Herniated disc surgery can take different forms and the recovery process will vary based on the type of surgery you undergo. Naturally, the more invasive the surgery, the longer and more arduous rehabilitation can be. Regardless of the type of surgery you are considering, be sure to ask your surgeon for a clear, realistic picture of what you can expect during recovery. Obviously, no doctor can predict the future and there will always be the risk of unforeseen obstacles and complications. However, making the decision to undergo herniated disc surgery is a commitment not just to the surgery itself, but to all that follows as you heal and regain your mobility. So, the most important thing to do is to educate yourself, be prepared, and stay positive.
Laser Spine Surgery
Laser spine surgery is a form of minimally invasive surgery that uses endoscopic technology to address the herniated disc or other spinal degeneration without a large incision or major soft tissue trauma. No hospitalization is generally required for laser back surgery and patients almost always return home the day of the operation.
After surgery, it is usually necessary to take it easy for a few days, though the majority of patients will be able to walk the day of the procedure. Gradually becoming active again as soon as possible after surgery is often the best way to ease back into your daily routine, but be sure not to overexert yourself, exercise strenuously, or do any other activities that you can’t handle. If an activity causes you severe discomfort, stop immediately and contact your physician or surgeon for advice. Because the incision required for endoscopic herniated disc surgery is usually less than one inch in length, there is a minimal amount of pain and wound healing after surgery, so many people are able to return to work and other normal activities within two weeks.
Open Spine Surgery
Open spine surgery is a different type of procedure that requires a large incision, dissection of muscles and other soft tissues, and possibly implantation of a bone graft and hardware if spinal fusion is necessary. Because of its highly invasive nature, open surgery is usually reserved for patients who are either not candidates for laser spine surgery or whose spinal stability is severely compromised due to an injury or degeneration.
Open spine herniated disc surgery is an inpatient procedure, which means hospitalization is usually required for several days afterward. Once home, patients may need to stay in bed for at least several days, if not longer. Healing of the incision and the connective tissues surrounding the spine can be a long and painful process. Follow-up visits to the hospital will likely be necessary to ensure that the surgical site is healing properly and infection has not set in. If spinal fusion is required, patients will likely need to undergo physical therapy in order to regain mobility when recovering from herniated disc surgery, since the fused section of the spinal column has been permanently immobilized.
When considering any type of surgery, whether endoscopic or open spine, be sure to get multiple opinions from different surgeons to determine if surgery is truly necessary or if other conservative treatments may be available to you.