Your life has been recently upended by the negative effects from sciatica or pinched nerve pain, so making the decision to undergo microdiscectomy may just be the key to taking your life back. As with any surgery, despite its minimally invasive nature, you should be fully prepared for your microdiscectomy recovery to ensure success. Although it may slow you down a bit post-op, following these tried-and-true recommendations will have you back to your old self in no time.
Don’t Overdo It
It may be tempting to go ahead and take advantage of your newfound comfort and mobility, but it’s imperative that you keep your physical activity level on the schedule your surgeon and/or physical therapist has laid out for you if you wish to have a proper microdiscectomy recovery.
- The average microdiscectomy recovery period is six weeks. Remind yourself how long you were experiencing discomfort when you start to feel impatient with the recovery time.
- Be mindful of your movements — jerky or quick movements can cause damage to the healing muscles and soft tissues and put strain on sutures. Wear clothing that doesn’t require excessive reaching or tugging and has simple-to-use closures. Try to be especially kind to your neck and don’t strain or move it too suddenly.
- Low-impact walking is a great way to get some exercise while recovering. Just don’t “power walk” (swinging your arms in an exaggerated manner and taking larger strides) or do anything that will create any sort of strain on your spine. Slow, relaxed swimming is also acceptable once your wound has completely healed — again, avoid using any technique that will have you reaching and pulling too much, or turning your head and neck from side-to-side rapidly.
- You can begin to resume your daily activities, such as personal grooming and very light housekeeping, but don’t do anything that might impact your microdiscectomy recovery. This includes lifting any object over 5 to 8 pounds or carrying cumbersome loads, even if they’re lighter in weight.
- Driving is usually permissible, typically within one or two weeks after your surgery, as long as you are off all prescription pain medicine.
Personal Care and Cleaning the Surgical Site
Keeping your external surgical incision clean is of great importance as the inside begins to heal. Inner sutures should be absorbable, meaning as the site heals, they will slowly be dissolved by your body. External sutures are likely not present — be sure to ask, but there are likely tiny strips of surgical tape holding the wound closed. These will eventually fall away on their own — don’t be tempted to peel them off. Your surgeon may or may not have used tissue glue at the incision site, so it is a good idea to understand how to care for this site to prevent infection.
- You can resume bathing if your wound looks good after about 48 hrs, but you should stick to brief showers only. Do not immerse the wound in a bath, pool or hot-tub until given the OK by your surgeon.
- If your incision gets wet while showering, gently blot-dry it with a clean, soft, dry towel.
- Check your incision daily. If it appears to be excessively red, swollen or is hot to the touch, contact your doctor. The same goes for any unusual discharge.
- Change any dressings or bandages as directed by your doctor.
Your doctor will help you determine which medications would be safest for pain relief from both the procedure and daily aches and pains. Certain medications can interfere with clotting and bone fusion, such as ibuprofen (typically under the name brands of Advil or Motrin) or regular aspirin. Be sure to discuss any other drugs that might also be contraindicated during your recovery period.
Eat, Sleep and Breathe
While your body is hard at work healing, it is especially important to provide it with the nutrition it needs to do so successfully. Choosing foods with a good level of protein will help your muscle and soft tissue start you on the road to a full microdiscectomy recovery. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits will also go a long way toward helping with the recovery process, as well as foods rich in calcium, which will help with bone development. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Receiving enough quality sleep is also very important during the recovery period. Try to get between seven and nine hours of restful, comfortable sleep each night. If you find yourself tiring during the day, go ahead and take a break. Your body is letting you know it needs to rest.
Many people don’t realize this, but smoking (or breathing secondhand smoke) can be detrimental to the microdiscectomy recovery process. If you smoke, consider quitting before surgery and certainly avoid being around secondhand smoke. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor if you’re a smoker or live with someone who smokes.
Working Toward Recovery
Within the span of one to three months after your surgery, your doctor will have you begin physical therapy. This will help increase your range of motion and strengthen the muscles in and around your spine and other parts of your body. Be sure that you are able to keep all of your physical therapy appointments — they’re incredibly important.
Although the above guide is nowhere near exhaustive, it will put you on the right track for a successful and full microdiscectomy recovery, so that you can start taking back your life from pinched nerve/sciatica pain.