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Recovery from discectomy - what is it like?

LumbarLynneLLumbarLynne Posts: 67
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had a fusion 5 weeks ago and my SIL is having a discectomy next Monday. I told her what my recovery was like but I am assuming recovery from a discectomy will be easier than recovery from a fusion.

Can someone tell me what she can expect in terms of pain and recovery. She is a VERY active person and used to walk many miles per day until the pain got so bad.

Also, anyone have both - can you compare the discomfort post-op and during the healing period for both procedures.



  • The discectomy is usually a piece of cake compared to fusion, but unless you've had both, I doubt the person getting the discectomy would see it that way!!

    Her hospital stay will be shorter. She will need less anesthetic. She should need fewer pain pills, etc. She should be more mobile and sooner, too.

    My surgeon said the primary problem he has with discectomy patients is trying to hold them down after surgery. They usually feel so good in comparison to how they felt previously that they do too much too soon. That wasn't a problem for me after fusion. I could hardly get out of bed for two weeks, let alone be too active!

    Her restrictions will be the same regarding bending, twisting, lifting, reaching, pushing and pulling. She should take it easy for the first two weeks. Then she'll probably be good to go.

    We'll see if others agree with me. ;))
  • I generally agree with Gwennie regarding discectomy. Recovery is not bad assuming you're otherwise healthy. But, a 2nd microdiscectomy at the same site within 3 weeks, which I had for a re-herniation, is a different story so avoid overdoing it too soon.
  • on her situation. In my case, my L5 S1 was completely blown out (11 milimeter herniation), and I was in a lot of pain prior to the surgery. I was in quite a bit of pain from Thursday (the day of my surgery) until Sunday when it lightened. On Monday I was done with pain pills, and by Wednesday I was pretty emotional because I felt so much better. Unfortunately the "new" me was short lived, because my disk collapsed further and I am now bone on bone.

    I wish her the best of luck! Let her know though that she might experience some post op nerve pain. Because they are moving the nerves around, they can become inflamed. I suffered with pain in the back of my thigh for about a week. It all depended on how I moved, got up from a chair, etc. But the fact that that happens is pretty normal.

    I would suggest she get a toilet seat riser and a grabber for those first few days, just in case. There was no way I could sit down on a toilet without it.

    Let me know if you have any more questions! :)


    PS I have not had a fusion.....
  • I had a lumbar microdiscectomy 10 days ago. I had occasional leg pain, but the main issue for me was constant, intense back pain.

    I've been fine so far. Extremely careful with all movements, and lucky enough to be able to have my mom staying with me the week post surgery and I live with my partner, who has been very helpful. The first few days were tough, as I was horrified any movement might screw up the surgical site. The pain was strong, but definitely tolerable with the pain medication I was on. I would definitely suggest taking stool softeners and having prunes on hand, as I did end up getting constipated and then hemorrhoids (although I was very, very conscious not to stress during bowel movements).

    People are now asking if my back is better. It hasn't been two weeks yet and I know it could take up to a year and tons of physical therapy to really get the results. I also have the nagging reminder that I'll always be at a higher risk for re-herniation now, but for me, the pain before had ruined my life and it's worth the gamble.

    Sleeping is hard, but not that bad. As long as you're ready to be supportive and she's ready to be extremely careful for weeks, hopefully recovery will be smooth. I'm more bored than pained.
  • I felt the micro was a piece of cake compared to the fusion. As a matter of fact, I felt instantly better after the micro. Unfortunately, mine only lasted about six months. Then I was back to square one. It will, of course, be different for everyone. I wish you both the best.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Hi,
    My name is Carlo. i noticed your post. I am one month post op from L5-S1 discectomy from herniated disc. Major sciatica in right leg. my doc says i should do 2nd discectomy.

    How did yours go? what was recovery time like? Are you better? ANY information would help...

    I am like a scared little boy in a 32 year old body...but trying to stay strong.

    THanks in advance. Hope you are well.

  • I'm just over 3 weeks out of my L4/L5 open discectomy. I feel very good. I am religious with no bending or twisting.. but other than that its an easy recovery. I can drive, walk.. etc
  • I am just about to undrego surgery the same as yours and am wondering how you are now and if it was a success I am very nervous and would appreciate any advice you have thanks.
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