How Microdiscectomy Can Relieve Pain

A lumbar microdiscectomy is one of several different options to treat a lumbar herniated disc.

The surgical procedure removes the portion of the disc that is irritating a nerve root, thus relieving pain. We recently added a new video to our Spine-health Videos Library to help you understand how this procedure works.

See Treatment Options for a Lumbar Herniated Disc

Video highlights

This image shows the proximity of a vertebral disc (shown in blue) to the nerve roots (shown in yellow).

If a disc herniates and impinges on the nerve, it may cause severe leg pain.

See What You Need to Know About Sciatica

A microdiscectomy is performed to relieve pain caused by nerve root pressure from a herniated disc.

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The procedure

To access the disc, your surgeon will approach your spine by making a small incision on the midline of your back.

Next, your surgeon will move the lower back muscles, called the erector spinae (shown here in purple), out of the way. These muscles will not need to be cut since they run vertically and are easily moved aside.

The nerve roots and disc are then exposed by removing a membrane over the spine called the ligamentum flavum.

Your surgeon may remove a small portion of the facet joint (shown here in purple). This will allow access to the nerve root and relieve any additional pressure the facet joint may be placing on the nerve.

This image shows the disc herniation (in red) impinging on the nerve to its right (in yellow), which is causing pain. Your surgeon will carefully move the nerve root to the side and remove the unhealthy, herniated disc material. The healthy portion of the disc will remain intact.

Once pressure is relieved from the nerve, it will begin to heal immediately. Relief from leg pain is also normally immediate. It may take several weeks or months for the nerve root to heal fully, so any numbness or weakness may take a while to get better.

Recovery from lumbar microdiscectomy is usually relatively easy, with most patients returning to normal activities quickly.

Learn more:

Microdiscectomy (Microdecompression) Spine Surgery

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