Recovery from Herniated Disc Surgery
Doctor Advice

Recovery from Herniated Disc Surgery

Question: How long will pain after herniated disc surgery last?

18 months ago, I had surgery to repair two herniated discs in the same area. For several years prior to and following the disc surgery, I had incredible, often incapacitating pain in the upper right buttock and the entire right leg. I recently had lumbar laminectomy and decompression at L5.

Since the recent laminectomy, I continue to have the same significant pain in the right buttock. Most of the time, I do not have leg pain except when I'm nearing the time for another dose of my medication. I continue to have limited walking, sitting and standing ability without pain.

How long will this pain continue and how long will I need to take pain medication? I have been a long time runner, biker and swimmer in spite of past pain. How long before I can resume some activity?

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Doctor’s response: If recovery from herniated disc surgery does not occur in three months, there may be another cause of pain

I cannot comment on whether or not you will improve from the surgery, but it is most likely too soon to tell if the surgery has worked. Usually, if you show improvement within three months following the surgery, you should continue to get better. If your condition has not improved within three months, further investigation to identify other possible causes of your pain would be appropriate.

In the meantime, it would be reasonable to start physical therapy with an appropriately trained health professional to try to work out any possible secondary causes of buttock pain (such as piriformis syndrome).

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In Spine-health’s Doctor Advice section, physicians respond to frequently asked questions about back pain issues. These responses represent the opinion of one physician, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader medical community. The advice presented has not been peer reviewed by Spine-health’s medical advisory board.

Article written by: Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD