A lumbar microdiscectomy is one of several treatment options for a lumbar herniated disc.

See Treatment Options for a Lumbar Herniated Disc

A microdiscectomy is more effective for treating leg pain than lower back pain. Watch: Lumbar Microdiscectomy Surgery Video

This procedure involves removing the portion of your disc that is irritating a nerve root, which in turn may relieve your pain. Our video walk-through can help you better understand how this surgical procedure works.

See How Microdiscectomy Surgery Is Performed

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Video highlights

The above image pictures the proximity of a vertebral disc (pictured in blue) to the nerve roots (pictured in yellow).

See Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain

If your disc herniates and impinges on your nearby nerve, it may cause severe leg pain.

See Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

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

See Microdiscectomy (Microdecompression) Spine Surgery

The procedure

To access your herniated disc, your surgeon will begin by making a small incision in the midline of your lower back.

See Lumbar Spine Anatomy and Pain

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

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

See Spinal Cord and Spinal Nerve Roots

Your surgeon may also remove a piece of your facet joint (depicted above in purple). This will enable access to your nerve root and alleviate any stress your facet joint may be placing on the nerve.

Watch Facet Joints Video

The above image shows the disc herniation (in red) impinging on the nerve (in yellow), which may be the cause of your pain. Your surgeon will move your nerve root to the side and then remove your unhealthy, herniated disc material. Your surgeon will leave the healthy portion of your disc intact.

See Lumbar Herniated Disc Symptoms

The recovery

Once the pressure on your nerve is relieved, it will begin to immediately heal. Additionally, relief from your leg pain is typically immediate. However, it may take several weeks or months for your nerve root to completely heal; so you may have lingering numbness or weakness.

See Microdiscectomy Spine Surgery: Risks, Complications, and Success Rates

Thankfully, recovery from lumbar microdiscectomy surgery is typically easy—with most patients returning to normal activities quickly.

See Postoperative Care for Lumbar Microdiscectomy Surgery

Learn more:

Nonsurgical Treatments for a Lumbar Herniated Disc

Pain Management After Microdiscectomy Surgery