There are different types of lumbar surgeries, with different degrees of severity. The type of surgery, and components used are also continually revised and updated as technology continues to advance in our society. In my opinion, in most cases conservative care such as Physical Therapy should be tried first. If pain persists, then consider surgery as an option.
If you have pain down your legs stemming from your back, currently there are space creating surgeries to assist with offloading the nerves, such as Laminectomies and Foraminotimies. source
Most of the time these surgeries are outpatient, and physical therapy following the surgery is not always ordered. However, it is your job to maintain that newly created space around your nerve. So, you still have to figure out what caused the decrease in space in the first place. Was it muscle imbalances? Do you have too much segmental hypermobility causing nerve irritation? Could you benefit from some lumbar stabilization? These are important questions to have answered so you do not end up with similar or worse pain in the future.
There are also surgeries for your discs. Some advanced non invasive surgeries involve an outpatient procedure including a laser to assist with disc repair and blood flow stimulation.
Another disc surgery is a discectomy, where your disc herniation and part of the disc are removed decreasing low back and nerve pain. This can be performed openly, or arthroscopicly. However, remember the surgeon will not repair the nerve. Sometimes a decrease in the nerve pain is not immediate. During surgery, the surgeon took the injury off the nerve, but the nerve still has to heal. This healing process may take months to resolve, and is normal.
Following a discectomy, you are allowed to go home after awakening and recovering from being under general anesthesia. At home, you will be able to walk as tolerated in small amounts. For the first day, you will be able to tolerate small walks to your bathroom or just around your house. Then you will slowly be able to increase the amount of walking. You should avoid standing in one spot for too long (AKA washing the dishes). Good excuse, eh? You should also avoid bending at the waist or through your back (forever if you can). At this time you should also avoid lifting objects, and twisting through your back.
If you don’t have a very active job you can usually return to work in a couple of weeks. If your job is active, or you are an athlete, you are looking at closer to two to three months or more depending on your healing, until you are able to be more active.
Typically you won’t be able to drive for a week or two following surgery.
It would be in your best interest to go to PT and learn lumbar stabilization exercises and appropriate stretches to keep you feeling pain free, as well as preventative tips such as avoiding slouching while sitting (to avoid nerve irritation), and proper lifting techniques.
Maxey, Magnusson. Rehabilitation for the Postsurgical Orthopedic Patient. Mosby, Missouri. 2207.
For more information see these links:
For more about risks see: Lumbar Discectomy
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Next up is Spinal Fusion.