How Long Will Microdiscectomy Recovery Take?

Most patients find that their back pain is greatly reduced after lumbar decompression surgery.
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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
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Microdiscectomy recovery is a relatively quick process for the majority of patients who undergo the procedure. A patient will usually spend one night in the hospital immediately following the procedure and will then be released if there are no complications. Some doctors recommend resting the back for a period of several weeks, though technically, there have been no changes in the patient’s spine, and he or she can often return to normal activity the following day.

After surgery, the patient needs to remain in the hospital overnight in order to make sure that microdiscectomy recovery is underway. If everything is going well, the patient is released in the morning and is able to return to normal life right away. Studies indicate that resuming normal movement immediately does not adversely affect the patient’s chances of recovery. Despite this, there are some doctors who recommend that a patient not twist or bend for six weeks following the surgery. Patients may also be advised not to lift heavy objects for this same six week period.

Patients that do not show any complications following surgery can be assumed to be completely healed after about six weeks. It is likely, however, that the patient will feel better within a few days. For 90% to 95% of patients, microdiscectomy recovery is permanent. Occasionally, however, the affected disc may rupture again, which can require an additional surgery. A disc that has ruptured twice has a higher risk of rupturing again in the future.

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Microdiscectomy is a surgical procedure used to repair a herniated disc in the spine. The surgery involves the removal of herniated material that causes pain and discomfort by pressing against a nerve or the spinal cord. Microdiscectomy involves a small incision and a microscope that is used to view the surgical process. Microdiscectomy recovery is quicker than recovery from a standard discectomy procedure because it does not cause as much trauma to the patient.

In most cases of a herniated disc, a doctor will wait and see if the condition improves on its own. The patient will usually show improvement in six to 12 weeks. After this period of time, it is unlikely that the condition will correct itself, and a doctor may recommend surgery. Performing surgery on an injury that is older than three to six months may decrease the effectiveness of the surgery, so doctors will usually choose to act quickly once they decide that the condition will not improve on its own.

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Discuss this Article

anon947714
Post 11

I am now two weeks post op of l5-s1 micro discetomy and initially after the surgery, I felt a lot better, but now I am getting the sciatic pain back down the outside of my leg. I'm wondering if it's the nerve regenerating or if the operation didn't work and I am stressing out. Anyone have the same problem or any information about it?

rb30et87
Post 10

@anon331930: I am very interested to see how you are going now. I am about 10 weeks post surgery and still have leg pain. Just in the last two weeks though, I can now stand and walk a lot longer without pain, but is it ever going to get a lot better?

anon935486
Post 9

I am four weeks out as of today for a micro distectomy of the L4-L5. Overall, I feel much better other than my back is tight from wearing a brace after surgery and no twisting or bending.

I have started some light stretches but I am wondering if the stiffness is going to subside. I hope so since it was the main issue I was having prior to surgery.

anon348843
Post 8

I know most stories that find their way to the "web" are horror stories. So far mine is the opposite.

I am a 62 year old man from Spokane, WA who underwent a microdiscectomy nine days ago. I am in good shape and have always had minor back discomfort. Two and a half months ago while reaching and lifting a bulky item, I felt a twinge in my lower back. It wasn't very bad and no sciatica for about seven weeks. Then out of nowhere, I had increasing severe sciatica, numbness and drop foot on my right side. This continued for about two weeks and involved two trips to Urgent Care with muscle relaxant injections. I was able to have my regular physician order an MRI and after it was scheduled, I was referred to a tremendous spinal surgeon, Dr. Benjamin Ling, who saw me two days after the MRI and about a week and a half from the onset of the sciatica. The MRI revealed a herniated disc at the L5-S1 location. After discussion, my surgery was scheduled five days following my initial meeting with the doctor. In that five days, I went to almost a disabled state. The pain was excruciating and by surgery day, I almost could not walk.

Surgery took 1.5 hours. When I awoke in my room in the hospital, slowly by movement I could feel no pain. The next 12 hours involved testing of my walking, etc. I was released 24 hours following surgery. I am now nine days post op and am doing exceptionally well. I have taken two weeks off work to avoid doing something that would set this back. I was off pain meds in four days and only rely on Excedren as my drug of choice. I am not lifting anything over eight pounds, not twisting or bending. I have increased my walks to about two miles in 40 minutes and still have no pain. I am a happy and lucky camper, but recovery is not assured for 6 - 10 weeks, but I am hopeful.

Upon discharge, I asked Dr. Ling what I could expect. The first thing he said was "You are now damaged goods". I thought about it and it was an excellent analysis of what I should attempt in the future. So in summary, up to this point, the surgery was 97 percent successful immediately. I still have minor numbness in my foot, but no sciatica. I see Dr. Ling in five days to have stitches removed and follow up evaluation.

I guess I'll have to come up with a different scheme to get a medical marijuana card.

anon346808
Post 7

I am three days post op for L5-S1 disc rupture with nerve disruption. Conservative therapy lasted six weeks with the microdiscectomy at seven weeks. I had immediate relief when the disc was depressurized by surgery. Most relapses are in two or three weeks, so I am very restricted until then. No bending, lifting, twisting. I can walk 1/4 mile per day divided by three or four times. The doctor said no more than 30-60 minutes sitting, standing or lying down during the day. Good luck to all of us.

anon333957
Post 6

It's my tenth day after my L5-S1 microdiscectomy. It was about one month of having sciatica before surgery. In fact, I did not think that it would need surgery and was on analgesics, gabapentin, lyrica and relaxants until six days before surgery when I had sudden, shooting shocky pain in my back. I think it was the time when disc prolapse occurred. I had an MRI and visited three neurosurgeons. I was shocked that I needed emergency surgery. Finally, I did it.

The pain of sciatica became much better but still numbness and decreased sensations in my left leg. My doctor said it takes up to three months to feel recovery and ordered physiotherapy. That's my experience. I hope it benefits others.

anon332228
Post 5

I just had this procedure yesterday and I feel good as new! (except for the searing pain from the incision and some occasional sciatica that will hopefully subside.) Best wishes to anon331930 and ddljohn in your recoveries. There are likely to be ups and downs during the first few weeks of recovery. The results won't be really manifested until around the four month mark.

anon331930
Post 4

I am two weeks out from my microdiscetomy on my L4/L5 and the pain is worse than before surgery. I was put on a Medrol Dose Pak which helped a little, but I still have pain especially at night. I am frustrated because the doctor cannot give me an answer about the pain. I am scared it did not work.

fify
Post 3

@ddljohn-- You really should give yourself a good six weeks like the article mentioned before jumping to any conclusions. Some people might be feeling better before the six week period but it's not good to generalize this and make it an expectation for everybody.

Microdiscectomy surgery recovery depends on a lot of factors like how bad the hernia was, how much rehab you're doing and how the surgery went. Even if everything else is the same, recovery time will still change from one individual to another because of the way their body works.

So please give yourself time and don't set deadlines as to when you should be better by. But keep in touch with your doctor and update him about the pain and any other issues you might be having.

ddljohn
Post 2

Hi, I had a lumbar microdiscectomy two weeks ago. My doctor had told me before the operation, that I will be feeling much better after a week. But I'm not feeling better, the pain I've been experiencing in my back and leg after the surgery have been consistent.

I've been looking at forums online and other people who have had the surgery also say that they were feeling pretty good in about a week. Do you think that I'm dealing with a complication? Is that why I'm not feeling any better despite being in the second week?

serenesurface
Post 1

When I had a discectomy procedure for a lumbar herniated disc in the late sixties, the technology that is available now wasn't available then. Doctors had to open up and break a bone to get to the area where the disc was ruptured. Healing time was much longer. I remember that even after two months, I had some pain and limited movements. I didn't feel completely normal until much later.

Now, there is something called microdiscectomy surgery which takes place through a small incision. There is no cutting and no breaking taking place. Of course, recovery time is much shorter for that reason. I'm not surprised that people are back up on their feet and are able to do a lot of things in just a few weeks. I wish we had this option when I was younger and had a herniated disc.

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