Following a work injury, a lumbar discectomy is a surgical procedure to remove part of a problem disc in the low back. The discs are the jelly doughnut like pads that separate the vertebrae. This procedure is commonly used when a herniated, or ruptured, disc in the low back is putting pressure on a nerve root.
Lumbar discectomy can alleviate pain from a herniated disc in the low back. The main goal of discectomy surgery is to remove the part of the disc that is putting pressure on a spinal nerve root. Taking out the injured portion of the disc may also reduce chances that the disc will herniate again.
These goals can be achieved using a traditional procedure, called laminotomy and discectomy, or with a newer method called microdiscectomy. The traditional method requires a larger incision and tends to require a longer time to heal according to medical experts.
Microdiscectomy is becoming the standard surgery for lumbar disc herniation. Since the surgeon performs the operation with a surgical microscope, he or she needs to make only a very small incision in the low back. Categorized as minimally invasive surgery, this surgery is thought to be less taxing on patients. Advocates also believe that this type of surgery is easier to perform, prevents scarring around the nerves and joints, and helps patients recover more quickly.
After surgery, many surgeons prescribe outpatient physical therapy within three weeks. At first, therapy focuses on controlling pain and inflammation. Ice and electrical stimulation treatments are commonly used to help with these goals. Your therapist may also use massage and other hands-on techniques to ease muscle spasm and pain.
Active treatments are added slowly. These include exercises for improving heart and lung function. Walking and swimming are ideal cardiovascular exercises after this type of surgery. Therapists also teach specific exercises to help tone and control the muscles that stabilize the low back.
Your therapist works with you on how to move and do activities. This form of treatment, is called body mechanics. This training helps you keep your back in safe positions as you go about your work and daily activities.
As your condition improves, your therapist tailors your program to help prepare you to go back to work. Some patients are not able to go back to a previous job that requires strenuous tasks. Your therapist may also suggest alternate forms of work after a functional capacity evaluation.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents injured workers undergoing lumbar discectomy as a result of a work injury. There may be workers compensation benefits for loss of earning capacity or vocational retraining following lumbar discectomy if there are work-related permanent work restrictions.