PT eDigest

treadmillEarly Exercise = Speedy Healing Following Disc Surgery

If you have had a microdiscectomy—surgery to alleviate sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain caused by a herniated disc—a postoperative regimen that includes exercise can help speed your return to a normal, active life.

In the past, patients were advised to limit their movements for up to six weeks after microdiscectomy surgery to avoid reinjury. However, the thinking on this has changed in recent years. Experts now suggest that introducing an appropriate early exercise program that includes stretching, strengthening and conditioning may help patients heal sooner and minimize formation of scar tissue.

Generally, patients are advised to exercise for a total of one hour each day, usually in shorter segments of time rather than all at once. A therapeutic exercise program often includes walking, usually beginning within the first two to four days after returning home. Most patients start by walking a short distance each day, gradually increasing to about three miles daily.

Let pain be our guide. You should expect to feel some discomfort after an exercise session, especially in the leg or buttocks. This can be relieved with over-the-counter analgesics and an ice pack. However, if the pain is strong, we will reduce the intensity of exercise until you can handle it better.

You can probably resume most of your day-to-day activities, but avoid the common causes of disc herniation:

  • heavy lifting
  • repetitive bending or twisting
  • prolonged sitting

We can provide you with guidance for a long-term “spine” health program that includes good posture and proper body mechanics (how to bend, lift, etc.). A program that includes stretching, strengthening and aerobic exercises can help get and keep your back in good health.