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Recovery after Discectomy

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,607
edited 01/13/2016 - 5:52 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi Guys,

I amdue to have a Discectomy L5 | S1 and I am wandering what the recovery period is.

I work as a maintenance person on a holiday park and it involves alot of heavy lifting and manual work (wanders why he has a bad back lol). Am I right in saying that the recovery period is aboput 6 weeks? and is 6 weeks rest and recovery enough for me to go back to lifing and mowing, strimming etc?

What are your experiences?


  • What type of surgery will you be having, exactly?

    Will they be fusing the L5/S1 region, replaceing the disk, or just removing some material of the disk to relieve pressure?

    Each of these three have different "basic recovery times" -- in other words, estimates.

    Many of us have had disks removed, but most of us have different experiences, recovery stories and times, and issues with our recoveries..... so it may take a few responses back to you to get a realistic guess

    Best Wishes..........
  • Hello 90awk
    I had an L4/5 microdiscectomy a few years ago. I am an endurance athlete and was very concerned about recovery.It was done on Nov 25th and I was back riding my bike and back running by the following March. Personally, I would say you would need longer than six weeks for recovery and I'd be very cautious about lifting and mowing for a while longer than that.
    Take it easy.
    Let me know if I can help with any other questions you might have.
  • Hi srtayl, thanks for your input,

    Well, information from 2 different regestrars has been very minimal, but what I remember him saying is "the only way I can see us helping you is if we remove the disc, or as much as we can"

    However, during my pre assessment, the nurse told me that I'd be having a Discectomy L5 | S1 (right sided). Does this mean they will only take out the right side of the disc?

    Nothing was said about fusing, or replacement. Sorry the registrars where not helpfull, infact I dont think anyone paid any attention when I tried to explain the effects of the caudal epidural.

    Hi Brian, thanks also for your input,

    do you have any lasting effects after your surgery?

  • They will remove some material and resuce the pressure on the spinal sord -- this may mean they may also take a bit of bone around the foramen and/or lamen.

    6 weeks for recovery is a bit aggressive in my opinion, but if you follow your docs advice and listen to your body very carefully you may just meet that

    Best Wishes................
  • My MicroD procedure was done in January at the L4L5 level and 6 weeks after I was able to lift my baby (8 kilos) or my toddler (12 kilos) if I was careful. I also had to lift their double stroller in and out of the house which I could manage if I took my time.

    Having said that I wasn't able to lift a basket of laundry at that stage as it was a different carrying position, front rather than side. I also struggled to get the little ones in and out of their car seats as you have to hold their weight whilst you are leaning forward.

    I would guess you could be back at work by the 6 week mark but with lifting restrictions. Would that be workable or is it an all or nothing kind of thing?

    All the best for your surgery and let us know how you get on.

  • I would like to hear from anybody else with regards to recovery periods with simular procedures. To be honest, I can read lots of 'textbook' recovery times on the internet, however I'd like to hear real experiences so that I have a guide. Like I said, the professionals that I have seen have not been forthcoming with information.

    Thanks guys, I'd be on my own without you. Should I be as scared about this than I am?
  • I guess I am blessed with a good job working for a largish company who have to work within the law with regards to its employees. However, since a new manager took over the holiday park, he is not aware of the full extent on my back injury. I guess I dont make a point of making it fully known (dont like moaning). Anyway, I know I am safe within my job, and I am not expendable, so I know if nearer the time I have to sit down with him and tell him everything he will understand, and if not then I will go to HR. I dont think the latter will be neccessary.

    Previously I have had to do light duties when my back has been bad, that mostly involves sitting on a ride on lawnmower, I guess that would be do-able?

    I know that if I dont think that I am able to go to work then I wont! Surely if it means getting someone else in for a while then that aint worth crippling someone for the rest of their lives, right!

    I also have a young son. He'll be 2 later on this month, and yeah he's heavy. I can understand how it would be sad not to be able to pick up and cuddle the little ones.

    Thanks Cheeka
  • May I bump this thread?
  • For my case, it took longer than it should have due to my bad decisions.
    I did not do the PT afterwards.
    As it was explained to me, PT gets the joints moving, and reduces inflamation.
    Movement hurt so I ditched PT. They said that is what the post-op meds are for.....to kill the pain so I could do PT.
    Thus, I was trapped in a vicious cycle of pain:
    No movement = more inflamation = more pain = no movement.
    I layed in bed for 6 weeks.
    Finally, at 7 weeks I had an injection into the left L5-S1 foramen and it pretty much resolved all my pain. I have been able to become active again and it has helped a lot.

    My L4-L5 recovery was much quicker as I did do the PT after that one. I woke up from the procedure pain free and within about 3 weeks was doing quite well.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Here are few more details from my recovery, everyone is different but this in a nutshell is my experience:

    I woke up from the operation free of nerve pain in my back and left leg and its never returned. I have some pain on the other side but very mild so nothing that warrants more treatment or much change to my normal routine.

    I was in hospital 2 nights as I had low blood pressure. The op itself took 2 hours (45 mins is normal) as things were in a bit of a state and the disc had fragmented and wrapped around the nerve.

    I was much more comfortable when the surgical drain was removed the day afer the op and the incision healed really well (too well actually as some of the staples they put in were almost absorbed and really tough to get out).

    I went to my parents place for 2 weeks to recover and slowly learn what I could manage in terms of looking after my 2 little ones. I then moved back home and things returned to normal although I had to be very careful and take things slow and easy.

    As I am a full time Mum and don't work I am not sure when I would have felt ready to return to a job, but I think you are in with a shot at 6 weeks if you can do restricted duties. You might need to switch fairly frequently between sitting down and standing up and making sure you can walk about a fair bit.

    The PT is a good idea, I have been going to pilates and have found it very beneficial to correct some of the postural problems that have crept in from having a bad back.

    Let me know if there is any more info you are after,

  • First time post. Had 9 months pain and discovered core of disc had protruded out, which hardens and would never reabsorb. So surgery was only option. First week and a half was great - no pain as everyone says.

    Then the pain came back but different. It was intermittent and less severe more like a stretched nerve feeling. Still have this and am told it will last for a while yet, perhaps a few more weeks and then it will reduce. Nerve's take a long long time to heal, unlike muscles.
  • But I had surgery around 5pm (MicroD at L4L5 with removal of a bit of the lamina) and got home at Midnight. I was up the next morning at 7:45 and grabbing my sons clothes, sitting on the floor to change him and get him dressed... Walked him down the stairs to the bus, and back up. I never had any problems with recovery aside from the second day I had some nerve issues. I was able to lift just like I did before. It was basically like getting a tooth pulled. Felt like a routine procedure. Maybe I'm just insanely tolerant but I felt like there really was no recovery... I just went home and continued to live my life the way I did before. My doctor gives people the OK to go back to work around 3 weeks post op, and everything else you can do as tolerated.
  • 48yr Male, I just had an L4/L5 discectomy/lamiectomy 6 days ago.
    I injured myself some 2 1/2mths ago. I developed a burning in my L/h lower leg. I thought it would settle but it just got more intense. I did the physio thing for a good 6 weeks, which at first seemed to be making slow progress.
    As time went on I felt I was losing ground, the pain gradually getting worse.I was basically in constant agony any time I tried to get upright. I finally saw the surgeon 10 days ago (Friday) and had MRI. He said I had a large herniation between S1 - L4. He didn't muck around and I had the op following Wednesday.
    When I woke up it was like somebody had flicked a switch.I didn't have any pain shooting down my leg any more. The next day I got out of bed and managed to walk very slowly for a short distance. Fantastic feeling,no pain in the leg!
    The surgeon kept the disc material for me and put it in a jar. (Spewed out of L4/L5 and went down to S1)
    He said it was the biggest piece he had seen. Hopefully there's still some disc left in there.
    6 days post op now! I can walk up to 15 minutes several times a day. Still get a bit of numbness in a toe but no pain down the leg. #:S I get sore if I do too much!
    I have been told no sitting, don't bend and slowly build up the walking! Just take it very easy for the next 6 weeks.
    I have read a lot of the threads on discectomy recovery. Hopefully I will be one of the success stories.
    Time will tell!
  • Hi Skooobie,

    Just wondering how you are doing now, since what you described here is what I am experiencing. I was doing great until about 10 days and then I started with more tingling and numbness that have continued to now at day 14. I don't know whether I should back off from some activity or whether this is normal or what.
    Any thoughts?

    51 yr old, married, empty nester
    5 months sciatica, ESI, PT, nothing helped
    Sept. 3, 2008 MicroD L4-5
    Sept. 7, 2008 reherniated same disk
    Sept. 17, 2008 redo of MicroD
  • Had surgery 9/23/08 and I am 10 days post-op from L4L5 microdiscectomy/lamenectomy. Had a buldging disc for 18 months from shoveling. I have horses and was cleaning stalls. Did the usual PT, spinal injections and it helped for awhile. Disc finally ruptured and I had severe back and sciatic pain, left side with numbness and some foot drop.

    Surgery was typical, 1.5 hours with no apparent problems. Ended up in the hospital an extra night as my bp would drop severely when I stood, probably from dehydration. I also don't handle pain meds well so switched to all anti-inflamatories and valium.

    Everyone will know I am crazy but against docs orders, my family and friends wishes, I got on a plane 3 days post-op. My vacation was already scheduled and figured I could recover there. Lucklily no problems, arranged for wheel chair at airports and never lifted a thing. Got up to walk a few times during the flights as I was concerned about blood clots. Flew back home 8 days post-op and am still taking it easy. I heard from others on this website, walking was the best so have been doing what I can while on vacation and now. I'm still very tired, stay in bed, rest and sleep a lot.

    I have my post-op appt on Oct 7 and will see where I go from here. I hope you will be able to lift after a few months but please be careful. I haven't lifted a hay bale or a saddle since I got hurt. It didn't matter, still ended up having surgery. I'm just hoping this one will be it, but from what I hear, I doubt it.

    I read the posts and feel thankful I'm functioning as well as I have been, hoping I'll be able to ride my horses again but don't ever plan on shoveling or lifting again....good luck to all.
  • What procedure did you have on your l4/l5 and where was it performed? I think that I am heading for surgery and I live near Beverly Hills.
  • I was wondering what type of procedure you had on your l4/l5 and what clinic? I live near Beverly Hills and am heading for surgery - looking for opinions before moving ahead. Thanks.
  • Not sure if anyone is still monitoring this thread but if someone is I have a few questions

    I just had my MD L4/L5 a week and two days ago and to tell the truth I am feeling pretty good. I have a little bit of pain around the incision point and my lower back is still sore all around and seems stiff. But compared to pre op then I feel great. The thing is I have a new job opportunity coming up that I would be crazy to pass up, but I'm not sure I will be able to do this without hurting something. I am a computer tech and will be traveling on planes, cars and ect for hours at a time. Will be lifting computer towers that weigh around 10 to 15 lbs each only one at a time though. I will need to start this job at about 4 1/2 weeks post op. I think I could do this just as long as I take it easy and slow what is everyone else opinion. I just dont want to do perm damage. Let me know....
  • MD, is that microdiscectomy? did they do one side. Do you know what type of hardware you got, such as Axialif?
    Sounds like you are doing well.
  • My surgeon would not let me lift anything heavier than 10 lbs until 6 weeks Post OP. Now I am allowed to lift up to 25 lbs but the weight is too much compared to what I weigh.

    Always use proper body mechanics--like squatting down and lifting with your legs when picking up something.

    Sitting---I can sit up to an hour which will prob. be longer than an airplane flight. Sitting is the one of the worst thing for your back.

    I know that this upcoming job opp. sounds irresistible but consider the amount of pain/damage that could be caused by your new job.

    I like to play it safe. Just my two cents. Good luck.

    PS I would wait at least after 6 weeks before lifting and flying. I had microdiscectomy at L5 S1,
  • Well I just wanted to say thanks Lovinggardener for the advice, I will be thinking on this for the days and weeks to come.

    As for MD yea I meant microdiscectomy and for what kind of hardware, well I'm not too sure to tell you the truth, not sure what ya mean by that. I kinda new to all this stuff. I thought it was at first called just a Discectomy I'm not too sure what the diff is. I do know that it was my left side that was giving me all the trouble though, so it was on my left. But for an update for every one today is day 9 post op and today was my most active day yet, I walked about a 1/2 mile or so and stayed on my feet for a total of maybe hour and a half or so at one time and I did pretty good. At times I did start to get some pretty aggressive pain in my back but it seemed to subside if I just stood still for a bit and didnt walk around. Once I laid back down it took a bit for the pain to go away and for me to get comfortable. Now mind you this is all with no pain killers at all other than 3 aspirin this mornin for a head ache. I am trying to see just how far I can go with no meds, so then I know about how far I can go with them. But to tell the truth I didnt really need them today. But after reading a few other posts it seems it gets you the next day or so, so I will let you all know how it is in the morning. But right now I am just in disbelief on how good my back feels. It seems that everyone was right getting up and moving around instead of laying down all day (and going crazy from cabin fever) seemed to make me feel better. So thank you all for that advice.
  • Glad you're doing well kaotickaos! Yes, cabin fever is BAD with spine stuff!! I know you feel SO much better than you did before surgery, but PLEASE take it easy & don't over do it...it's really easy to hurt yourself.

    jgandee - microdiscectomys don't require any hardware...they just take stuff out, not put in. :D
  • Yea it is good to feel better for a change and I sure dont want to, do something stupid and go back to were I was before the surgery. My only problem is I keep hearing the phrase "dont over do it" and I dont want to Its just that I'm not sure what "over doing it" is how much is too much ya know, I dont want to do too much and do any thing to hurt myself more and then at the same time I dont want to not do enough and slow the healing process. Also I know someone will want to reply and say just ask your doc, well I would, and still might have the chance, but not sure right now. Its a long story but to shorten it up a bit. My company that I was and I guess still working for (complicated) ended my insurance two days before my surgery and now I am having problems getting any thing paid for (including the follow up visit) because with no insurance now the doc fee is $250 to visit him....But not sure how all I am gonna get all this straightened out but that's for another blog somewhere else some other time lol. Right now I am just looking for any advice that I dont have to pay for right now lol
  • My mistake, I know that most microdiscectomies only remove a portion of the disc. I was thinking of hardware because I was not sure what was ment by MD. I would like to add though that I had a T7-8 partically removed (MD) two weeks ago. They did put a rod down the back side that bolted into the vertabra to keep the disc space open. This is kind of new. It prevents the other part of the disc from coming back in and causing cord compression. My local surgeons did the work, but it was first approved by Cleveland Clinic.

  • Can anyone provide me with some experiences, recovery times and long-term prognosis for posterior cervical discectomies of C5-6?
  • Hello all! I am 2 weeks post op from L4/L5 right microdiscectomy. I am in lots of pain. I called my doc and the hateful nurse told me the pain is my fault. so she called me in prednisone to settle things down. I spent about 3 days not doing any thing at all but I have a hard time not doing anything. I am taking care of my 13 month old granddaughter who weighs about 23lbs my limit is 10lbs. lifting her does bother me but I don't know what else to do with her. My husband helps with all the lifting when he gets home from work.
    The pain is horrible worse than before surgery. I cry alot when no one is watching I try so hard to follow docs orders but it is hard. I don't go back to doc till July 13. I NEED HELP WITH THIS PAIN!!!!!
    what do I do now?
  • The doctor just told me that he felt that I would need a discectomy if the last (of 3) cortisone injections does not help the pain I am having from the herniated disc (L5 S1). I am a prek teacher and am wondering if I do get the surgery, how long the recovery will be. How long would I have to be out of school? The pain is so bad because of the pressure on the nerves that run down my right leg that I know that if I need the surgery, I can't wait until summer vacation. Any teachers out there who have gone through a discectomy?
  • I had backache for nearly 20 years and the gaps between relief were getting shorter until I found myself unable to get out of bed, I had private healthcare from my company and decided to see a specialist,the first thing was an MRI scan, all new to me as you can tell 20 years with backache says I'm not a liker of the doctor's, the result was I needed a discectomy which he performed one week later, I was also told that it would take 6 weeks to recover and I should carry out my physio exercises regularly and not sit around to much, after my 2 hr op and 2 days in hosptal I felt like a million dollers and could not believe the new me, I immidiately went about life like a teenager reborn, I returned to work after 2 weeks for my collegues to marvel at my rejuvnated body, here i am after 4 weeks lying flat out in bed typing and unable to get out of bed, i am to embarressed to contact the surgeon as i have undone the great work which he did. my advice to all is if you feel like Fred Astaire after your op, be extremely careful for at least 6 weeks despite how great you feel and do as the experts recomend.
  • Had discectomy last Monday L5/S1 for ruptered disc. Doc said disc was calcified and nerve was wrapped around it so had to really dig around to get it all out. Good that it was calcified but bad that nerve was wrapped, good that I have heavy muscle banding in lower back due to years of weight lifting, bad becasue those muscles are tramatized with surgery. After surgery PAIN WENT FROM LEVEL 4 TO LEVEL 20, Beaware you can get ALOT worse before you start to get better. I wasn't expecting that and I am no slacker. Have VERY heavy, daily lifting business and to be limited to 10 lbs for 2 months is going to be really tough. I have resumed life at 1 week out of necessity, have no help, but am severly limited, stamina is nill and I have to lay down during the day and I sleep 10 full hours a night. I am BEAT!! Be prepared to be out of it and heavily reliant on pain meds.
  • I had a discectomy of the L5-S1 along with a little shaving of the spine. I was told that I could go back to work after the stitches came out which was two weeks after the surgery. HaHaHaHa. It is now 01/03/12, I am still not back to work. The pain is still there and just as bad. My physical therapist believes that I have not completely healed from the surgery so he is afraid that my surgeon is going to stop physical therapy for now. I am concerned because I intercepted a letter from my surgeon to my work explaining that I would be fully recovered 90 days post op. That is in 30 days and I don't think I am going to make that. I had my pain management doctor reduce my pain medication and boy was that a mistake. I see him next week and we are going to have a serious conversation.
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