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What Level of Pain Is to Be Expected Following a Discectomy?


3.8 - How-Much-Pain-Is-Normal-After-Discectomy-Surgery

Discectomy surgery is a common procedure for those who suffer from chronic back pain due to herniated discs. The surgery involves removing the damaged part of the disc to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. While discectomy surgery is generally considered safe and effective, patients often experience pain after the procedure. This article explores how much pain is normal after a discectomy and what steps can be taken to manage it.

Immediately After Surgery

Immediately following surgery, it is normal to experience some discomfort and pain. The incision site will be sore and may feel tender to the touch. Your doctor may prescribe medication to manage the pain during the first few days after surgery. It is important to follow the dosage instructions carefully and to let your doctor know if you are experiencing any side effects or the medication is not helping.

It is also normal to experience some numbness or tingling in the affected area. This is because the nerve may have been compressed for an extended period, and it takes time for it to recover. It may take several weeks for the nerve to heal fully, and during this time, you may experience intermittent pain, tingling, or numbness.

The First Few Weeks After Surgery

As you begin to recover, you may experience a decrease in pain. However, it is still normal to experience some pain and discomfort during the first few weeks after surgery, even if you had a less invasive microdiscectomy. You may feel pain at the incision site or in the surrounding muscles as they adjust to the changes in your spine. This pain may be worse when you sit, stand, or walk for long periods.

During this time, it is important to follow your doctor's instructions carefully. You may be advised to avoid heavy lifting, bending, or twisting for several weeks to allow your spine to heal. You may also be advised to wear a back brace to support your spine and reduce the risk of injury.

Several Weeks to Several Months After Surgery

As you continue to recover, you should begin to experience a decrease in pain and an increase in mobility. However, it is normal to experience some pain or discomfort for several weeks to several months after surgery. This is because the spine takes time to heal fully, and the muscles surrounding the affected area may still be weak.

It is essential to continue following your doctor's instructions. You may be advised to start physical therapy or rehabilitation to strengthen the muscles in your back and improve your mobility. This may involve stretching, strength training, and other exercises to increase your range of motion and reduce the risk of further injury.

Managing Pain After Discectomy Surgery

Managing pain after surgery is an important part of the discectomy recovery process. 

If you are experiencing pain after your discectomy procedure, there are several steps you can take to manage it. These include:

  • Taking pain medication – Your doctor may prescribe medication to help you manage the pain. Follow the dosage instructions carefully and contact your doctor if you experience any side effects or the medication does not provide pain relief.
  • Applying heat or cold – Applying heat or cold to the affected area may reduce pain and inflammation. You can apply a heating pad or ice pack to the affected area for 20–30 minutes at a time several times a day.
  • Resting – Rest is important during the first few weeks after surgery, but it is also important to avoid prolonged periods of inactivity. You may need to take regular breaks from sitting or standing and avoid heavy lifting, bending, or twisting.
  • Engaging in physical therapy – Physical therapy or rehabilitation may boost your mobility and reduce pain. This could involve strength training, stretches, and other forms of exercise designed to increase range of motion and lower your risk of injury.

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 experiencing a 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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