When a portion of a spinal disc is irritating a nearby nerve root, it’s referred to as a herniated disc, and initial attempts at relief typically involve specially recommended exercises, anti-inflammatory medication, hot and cold therapy, and other conservative remedies. If such treatments aren’t effective or symptoms are severe, a microdiscectomy may be recommended. During the procedure, part of the affected disc is removed to ease pressure on nearby nerve roots. Trusted Los Angeles spine surgeons from The Spine Institute share some of the steps you’ll want to take following this type of surgery.
Get Active as Soon as Possible
Getting some rest immediately following a microdiscectomy or any type of spine-related surgery is necessary to let the surgical site heal. However, there’s research suggesting that becoming active again shortly after part of a spinal disc is removed is better than rest alone. Since less invasive techniques are used with a microdiscectomy and there is usually no need for related fusion surgery when the entire disc isn’t removed, it’s often safe to begin a customized exercise routine soon after the procedure is completed. An appropriate level of activity and exercise post-surgery can:
- Boost the production of the body’s natural painkillers, which are called endorphins
- Restrengthen soft tissues and other structures weakened by surgery
- Increase the flow of nutrients to the affected area, which can speed up the body’s natural healing process
- Reduce the production of chemicals that contribute to inflammation
- Minimize the formation of scar tissue, which can reduce the risk of having an entirely different source of nerve irritation
Find the Right Balance
You’re not going to be able to resume all activities or jump right back into your normal routine shortly after a microdiscectomy. For instance, if you have a physically demanding job, you’ll likely need to avoid or modify certain activities or use assistive devices like lumbar support belts. Ideally, you should find the right balance with your daily routines and preferred exercises. Your doctor or physical therapist can offer general guidelines on how much you can safely do as your recovery advances.
Explore Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises
Strengthening exercises as you recover from herniated disc surgery should target all of the core muscle groups that directly or indirectly support your spine, not just the ones immediately around the area where your surgery took place. Doing the right types of exercises can reduce the risk of issues developing with other parts of your spine as you heal and recover.
Low-impact aerobic exercises are typically recommended following a microdiscectomy. Fortunately, there are many different possibilities with exercises of this nature, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty finding something you can safely do on a regular basis. Options include:
- Casual walking that increases in pace as you recover
- Biking, or stationary biking if you prefer more stability and control over body position
- Swimming, as long as you avoid strokes that strain the area of your back where you had surgery
- Water-based exercises if land-based exercises are too stressful
Note: Check with your doctor to see when it’s appropriate to get back to other activities you might enjoy, such as playing sports or working in your garden.
As you continue to recover from herniated disc surgery, avoid any activities or movements that are too stressful on your spine. Gradually increase your activity level as the affected area of your spine heals. Be just as mindful of your posture and daily exercise and diet habits to keep your spine and its supporting muscle groups as healthy as possible, and let your doctor know if you experience any unusual or new discomfort.
In addition to herniated disc surgery, there are a wide array of surgical procedures designed to alleviate chronic spine pain, including traditional fusion surgery and various alternatives to spinal fusion. Los Angeles patients should get in touch with The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757 to learn more and schedule an in-person evaluation.