Recently, I shared a post about my own experience living with herniated discs and the success of my double lumbar discectomy – you can read it here!
I was overwhelmed with the response. I am so pleased that my story brought hope to many of you that are still suffering and preparing for surgery. I also received a number of questions about life after surgery and advice to minimise the risk of re-herniation.
Whilst I’m not a medical professional, I’ve decided to answer your questions and share my top tips for recovery following a discectomy, based on my own personal experience and recovery.
Get Up And Move As Soon As Possible
Following my surgery, I was up on my feet within 4 hours. At first, I felt a little dizzy but the realisation that I could finally walk again without sciatic pain was the only motivation I needed. Early mobilisation following a discectomy is the key to a quick recovery (my doctor told me this too!)
Walk A Little Further Every Day
Slowly increasing your activity level at a pace that is right for you is absolutely essential. This helps to heal and strengthen the muscles in your back. It will also minimise the risk of developing blood clots, which you really don’t want! It’s easy to want to stay in bed because you will be tired and sore, but this will not help your recovery.
Do Not Sit For Long Periods Of Time
This one can be very annoying, but it’s a must. In the first few days after surgery, any time where I was sat down for longer than 15-20 minutes, it became more difficult to stand and walk when I wanted to move. Throughout the day, keep getting up and taking a few steps every now and then. Also make sure to sit straight and not slumped.
Do Not Lift, Bend Or Twist
Really, don’t! Any doctor will tell you this but it’s so important. When I was in hospital, two of the women on my ward were having a second discectomy following re-herniation and both of them said they had not followed their doctor’s advice about lifting.
Only Ease Off Your Medication When You Feel Ready
I was very keen to waste no time with this one. After 5 months living life as a zombie and taking a cocktail of drugs every day, I wanted to detox as soon as my body felt it could. It’s important to read up on the medication you’re taking because sometimes, you have to ease off gradually. For example, I was taking Tramadol and knew I had to reduce my intake over time as going cold turkey could have had some nasty side effects.
Keep Your Wound Clean And Check Daily
I wasn’t allowed a shower for days after my surgery but I still made sure to keep my wound clean to prevent the risk of infection. Don’t submerge the wound in water, just pat gently with a damp cloth. Make sure that you get someone to regularly check it too. If you notice any signs of infection or tearing, ring your doctor straight away.
Before discharge, I spent time with a physiotherapist who went through basic exercises that I should practice at home daily. I did this religiously and I believe it thoroughly helped me get back to normal (ish) life more quickly.
Look After Your Mind
Living with disc herniation and undergoing major surgery is bound to take it’s toll on your mind! It’s one thing to look after your body physically, but you need to keep your mental state in check too. Remember the end goal and keep positive. Even on the difficult days, try to see how far you have come and remind yourself that the road to recovery leads to a better quality of life.
Sleep is the most underrated thing in the world: fact. Following surgery, you’ll be exhausted and in order to allow your body to heal, you need to make sure you get enough sleep. What better excuse for a lie in than recovering from spinal surgery? Make the most of it!
To reiterate, I am in no means an expert or medical professional. These tips are from my own personal experience of recovery as well as the advice I was given by my own (amazing) doctors. I hope that you find it useful!