Physical Therapy after a Microscopic Discectomy

Physical therapy is an incredibly important element after any surgical procedure. Properly reacquainting a damaged area with its previous function is essential in order for an individual to regain their prior range of motion.

After a Microscopic Discectomy, physical therapy is crucial for an individual to gain increased flexibility and strength in their stabilizer muscles. These muscles are vital for an individual to be able to properly move, walk, and go about their daily lives. Without physical therapy, an individual should not expect to fully recover and gain the range of movement that they desire.

Beginning Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has all kinds of different components. Some portions of physical therapy can begin in a matter of one to two weeks post-op, and they include just passive movement, meaning somebody is physically assisting the body in moving through a particular range of motion or a particular activity. In the case of a shoulder surgery, for example, it might be very difficult for a patient to lift their arm even in post-op. Physical therapy could begin with the therapist using their own force and energy to lift the patient’s arm and move it through the patient’s particular series of activities.

In a lumbar surgery, low back surgery, or neck surgery, this would be very similar in terms of the range of motion that the patient would use. In the low back, that would typically be bending and twisting, and in the neck it would be moving the neck in certain directions. That is the basis of therapy; it will start minimally and grow over time.

Length of Therapy

Physical therapy will last as long as it is needed. Typically, physical therapy would be performed in stages. Most notably, it is difficult for the patient to perform physical therapy if they are still in severe pain. However as time goes on, the patient will get better, pain will be reduced, and they will be able to exert themselves a bit more, but typically several weeks to a couple of months would be adequate time for physical therapy to last. The patient is given instructions on how to perform home exercises to continue their treatment, which at that point would not be necessary to be monitored by a therapist.

Exercises After a Microscopic Discectomy

Usually, patients who are recovering from a microscopic discectomy can benefit from increased strength and flexibility in their stabilizer muscles. A patient would not want to do weight bearing exercises like squats or something like that if they had lumbar surgery, or any severe bending under a tremendous amount of weight. Typically, non-weight bearing exercise is where the person is simply twisting or moving very gently through the common range of motion.

The exercises always depend on how complex or simple the surgery was. Although the workload and the duration of exercise will change as time goes on and as the patient builds up strength, it is very common for the period preceding surgery for someone to be in a weakened state in the area where surgery is going to occur.

If the patient required lumbar surgery, it is unlikely that the associated areas near their low back would have been in a high level of athletic state at that time, because in the period of time leading up to the surgery the individual has likely been without a lot of movement and exercise in the affected area, whether it be a knee, shoulder, hip, neck, or back. Oftentimes, trying to rebuild the patient back to a normal state with the added complication of having to get past the postoperative pain and trying to think of the best way to freeze it, can be difficult.  Sometimes, the associated areas where the surgery occurs will diminish the strength of that area.

Consequences of Avoiding Physical Therapy

There are often major consequences to avoiding physical therapy after a surgery. When comparing therapy to baking a cake, a patient who has completed their physical therapy treatment would be equivalent to a perfectly baked cake. If the patient did not opt to partake in physical therapy, it would be as if a major ingredient was missing from the cake, and the end result is far from perfect or complete. If a patient was to elect not to perform physical therapy activities and the doctors knew that upfront, they would often tell the individual to not have the surgery as their likeliness to recover would be very little.

Physical therapy greatly impacts the level of recovery a patient can expect to have. However, there are many things that go into making sure the patient recovers, including choosing the right surgery for the patient to fix the problem at hand, physical therapy, and making sure the patient does not engage in high-risk activities that would make them more likely to reinjure themselves.