Herniated Disc Surgery

Has herniated disc surgery been recommended for your bulging disc? Surgery for lower back pain or sciatica should always be an option of last resort. What is involved with disc surgery and what type of recovery can you expect?

What is a Herniated Disc?

low back bulging disc

The spine is comprised of bony vertebrae separated by discs. The discs help to provide cushioning as well as allow for movement of the spine. Discs are comprised of a jelly like center called the nucleus and a fibrous ring called the annulus. A herniated or bulging disc is when the jelly like nucleus begins to leak out of the center.

The disc most often bulges posteriorally and laterally. If the size of the bulge is big enough and in the right location, it can pinch the spinal nerve, causing sciatica symptoms to radiate into the leg.

When Should Herniated Disc Surgery Be Performed?

Typical conservative treatment is highly successful for treating disc bulges. Conservative treatment generally involves anti-inflammatory and pain medication, muscle relaxers, physical therapy, and epidurals. Less than 10% of those with a bulging disc ever require surgery. If a long course of conservative treatment fails and significant back pain, sciatica pain, or muscle weakness continues, herniated disc surgery may be a an option.

What is Disc Surgery?

A microdiscectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove part of the disc that is putting pressure on the nerve root. To learn more about the specifics of this procedure, watch this instructional video:

What to Expect Following Surgery

Most herniated disc surgeries involve a small (1 to 1 ½ inch) incision, allowing for minimal post operative pain and early return to movement. Most patients are able to go home the same or next day. Post operative braces are generally not required. Patients are advised to limit bending, lifting, and twisting activities for at least two weeks after surgery. In addition, sitting should be limited to no more than 45 minutes at a time. Driving can generally resume anywhere from three days to a week after surgery. Patients are generally able to return to light work activity after two weeks and most activities including light exercise after six weeks.

Surgery for a herniated disc should be generally only be considered when conservative treatment has failed. The good news is that it is generally a successful surgery. Consider your options carefully before considering any surgical procedure.

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