activity level beyond the initial few days of rest. This is why physical therapy usually begins within the first few weeks post-surgery.

As you get past the first few weeks after a microdiscectomy, you should notice a significant reduction in post-surgery discomfort. This is when you start to get back to light activities. You may still experience occasional flare-ups as you shift back to your usual routine. This is normal, but do pay attention to your body and know when to step back for a moment.

Necessary Precautions

Increase your odds of making a full recovery at a pace that's beneficial for you after your surgery by knowing what precautions to take. For example, you might modify some of your activities to minimize strain on the affected part of your spine. With work, you may prefer to shift to lighter duties if it's possible to do so before going back to your full range of tasks. Facilitating the healing and recovery process also involves:

• Avoiding twisting, bending, and other actions that could reinjure the affected area
• Participating fully in your physical therapy sessions
• Checking with your doctor before stepping up your activity level
• Reporting any new or unusual symptoms as you go through your recovery

Back surgery recovery time varies among individuals and depends on factors such as whether the patient has a large hole in the outer ring of the disc after surgery. If the hole in the disc is larger than a standard pencil eraser, the patient has a significant risk of reherniation. Patients with a large hole in the outer ring of the disc are more than twice as likely to reherniate after surgery. These reherniations often require additional surgery or even a larger spinal fusion operation. Barricaid is a bone-anchored device shown to reduce the risk of reherniation by closing the hole in the disc after a discectomy, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients didn’t 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 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, you may ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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