A herniated disc is painful and significantly impacts one’s quality of life, especially when it comes as a result of a motor vehicle accident or another person’s negligent act. This is because the physiological effects of having to have a herniated disc procedure can be just as painful as the injury in question. The best way to prepare for the physical and psychological recovery from the surgery is to know more about the injury, procedures used during the surgery and the recovery process.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “A herniated disk refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine.” Think of your spinal disc like a jelly donut that has s oft interior with a hard exterior. When the soft “jelly” inside the discs pushes though the harder outside shell, you suffer a herniated or ruptured disk.
Because this happens in your spine, this is not an injury to take lightly. The spine not only keeps us upright and from turning into blobs of jelly, but it allows for numerous important functions to occur throughout the body. A herniated disc can be present with no symptoms, and it may not need surgical intervention. But, when it gets to the point of surgery, it is important to know what to expect.
The Most Common Symptoms of Herniated Disk
- Arm or Leg Pain
- Numbness or Tingling
- Weakness in You Extremities
If these symptoms are present, you will need surgery. There are a number of different types of herniated disk surgeries that can require different methods based on the nature of your injury. These surgeries are:
- Open Discectomy (Most Common)
- Endoscopic micro discectomy
- Percutaneous discectomy
In general, the surgeries will remove the herniated portion (jelly) of the disk that has escaped the harder exterior and close the harder exterior. The surgery is generally minimally invasive, however, with larger herniations, a different part of the spine may be removed to relive the pressure caused by the herniation. To learn more, watch his video.
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Recovering from a herniated disc procedure can take time and patience. You may spend some time in the hospital after the procedure, but you will be up and walking right away. In addition, you will be restricted in the amount of bending, twisting, and lifting you can do to avoid further disruption to healing. Moreover, your doctor will want to see you shortly after the surgery. Generally this is about a week or so post-operation to see your progress healing, and to remove any stitches or staples that may have been used. You may get further instructions at that point.
In addition to your initial recovery in the hospital and seeing the doctor, you will want to be careful at home and in returning to work. You will want to to limit excessive movement at home, to let your body heal. And you will want to discuss how long you should wait until returning to work with your doctor. If you have a job that requires sitting, like a secretary, you may be out a couple of weeks. But more strenuous or physically demanding jobs may take more time to return. In addition, you may be on pain medications, which would take away your ability to drive a car. You must take this into consideration in attempting other tasks. Safety and a good recovery is key.
Some Things You Can Do at Home
- Move groceries, toiletries, and other supplies to places between the level of your hip and shoulder where you can reach them without bending over.
- Make sure someone can drive you around for one to two weeks after surgery and to help with chores and errands.
- Buy a pair of slip-on shoes with closed backs to make dressing easier and to minimize bending over.
- Short frequent walks each day may reduce your pain as well as speed your recovery.
Along with home care, you may need physical therapy during your recovery process to work with flexibility, strengthening, and other aspects of furthering your healing to get you to 100%. Again, this is something to discuss with your doctor. Also consider speaking with a therapist if this was caused by a trauma, as it will help you work through the entire process from injury inception through recovery. This website is a good resource to show you what to expect in recovery for each procedure. Take the time to know what you have, what to expect during surgery and recovery, and to follow all instructions in order to experience a pain free life.