As you prepare for surgery to treat the bulging disc in your neck or back, you should take the opportunity to research bulging disc surgery recovery. Every recovery is different, and your surgical team should also discuss the guidelines with you prior to your procedure.
In the weeks leading up to your surgery, ask your doctor about what to expect during your bulging disc surgery recovery period. For example, should you arrange to have someone drive you places for the first week or two after surgery? Should you plan to take a month off of work or just a few weeks? These are important questions that can help you prepare for your upcoming procedure and rehabilitation.
Preparing for your bulging disc surgery recovery period
Once it is confirmed that you are having surgery to treat your bulging disc, it’s a good idea to begin researching what to expect in the days and months after your procedure. There are several online resources available to help you find answers about what other patients have experienced after the same type of procedure, but the best place to find information about your bulging disc surgery recovery period is your doctor.
Your doctor can take several factors into account when answering questions about your postoperative recovery, such as:
- Your medical history
- Your current fitness level and lifestyle
- The specific type of procedure to be performed
- The severity of the disc damage
This specific knowledge about your condition and medical history will help your doctor give you a more accurate set of expectations for after your procedure.
As you have this conversation with your doctor or surgical team about your bulging disc surgery recovery period, be sure to ask the following questions:
- What activities should I avoid after surgery?
- How long before I can drive after surgery?
- Do I need to arrange to pick up pain medication after the procedure?
- How much time do I need to take off of work?
- Do I need a caregiver to stay with me the first 48 hours after the procedure?
- What is the average recovery time?
- Do I need physical therapy after surgery?
These are all questions that will help you prepare for the recovery period after your bulging disc surgery.
Traditional open back bulging disc surgery recovery period
The type of bulging disc surgery you undergo will greatly impact the type of recovery you experience. For example, a traditional open back surgery may yield different recovery results than a minimally invasive spine surgery. This should be noted when choosing the type of procedure you want to treat your bulging disc.
Traditional open back surgery (and open neck surgery) is generally performed in a hospital, which means the first few days of your postsurgical recovery will be spent hospitalized to ensure your body is healing properly. This type of surveillance is necessary due to the invasive techniques used during the procedure.
During a traditional open back surgery, a large incision is made in the back, often cutting through the core muscles surrounding the spine. This technique allows the surgeons to have a larger space to access the bulging disc, but it also increases a patient’s risk of excessive blood loss and scar tissue development. For these reasons, patients can require a hospitalization of up to three nights for postoperative monitoring.
Additionally, after the bulging disc surgery, recovery may be more prolonged in order for the muscles to heal and rebuild. The average recovery time after traditional open back surgery is six months, though some patients report healing within three months and some within a year or more after surgery.
Minimally invasive bulging disc surgery recovery period
Recovery after a minimally invasive spine surgery is slightly different than recovery after a traditional open back surgery. While both types of procedures have potential risks and benefits, minimally invasive spine surgery has consistently reported a lower risk of postoperative complications and a shorter recovery time than traditional open back surgery.
A minimally invasive bulging disc surgery is often performed in an outpatient surgery center, which lowers the risk of infection after surgery and eliminates the need for overnight hospitalization. During the procedure, a small incision is made in the neck or back to access the spine. This small incision avoids cutting or tearing the nearby muscles, which allows a shorter recovery time and lower risk of postoperative complications.
The average recovery time for a minimally invasive surgery is about twelve weeks, though some patients report returning to daily activities within a few weeks of surgery and some within six months of surgery.
If you are still deciding which type of procedure is right for you, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of traditional spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery.
If you have already scheduled your procedure and you have questions about your recovery, call your surgical team and ask for a consultation to go over the questions you have.