Recovering from herniated disc surgery is a process that requires a good deal of endurance. The patient, their family and the team of healthcare providers are all involved in the process.
The time taken depends on a number of factors. Those include the extent of the condition for which the operation was done, patient age, and quality of care among others.
Of the types of surgery available, recovery from discectomy is usually the quickest. It is comparatively longer in the case of laminectomy and fusion.
What happens after disc surgery?
Patients usually regain their full state of health within 2 to 6 weeks. Those that are very actively involved in their own management consistently recover much earlier compared to those that are less so.
It is important that you work closely with your healthcare provider and follows instructions given. When you experience complications such as pain and swelling at the incision site, you should communicate it to your surgeon as soon as possible.
Physical exercise is perhaps the most important component of the recovery process. The types of exercises recommended are those that aim at strengthening the structures around the area that was operated on.
Types of exercises for disc surgery recovery:
You should start with light exercises such as walking and increase the intensity gradually with time. You may progressively include others such as swimming and cycling.
Exercises involving lifting or bending should be avoided as they aggravate the condition. They should only be undertaken when cleared to do so by your physician.
Some patients may need professional help in the form of physiotherapists. Other than helping you engage in exercises suited for your condition, physiotherapists also use other techniques. They may employ physical massage and manipulation to help the affected area revert to its normal function.
The good news is that most surgical centers have their own physiotherapy departments. That generally makes it much easier for the you to get the services.
It is important to remember, no matter the time frame, that this is recovery from herniated disc surgery.
Mild pain during exercise is normal and should not stop you from taking part in the activities. Over time the pain reduces. Inactivity is likely to lead to stiffening of the spine and consequently more pain and discomfort.
Whenever doing any kind of activity, it is important that the spine is maintained in a neutral position at all times. This includes sitting and sleeping. This helps to avoid putting strain on the operated area which would impair healing.
If there are further complications from the operation:
In the event that pain is severe and persistent or healing is markedly delayed, there may be need to undertake more investigation. These may include X-rays, MRI or CT Scan of the area.
The pain may be managed using analgesic agents among other forms of treatment. The analgesia is given through a technique known as patient controlled analgesia (or PCA) pump. After improvement is noted, the patient can be switched to oral medication.
The therapeutic agents that may be prescribed include paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) such as diclofenac, naproxen and ibuprofen. Other than reducing the pain some of these agents have anti-inflammatory properties. Opioids are prescribed in case of excessive pain.
Other than physical exercise, a healthy lifestyle will also be helpful in facilitating healing from a disc operation. This includes, for example, the use of stairs instead of elevators, regular stretching, walking over short distances instead of driving and so on.
During the process of recovering from herniated disc surgery, patients need to keep in mind that they have been through a surgical procedure. As such they may encounter a number of complications.
The common ones include infection, neurological injury, severe bleeding, and impaired sense of touch (temporary) among others. It is important that these complications are discussed with the surgeon beforehand so that patients can anticipate them.
In summary, there is good historical indication that if you are undertaking herniated disc surgery, you can recover to full health. That requires clear and consistent communication with your physician, following instructions, and proactive involvement in your own recovery.