Lumbar Disc Surgery

Lumbar disc surgery may be an option if:

  • You have leg pain that hasn't improved with at least 6 weeks of nonsurgical treatment, you take strong pain medicine for your symptoms, and your symptoms are bad enough to interfere with normal activities and work.
  • The nerve that the herniated disc is pressing on is causing weakness, loss of motion, or abnormal sensitivity in the area of the body that the nerve controls.
  • Tests show that your herniated disc can be treated surgically.

People who have surgery may feel better faster. But in the long run, people treated with surgery and people treated without surgery have similar abilities to work and to be active. Some people need more disc surgery after their first surgery.

Many people are able to slowly get back to work and daily activities soon after surgery. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a rehabilitation program after surgery. It might include physical therapy and home exercises.

Disc surgery isn't thought to be an effective treatment for low back pain that is not caused by a herniated disc. Disc surgery is also not done if back pain is the only symptom that the herniated disc causes.

Surgery choices:

  • Discectomy or percutaneous discectomy. These are surgeries to remove herniated disc material that is causing the problem. They may be the most effective type of surgery for people who have tried nonsurgical treatment without success and who have severe, disabling leg pain.
  • Laminotomy and laminectomy. These surgeries remove pressure on the spinal cord or spinal cord nerve roots.
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