Herniated Disk Surgery for Weakness, Numbness, and Mobility

Herniated disc surgery

Herniated Disc Surgery

Herniated disc surgery may be recommended by your physician if your pain and other symptoms caused by a herniated or bulging disc are not getting better despite attempts to treat the condition without surgery. Herniated disc surgery is also recommended when the following symptoms are present:

  • Numbness in the legs
  • Muscle weakness in the legs
  • Loss of control of the bowels or bladder
  • Problems walking or standing

Many times, herniated disc surgery does not involve the removal of the entire intervertebral disc. The symptoms can be resolved by removing only the part of the disc that is pressing on the spinal cord or nerves.

In cases that do require complete removal of disc is removed, it may be necessary to perform spinal fusion in addition to herniated disc surgery to provide spinal stability. In spinal fusion, surgical hardware like rods, plates, or screws is used to hold the vertebrae in the correct position while healing occurs. Artificial discs are also sometimes used in herniated disc surgery.

Herniated Disc Surgery Procedures

Micro-discectomy

Micro-discectomy herniated disc surgery involves removing all or only a portion of a disc that is damaged. This relieves the symptoms of a bulging or herniated disc because it removes the pressure placed on the spinal cord or nerves caused by the gel-like center of the disc that is bulging or leaking out of the disc’s rim.

Your doctor may recommend micro-discectomy herniated disc surgery in the following cases:

  • You have tried non-surgical treatments for a herniated disc for at least six weeks, and the treatments have been unsuccessful
  • Your symptoms of a herniated disc make it difficult for you to walk or stand
  • Your pain is so severe it interferes with your ability to perform your daily tasks
  • A portion of the ruptured disc becomes entrapped in the spinal canal

Micro-discectomy herniated disc surgery requires a tiny incision through the skin on your back in the area of the herniated disc. A small microscope is used with small instruments to remove the herniated portions of the disc without removing any other tissues other than possibly a small section of the vertebrae’s joints.   

This herniated disc surgery does not alter the basic spinal structure and it is considered a safe procedure, but like any spinal surgery, certain risks are possible.

Potential risks associated with micro-discectomy herniated disc surgery:

  • Damage to the nerves or blood vessels of or close to the spine
  • Damage to the spine’s protective tissues
  • Spinal fluid leakage
  • Excessive blood loss
  • Infection

How to prepare for herniated disc surgery

Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your herniated disc surgery. This may include not being able to eat or drink for several hours before your operation. You may be asked to take your medication the morning of your herniated disc surgery with only a tiny sip of water. Be sure to ask your surgeon if you have any questions or concerns about preparing for your surgery for a herniated disc.  

What to expect during herniated disc surgery

Most of the time, a general anesthetic is used for herniated disc surgery. This means you will be asleep for your procedure. An intravenous (IV) line is typically inserted in the patient’s arm or hand and medication is given through this tube to help make you sleepy. You will also most likely to be asked to breathe through a mask. The mask may smell like plastic.

After herniated disc surgery

When your herniated disc surgery is completed, you will wake up in a recovery area where nurses will monitor you until your condition is stable and your can return to your room. Depending on your condition, physician, and what herniated disc surgery was performed, you may stay in the hospital a few days or you might go home later on the day of surgery.

Your surgeon will be given specific instructions for you to following discharge from the hospital, but generally, instructions following herniated disc surgery include:

  • No bending or stooping over for four to six weeks after herniated disc surgery
  • No lifting anything heavier than one-half gallon of milk for four to six weeks after herniated disc surgery
  • No periods of prolonged sitting for four to six weeks following herniated disc surgery
  • No driving or operating heavy equipment for at least four to six weeks following herniated disc surgery

When you can return to work after herniated disc surgery will be decided by your surgeon. If you work at a job that is physically intense, you may need to several weeks (6 to 8) to recover.

In addition to these instructions, many patients are also referred to a physical therapist after herniated disc surgery to help regain flexibility and strength in their back and strength in their abdominal muscles. These exercises not only will help you recover faster after herniated disc surgery, they can also help you prevent further episodes of herniated or bulging discs.