Concerned About Your Herniated Disk?
Spinal injuries or conditions can cause long-term pain that can hamper daily activities. A herniated disk is one of the more common conditions. About 2% of adult Americans over 30 will have a herniated disk, and the injury is especially common in males. If a doctor decides to remove the disk, the process will require some recovery time. Recovery time means time away from work. So what happens during the removal, and how long is recovery?
Why you need treatment
The spine has several bones called vertebrae. Between each bone is a fibrous disk, which helps with flexibility and shock absorption. These disks can shift out of place due to injury, obesity, age, or degeneration. Resting on nerves can cause pain in the back and extremities, depending on the location of the disk. A herniated disk causes debilitating pain and discomfort. Moreso, if all non-surgical treatment has failed, a diskectomy or disk removal is the next logical step.
Out with the old
There are several ways to remove the herniated disk. The type of surgery depends on both the location and degree of damage. Doctors complete the procedure using minimally invasive techniques. In most cases, the surgeon removes the portion of the disk that’s pressing on the surrounding nerves. Using small tools and even smaller incisions, the surgeon can operate on the damaged disk in short order.
Other useful surgical techniques
Some procedures require complete removal of the disk, which is then replaced by an artificial disk. This may be an open procedure or minimally invasive, depending on the location of the disk. The surgery may also be combined with spinal fusion. The surgeon fuses the two vertebrae using metal plates, making a healthier spine. Surgery for a herniated disk has a high success rate, but each has recovery times.
On the road to recovery
After removing the disk, the patient must go through a strict recovery period. Recovery ensures the best results from the procedure. The patient will have instructions to manage pain. Further, there will be a combination of rest and some physical therapy to strengthen the spine. From the first to the third weeks of recovery, the patient will gradually increase movement while monitoring pain. From the fourth week, there will be a significant improvement. The patient should be able to resume activities, including work. With proper care, a 4-week timeline is a safe recovery period.
There is a caveat
Some patients feel better after as little as 3 weeks and return to a desk job or other sedentary work. The back can still heal in the 4th week while the patient benefits from resuming work. However, if the job requires heavy lifting, bending, or movement, working before 4 weeks is not recommended. These patients may need additional weeks to heal. Follow the advice of the surgeon, who will confirm if work is safe.
Back to work in no time
Herniated disks can be painful. If both doctor and patient decide on surgery, there are some long-term benefits. However, recovery does take some time. In most cases, patients can resume activities in as little as 4 weeks. However, this depends on the type of work. Speak with the surgeon for sound advice and a healthier, pain-free spine.