New Study Suggests Lumbar Discectomy Improves Worker Productivity

In addition to the pain and suffering it can cause, a herniated disc can also have a negative impact on productivity in the workplace. If you were in chronic pain due to a herniated disc, how would your productivity at work be affected if you chose to have surgery?

See What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc...?

A group of researchers analyzed data from the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) and a number of other studies to help answer this question. Their goal was to determine the impact of having lumbar discectomy surgery on worker productivity, as measured through days missed at work and financial income.

See Microdiscectomy (Microdecompression) Spine Surgery

A look at days missed

Researchers found that employees suffering from herniated disc pain missed an average of 10.6 work days per year. For the group receiving surgery, after recovering from surgery (and not counting the days in recovery), those numbers dropped significantly, down to an average of 3.6 missed days per year.

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A look at costs

Additionally, the data show that patients who underwent surgery for herniated discs earned $47,619 annually compared to $45,694 annually for those who received non-surgical treatments.

See Nonsurgical Treatments for a Lumbar Herniated Disc

Due to the surgical group’s average higher earnings, surgery was considered a cost-saving option when all the data was considered over a 4 year period.

The ability to work and earn income is essential, but it’s certainly not the only measure to think about when contemplating back surgery. It’s important to talk with your doctor, as well as your family, friends, and even your employer as you weigh such a major decision.

See 40 Questions to Ask Your Surgeon Before Back Surgery

Other factors worth considering


  1. Koenig, Lane, Timothy M. Dall, Qian Gu, Josh Saavoss, and Michael F. Schafer. “How Does Accounting for Worker Productivity Affect the Measured Cost-Effectiveness of Lumbar Discectomy?” Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research 472, no. 4 (April 2014): 1069–79.
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