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Lumbar Discectomy


A lumbar discectomy is the removal of all or part of a ruptured lumbar disc. You may have muscle spasms in your low back, thighs, and buttocks after surgery. These should go away within a few days. This does not mean your surgery did not work. You will have pain. You will be given pain medicine to keep you comfortable. You will need to use proper body mechanics when you move. This means keeping your shoulders and your hips in a straight line. Proper body mechanics can help lower pain and remove stress on your back as you move.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • You may also have any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You develop new weakness or loss of feeling in your back or legs.
  • You lose control of your bladder or bowels.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever of 101ºF (38.3ºC) or greater for more than 24 hours.
  • You have chills.
  • Your wound becomes more red and swollen, or starts draining pus.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Ask for help when you get out of bed or stand up if needed to prevent a fall.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your wound as directed:

Keep your surgical wound covered as long as directed. Do not take a tub bath, swim, or get in hot tubs until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Take showers instead of baths. Cover your wound with a clean dressing and a piece of tape. This will keep water from directly hitting your wound. After your shower, remove the bandage and carefully pat the area dry. Apply a clean, dry dressing if directed. Wear loose clothes to keep from irritating the area.


  • Take short walks often. Slowly increase the length and distance of walks. Do not sit for long periods of time. Change your position every 1 to 2 hours. Use assistive devices, such as walkers, if needed.
  • Do not lift heavy items, or twist or bend at the waist. Your healthcare provider may tell you not to lift more than 10 pounds.
  • Decrease your activity for up to 6 weeks as directed. This will allow your spine time to heal. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to work.
  • Lie on a firm mattress and sit in a chair that has a straight back. These reduce the strain on your back.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Do not drive if you are taking prescription pain medicine. Ask your healthcare provider when it is safe to drive.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can delay healing. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information if you need help quitting.

Go to therapy as directed:

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist can teach you skills to help with your daily activities.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.