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How Much Pain Should I Expect with a Lumbar Discectomy?


10.28 - How-Painful-Is-a-Lumbar-Discectomy

If a spinal disc in your lower back is herniated or damaged in a similar way, you may be advised to consider a lumbar discectomy. It is understandable to have concerns about any pain you may experience after having this procedure. The good news is with the right approach to recovery and post-surgery care, pain related to a lumbar discectomy is often manageable. This article explains what can be expected regarding pain with a lumbar discectomy.

Noticeable Discomfort Is Likely Immediately after Surgery

When you first arrive home after having a
lumbar discectomy, pain is likely to be more severe as you heal. Therefore, patients are often given pain medication to use on a temporary basis for the first week post-surgery. You will also be encouraged to get up and move around as much as possible to further ease your discomfort. Too much rest can weaken spine-supporting muscles, which can increase pain.

Pain Tends to Ease after 2–3 Weeks

Two to three weeks after surgery, you should notice a gradual and steady decrease in your discomfort. This happens, in part, because of the physical therapy that begins within the first month or so post-surgery. Also, as tissues heal, you will notice less discomfort, especially if you make an effort to increase mobility and flexibility within the affected area.

There Is Less Pain with a Microdiscectomy

If you have a traditional discectomy, you may notice more pain during the initial recovery period. The reason, in this instance, is because of the way the procedure is performed. Instead of small incisions, a larger incision is made to access the affected area. Since the incision is larger, there is more disruption to tissues and muscles, which accounts for the increase in pain as you heal and recover. This is not the case with a less invasive microdiscectomy.

Different Factors Affect Lumbar Discectomy Pain

One of the top factors that determines how much pain you might experience post-surgery is your overall health and wellbeing. Your willingness to stick to post-surgery guidelines and recommendations is another factor that determines how much pain you might experience. 

The amount of time you were experiencing pain related to a spinal disc prior to surgery is another factor. For example, if a nerve was compressed or irritated for several months or even a few years prior to surgery, it can take a while for the nerve to heal after surgery.

Preparation Is Key

Further reduce your risk of experiencing discomfort post-surgery by taking some steps ahead of time to get ready for your lumbar discectomy. These include:

• Preparing your home so you are not going up and down stairs too often
• Arranging for friends and family members to help with household tasks
• Using lumbar support devices
• Making arrangements to work from home, if possible
• Ordering your medication ahead of time so you have access to it when you get home

Pain levels and back surgery recovery time vary among individuals and depend on factors such as disc height and the size of the hole left 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 reherniations by closing the hole in the disc after a discectomy, 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, you may ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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