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Home » Patient Education » Five Signs You Need Lumbar Discectomy

Five Signs You Need Lumbar Discectomy

The lumbar (lower) spine is such a common area for conditions such as herniated and bulging discs to develop. This is because the lower back is responsible for supporting the weight of the upper body, while still being flexible enough for normal movement. As a result of these forces combined with natural aging, the discs begin to deteriorate. 

Lumbar disc conditions are common, and while they don’t always cause symptoms, they can be a source of debilitating pain if a nearby nerve becomes compressed. A lumbar discectomy is a form of spine surgery that can relieve symptoms and dysfunction related to herniated discs, bulging discs, and other conditions. However, any type of spine surgery is a major decision and should be made on an informed basis. 

To help you understand if spine surgery such as lumbar discectomy may be right for you, we’re happy to share the following guide. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact the USA Spine Care team. We’re here to help. 

  1. You have a lumbar spinal disc condition 

Lumbar discectomy can treat disc conditions that are causing nerve compression and potential instability in the spinal column. One of the most common conditions is a herniated disc. This is when the soft inner disc material of a spinal disc pushes out through a tear or weak point in the tougher outer layer. 

Another condition is a bulging disc. Which is when the disc is still intact, but degeneration causes it to bulge out of its normal position in the spinal column. 

The goal of lumbar discectomy is to access the disc and remove damaged disc material that is the source of painful symptoms. 

  1. This condition is causing back pain and other symptoms that are reducing your quality of life

Lumbar disc conditions are very common, and for many patients cause little or no pain. However, if displaced disc material causes narrowing in the spinal column, nearby nerves can become compressed and irritated. 

This can result in the following symptoms that can have a serious impact on your ability to perform daily activities:

  • Back pain
  • Shooting pains into the lower body
  • Leg pain 
  • Muscle weakness and spasms
  • Tingling and numbness in the extremities
  1. You have fully explored conservative treatment options

Many patients with serious pain related to a lumbar disc condition still find relief through conservative, nonsurgical therapies, including:

  • Rest
  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication
  • Receiving corticosteroid injections
  • Undergoing physical therapy

Lumbar discectomy can start to become a serious consideration if weeks or months go by without bringing the relief necessary for a good quality of life. 

  1. Symptoms persist despite making lifestyle changes

Another important step to consider before undergoing any type of spine surgery is to fully commit to a healthy lifestyle. Factors such as poor posture, smoking, being overweight, an overly sedentary lifestyle, and even an inflammatory diet can all contribute to disc-related pain. 

By combining conservative therapies with a spine-healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a healthy anti-inflammatory diet, proper posture, and other steps, many patients can achieve long-term relief and a return to daily activities. 

  1. You are a suitable candidate for spine surgery

If conservative treatments and a spine-healthy lifestyle have been fully explored, patients considering lumbar discectomy should expect to undergo a full evaluation to determine if they are a good potential candidate for surgery. This will include the following steps:

  • Full medical screening and review of health history
  • Diagnostic testing to confirm the presence of an operable lumbar disc condition
  • A physical evaluation to determine ability to undergo surgery 

In many cases, patients can undergo lumbar discectomy on an outpatient basis, thanks to the development of advanced, minimally invasive techniques. Any patient considering lumbar discectomy should discuss this possibility with their prospective surgeon. 

Learn more about back pain relief when you reach out to USA Spine Care today

If you are dealing with serious back pain related to a lumbar disc condition, the caring and dedicated team at USA Spine Care & Orthopedics can help. No matter where you are on your treatment journey, from exploring conservative therapies to considering lumbar discectomy, our experienced clinical professionals can guide you through the creation of a personalized treatment plan. 

Contact us today to learn more. 

Lumbar Discectomy Quick Answers

What is lumbar discectomy?

Lumbar discectomy describes a spine surgery procedure that involves removing all or part of a damaged spinal disc in the lumbar, or lower, spinal region. Common conditions that this type of surgery treats include bulging discs, herniated discs, and spondylolisthesis. A lumbar discectomy can be performed on its own as a decompression procedure or as part of fusion surgery. 

Is lumbar discectomy major surgery?

As the procedure involves accessing the spine through an incision and removing damaged disc material, any type of lumbar discectomy is considered major surgery. This is particularly true if the surgeon needs to perform a fusion to stabilize the surrounding vertebrae. Due to advances in surgical technology and technique, it is possible to perform lumbar discectomy on a minimally invasive basis that allows for an outpatient procedure and a shorter recovery period. 

How painful is a lumbar discectomy?

Lumbar discectomy is always performed under anesthesia, so the procedure itself is not painful. Some amount of pain and soreness is normal during the recovery period. The surgical team will provide detailed instructions for managing and minimizing postoperative pain. 

How long does it take to recover from a lumbar discectomy?

The recovery time for lumbar discectomy varies on a patient-by-patient basis depending on the exact type of procedure and other factors such as patient age and health. Typically, patients can expect to resume activities within a period of six to 12 weeks. Minimally invasive techniques that limit muscle disruption can potentially shorten recovery times for patients. 

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