Spinal Discectomy for Back Pain

A spinal discectomy procedure removes a part or the entirety of the cushion or discs that separate the spinal bones. Your spine is comprised of 24 bones (or vertebrae) that are cushioned by discs. These intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers for the spine. They have a tough outer ring of tissue that surrounds a soft, jelly-like center. They can become thinner and more prone to problems with age, repetitive movement, injury or poor posture.

To determine whether a spinal discectomy is right for you, our team of neurosurgeons, spine specialists, therapists and pain specialists at Nacogdoches Medical Center are here to help you determine the optimal course of treatment. If you and your doctors opt for surgery, you’ll have access to our Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center to help you get back to an active life.

Herniated Discs

When the jelly-like nucleus pushes against the tough outer ring of tissue, the pressure may cause back pain. And if the stress continues, it may cause the ring to bulge, placing greater pressure on the spinal cord and nearby roots.

When a disc moves out of place or herniates, surgery may be necessary to relieve the resulting pain in the spinal column.

Causes of a Herniated Disc

Herniated discs can be caused by a single excessive strain or a minor strain on a degenerating disc. There are also risk factors that increase the occurrence of a herniated disc, such as gender, weight, driving, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and a person’s job.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

Low back pain is usually the first symptom of a herniated disc. This pain can last for a few days and then improve. Other symptoms that may accompany low back pain are as follows:

  • Sciatica
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the leg and/or foot
  • Weakness in the leg and/or foot
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

Not everyone who has a herniated disc needs surgery. Most patients with this condition can be treated more conservatively through medication and physical therapy. But for some people, a discectomy may be recommended if:

  • Other forms of treatment fail to improve symptoms after six weeks
  • A disc fragment lodges in the spinal column and presses on a nerve
  • You have difficulty standing or walking
  • You have pain that radiates into your buttocks or legs

What to Ask Before a Herniated Disc Surgery

We recognize that undergoing back surgery can be intimidating and scary. Our compassionate spine specialists work hard to keep you informed and comfortable before and after your spine surgery. Ease your mind by asking your doctor the following questions: 

  • What are the benefits of a herniated disc surgery, and how long will the results last?
  • What is the risk of complications, and what are these complications?
  • What is the success rate for herniated disc surgery?
  • Will a discectomy help alleviate my pain, and will there be follow-up procedures and surgeries after this?
  • How many of these procedures are performed annually at this hospital?
  • What percentage of patients improve following the procedure?
  • Do we have to perform the surgery now?
  • What are the tests or medical evaluations needed before the surgery?
  • What kind of anesthesia will be used? Are there possible side effects or risks? Will I meet with the anesthesiologist in advance?
  • Will they know my needs/allergies?
  • What pain relief or pain control will I be given?
  • How long will the recovery take? What are my limitations during recovery? Will I need assistance at home afterward? For how long?
  • Will I need physical therapy?
  • When can I return to work? When can I drive my car? When can I resume sexual activity?
  • Are there any materials about this surgery that I can review?

The Nacogdoches Medical Center spine doctors begin treating back pain with nonsurgical treatment options, such as medications, physical therapy or cortisone injections. When nonsurgical treatments don’t offer relief, your spine doctor may recommend you undergo a discectomy. Nacogdoches Medical Center works with patients to explore all options. Our spine surgeons will provide a personalized treatment plan for you.

Discectomy Procedure

A spinal discectomy is usually performed in the hospital under general anesthesia. After the spinal surgeon makes an incision a little longer than one inch over the herniated disc, the following may occur:

  1. Muscles and tissue are moved aside to expose the spine.

  2. A small part of the bone surrounding the spinal column and nerves, called the lamina, is removed to access the herniated disc. This part of the surgery is called a laminectomy or laminotomy.

  3. Small instruments are then used to cut a hole into the disc that is causing the problems to remove material from inside and any pieces that may have broken loose. This relieves pressure, and most of the disc remains intact.

  4. The incision is then closed using stitches or staples.

  5. The procedure lasts approximately one hour, depending on the extent of disc herniation, patient size and other factors. Patients typically spend one night in the hospital before going home to recuperate.

Spine Surgery Recovery

Most patients experience a reduction in herniated disc symptoms following spine surgery, and physical therapy may help maximize spine surgery recovery. Exercise and other activities should be resumed gradually:

  • First few weeks – Walking only
  • Two weeks after surgery – Bicycling and swimming
  • Two to four weeks after surgery – Return to work (if you work in an office)
  • Four to eight weeks after surgery – Return to work (physically demanding jobs such as lifting items or operating machinery that vibrates)

While a spinal discectomy procedure can relieve symptoms, it will not stop the process that caused a herniated disc in the first place. To prevent re-injury, limit activities that require considerable or repetitive bending and twisting and lifting. For more information about spinal discectomies, talk with your doctor.

When To See a Spine Specialist

Consult a spine specialist if your back pain gets in the way of your daily activities or if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling around your genitals or buttocks
  • Difficulty peeing
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Swelling or deformity in your back
  • Pain that does not improve or worsens at night
  • Back pain that is caused by a severe trauma
  • Pain that affects sleeping
  • Pain that worsens when sneezing, coughing or defecating

Spine Surgery at Nacogdoches Medical Center

Back pain can range from annoying to unbearable. It is the second most common reason for seeing a doctor, yet many people endure pain longer than necessary. Nacogdoches Medical Center has board-certified neurosurgeons who aim to help patients with back pain go back to enjoying their lives through nonsurgical and back surgery in Nacogdoches, TX. Aside from spine surgery, Nacogdoches Medical Center also offers:

  • Minimally invasive, advanced treatments
  • Advance pain management to reduce recovery time
  • Physical Therapy (PT) and Rehabilitation to continue recovery and strengthening
  • Sports injury prevention care for nonsurgical musculoskeletal/orthopedic conditions

Learn more about neurologic services at Nacogdoches Medical Center here.

Talk with an Orthopedic Patient Navigator

Our Patient Navigators are a Registered Nurses who can answer your hospital related questions, help you navigate your way through the registration process, and more.

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