When patients are diagnosed with a herniated disc and make plans to undergo corrective surgery, they’ll often make reference to ‘taking it easy’ or using the time to catch up on television shows, movies or books. Though it may be tempting to dream of sitting back and playing the couch potato, the truth is that when you’re recovering from a microdiscectomy, you’re generally much better off staying mobile and getting back into the swing of things.
A microdiscectomy is a procedure that we frequently perform at our New Jersey spine practice. It is a minimally invasive solution that we turn to when more conservative approaches fail, and it is done through an extremely small incision. The small instruments that we use and the small incision that we make means less damage to muscle and tissue, and this means a faster and easier recovery that can be further enhanced by doing stretching and strengthening exercises.
What kind of exercises do we recommend for patients following herniated disc surgery? Patients have shown tremendous benefit from walking, biking and swimming, and those who engage in these activities report that they’ve been able to return to their normal activity level and routine. That being said, we strongly urge patients not to push themselves too much. We start them out walking only short distances for the first week or two after their surgery, starting with walking around their home, then down the block and back. After the first two weeks of their recovery period, we encourage them to increase their distance until they are able to walk for a period of between half an hour and an hour.
For those who feel that this level of activity seems like too much, a study in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders reported that those patients who engaged in this type of activity were able to return to work far sooner than those who restricted their activity and spent their time on the couch or in bed.
There is no question that patients need to use caution and follow physician’s orders with reference to resuming their activities. If your health was not good prior to surgery or the pain from your herniated disc kept you from exercising, you need to proceed slowly, and even the healthiest patients need to avoid lifting anything that weighs five pounds or more, as well as any type of bending or twisting. There’s a big difference between going for a gentle walk and engaging in an activity that is liable to cause you pain. It’s essential that you use common sense, and when in doubt either avoid an activity or call our office and seek guidance. You do not want to do anything that causes you pain, and at the first sign of discomfort you need to recognize it as your body telling you that you’re doing too much.
If you’d like more information on the surgery and recovery period for repair of a herniated disc, contact our office today. We’ll get you set up with a convenient appointment and get you back on the road to recovery.