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How long on average is recovery from lumbar discectomy?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:31 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all, I am going for an L2 discectomy on May 28. The NS mentioned that the disc herniation is in an unusual place, not easily accessible, so he will have to make a 4 inch cut to be able to move more muscles around. He said that the full recovery is about one month. I've been told that doctors usually underestimate the recovery time. For those of you who underwent this type of surgery, how long did it take you to go back to everyday tasks with no problem? I have to figure out how much of sick time I will need from work. I work almost all day at a computer, but I am thinking of driving back and forth, stairs, sitting, etc.
I know this is a relatively simple surgery compared to what some of you went or are going through...but to me is still frightening...
Thank you so much and God bless you all!


  • I had 2 microdisectomies at L5S1: the first one-should had been 2-4 week recovery; 2nd at the same spot--6 weeks.

    I have an 1-1.5 inch scar and it is healed; however, at 6wks I still cannot sit longer than 30 min. or my leg and foot start to tingle which scare me. Perhaps you can return to work after 4 weeks but you should get up every 30-60 min. to get the pressure off your disc.

    It is hard to give your employer a definitive return date after surgery. It is just wait and see because every one heals at a different rate.

    Good luck!
  • My surgery info is below. Lovinggardener is right about getting up and walking around as much as possible when you do go back to work. Sitting puts a lot of pressure on the lumbar spine. Perhaps it would be best for your recovery to ask for 6 weeks; if you can go back sooner, great! Good luck on the 28th.
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  • My docs want to do an ESI now, even though they haven't difinitively decided whether I had a reherniation or have scar tissue displacing my L5 nerve root. I feel at best, the way I did before surgery...God help us all.
  • I had an ALIF L5-S1 for spondolythesis,pinched root nerve, on 2-9-09 after trying everything available,the epidurals, facet joint injections,physical therapy, etc. The surgery and early recovery seemed normal from what I have read here.By week 5 post-op I was taking only tylenol and feeling only minor stiffness and soreness. This lasted only 5 days.I woke up one morning and felt terrible. I had to go back on my valium and hydrocone,I assumed was minor set back and would recover after a few days.Long story short,2 weeks later called NS and he agreed was just a set back and prescribe muscle relaxer to go with other meds.Over the next 2 weeks went through robaxin(no help) then soma. Have been on soma twice a day,valium twice a day, neurontin 4 times a day and hydrocodone 2-3 times a day for 8 weeks now and not feeling much improvement.Had to return to work last week after 3 month med. leave. NS says pains are from muscles and nerves working from "new" position since he raised and repositioned my spine and pain would go away when they get use to new positions. I see NS in about 1 week for X-ray and follow up.This has been 13 weeks of pain, anyone had similar experience? How long before you felt normal?
  • Everyone recovers differently & at their own rate, however I can tell you that I walked up 40 stairs (I live on the top floor) when I got out of the hospital (3 days post-op) and it didn't take me much longer than it did pre-injury & I wasn't in pain. I was actually slower pre-surgery due to the foot drop. My PT at the hospital taught me how to go up/down them before I could be released from the hospital. As of today I'm 20 days post-op today & feeling pretty well...although sitting isn't fun. -I can't do more than a half an hour or so. Would it be possible for you to telecommute on your home computer after your surgery??? I wasn't allowed to drive until 2 weeks post-op & today it's still bugs my incision and of course I can't drive too far due to the sitting. Also, I brace myself & suck in my abs when turning, so it's quite a work out LOL.

    Good luck with your surgery! Keep us posted on how it goes. :D
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  • Thank you all for sharing your post-surgery experience. It's true that it all depends on the individual case. What I gather from all of you is that I should give it a good 6 weeks. I am glad for those of you who recovered well. On the other side, I am not sure what causes some people to feel the same pain or worse after surgery, sometimes it starts again after awhile, I've heard that a lot. I just hope that I am not going to feel worse than now.
    I wish you all a full recovery, for sure we need a lot of patience and strength. I feel stronger with your support, this is a great place to help one another. I will post an update after the surgery. Thank you and good luck to all!
  • Let me say this (without knowing the severity of your condition at L2),....feel blessed that it is not at any other levels AND please change your movement habits regarding your back. ANYONE on here would give their right arm to not have their problems with L3/4, L4/5 and/or L5/S1. You may feel great a month after surgery and we all hope you do, but please use this experience as a "warning." I sure as hell wish I had a "warning" shot before hurting myself more. Sorry, I didn't mean to seem like I was lecturing. I am just so damn mad that I didn't avoid a back injury.

    I wish you all the best with your surgery!

    P.S. Ask your surgeon how he intends on avoiding scar tissue from encasing the nerve root during healing. This is VERY important. Many excellent surgeries can FAIL due to this and there are gels, lipids and possible methods that can aid in the prevention. Make sure he answers this question to your satisfaction.

    Take care!
  • For my L4-L5 md, it took me about 3-4 weeks, but my procedure was not as involved as yours sounds.

    For my L5-S1, it was about 6 weeks.

    Good luck and looking forward to your post-op updates.
    I hope it goes smooth and steady.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • I just had the surgery you are going in for this past Wednesday. I made a deal with my boss to do some paperwork from home and the way I feel today that is not going to be a problem. I had four discs fused, rods, screws and spacers and I am in less pain today than I was on Tuesday. Needless to say, I really needed the surgery. It is hard to say how long your recovery will be and I tend to heal fast. Had an ACDF done last summer and was back to work in a week. I suspect this time I will be out of work for two weeks this time. Good luck and know that it all will turn out well.
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