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What Precautions Should I Take During Discectomy Recovery?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 17, 2024
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During discectomy recovery, it is important to remain somewhat active and to avoid lifting heavy objects. Light exercise such as walking should be done when possible. A discectomy is a spinal surgery in which part of one of the discs that support the spinal vertebrae is removed to avoid painful pressing on nerves. During discectomy recovery you may have to be relatively inactive for two weeks, and it is important to have company so that you don’t become depressed or lonely.

The spine is made up of 24 vertebrae, which sit on top of each other in the S-shaped curvature of the spine. There are discs between each of these vertebrae, which assist the spine during movement and have a soft central portion. When the outer covering of one of these discs ruptures, the soft central portion can press on a nerve emanating from the spinal column and cause pain that may feel like it is coming from your legs. The discectomy operation removes the offending portion of disc and thereby relieves the pain.

There are a few precautions that patients should take during discectomy recovery. Walking is the most important. Not only will walking keep you active during an otherwise inactive period, it will also help to offset the risk of blood clots and lung congestion. The spine is a very important part of the body, and spinal injuries can be aggravated by many different activities. Walking is a form of light exercise that won’t put undue pressure on the spine or surgical wound.

Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Sitting for extended periods of time can be uncomfortable during discectomy recovery, and most people begin to feel discomfort after as little as 15 to 20 minutes. However, if you are comfortable sitting, it is fine to do so.

Lifting is another activity that is to be avoided during discectomy recovery. Lifting will put undue strain on the spine and could impede recovery. During the first two weeks of recovery, patients should avoid lifting objects that are heavier than 10 pounds (4.55 kg). Anybody who needs to lift heavy objects as part of his job may not be able to return to work until four to eight weeks after the discectomy. As a general rule, any activity that causes pain should be stopped.

During discectomy recovery, patients should try to remain in good spirits. During the two weeks following surgery, working is prohibited, so you may find yourself spending a lot of time at home alone. It is important to have visitors as often as possible in order to avoid becoming depressed. Depression can make people less likely to follow instructions given by physiotherapists and doctors, thus prolonging recovery time.

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Discussion Comments
By anon328456 — On Apr 03, 2013

I am on week three post op. Honestly, the first two weeks either be walking or lying down with a little standing. Keep your outlook positive. Pray and eat paleo (to limit inflammation), then progress and live the life you had prior to surgery. Don't look back, but don't be stupid (20 foot snowboard jumps can now be ruled out).

Be positive. Many NFL quarterbacks have come back to dominate (while being smashed by 300 pound defenders). Joe Montana and Troy Aikman were on Super Bowl winning teams!

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