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Microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive surgery, making recovery from back or neck surgery a less daunting proposition. Nonetheless, it’s vital that you follow your surgeon’s orders and recommendations to ensure a swift and uneventful recovery.

Knowing when and what to expect of your microdiscectomy recovery time helps you stay on course and avoid injuries or setbacks. While everyone heals at a different rate, there are certain markers for different phases of your recovery that help indicate where you are in the process.

The Day Before Your Microdiscectomy

Be sure you get enough sleep so you are well-rested. You will need to take extra rest after your surgery, too, to ensure your body has enough time and energy to heal.  

Follow your doctor’s orders for eating and drinking the night before surgery. In many instances, you’ll be instructed to consume nothing after midnight. If you have issues such as hypoglycemia, be sure to make your doctor aware of these prior to your microdiscectomy. If you take medications, find out if your doctor would like you to take them as usual, or wait until after surgery.

Pack a small bag containing a change of clothing (choose items that don’t require a lot of effort to get into or out of and won’t require you raise your arms above your head or extend them behind your back). You will probably spend the night in the hospital following your procedure.

Arrange for transportation ahead of time so you won’t have to worry about getting to and from the surgical center.

Day 1

This is the first day of your journey toward relief from your disc issues! Be sure to arrive ahead of the appointed time. This will allow you to fill out additional paperwork or address last-minute details that need to be taken care of.

Many discectomies take 1 – 2 hours, however, depending on the damage or complexity, this time estimate may be a little higher.

Once out of surgery you will be moved to recovery to allow the anesthesia time to wear off. You will be constantly monitored during this time. You may also receive pain medication if it appears that it is needed. Once the recovery nurses have determined that you are adequately awake and stable, you will be given food and encouraged to walk around.  The staff will check your wound, ask you if your pain is under control, and want to see that you are able to urinate.  Once these things are accomplished you may have the opportunity to go home or you may transition to a hospital room to spend one night.

Week 1

It’s not uncommon to tire easily. Rest as needed to support your body’s healing processes.

You can expect your back to feel stiff or achy. This is normal and will begin to resolve as time passes. If pain does not resolve with medication, call your doctor right away.

Driving should be avoided for at least the first 1 – 2 weeks. Turning your head or sitting in one position too long can put strain on the surgical repair, no matter where along your spine the surgery was performed. You should not lift anything weighing over 5 lbs (or the amount as advised by your surgeon). Modified exercise such as gentle walking is a great option.

Pain or discomfort may be pronounced if you sit or stand in one position for too long. Make an effort to move around hourly. You may begin to feel itching or pulling of your skin where the incision is. This is normal; the skin is starting to grow back together. If there is pain, heat, swelling or excessive redness, contact your doctor immediately.

You will be able to shower 2-3 days after surgery. Be sure to thoroughly pat dry your incision site. If there is tape or glue present, leave it in place.

Weeks 2 – 6

You should be feeling less pain and find your energy level returning. Depending on the nature of your job, you may be able to start back to work or resume many of your daily activities. You may notice that you have greater flexibility in the area(s) that had been impacted by the damaged disc(s). Nerve root damage can take a while to heal, so don’t be impatient if you’re not experiencing full relief.

Your incision is well on its way to being healed; you will still need to be gentle with it. A three and six-week checkup may be scheduled; be sure to attend these appointments to gain insight into your progress.

Weeks 7 – 12

You can expect a transition back to most or all of your normal activities. Your physician may advise you to adopt a lifestyle that avoids really high impact activities or the lifting of large amounts of weight depending on the specifics of your condition and your life situation. Pain should have subsided at this point; you may still find that there is minor discomfort, but if you’re experiencing true pain, you should consult your doctor.

As stated before, microdiscectomy recovery time is different for each individual. The above is just a general guide to what to expect along your road to freedom from the pain or other symptoms caused by a damaged disc.

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