BPS #009: When To Have Lumbar Discectomy Surgery…

What’s up guys. This is Robin Wakeham and welcome to the Back Pain Secrets podcast. Today we’re going to talk about When To Have Lumbar Discectomy Surgery…


Today I am going to talk about how you will know if you need lumbar discectomy surgery for your back? There are about 500,000 lumbar discectomies performed annually in the United States every year.  So If you are listening to this right now and are thinking about spinal surgery there is a good chance that lumbar discectomy surgery is the surgery you are considering. Lumbar discectomy means that your spinal surgeon will remove the herniated part of the disc in your lower back in order to heal your back pain.  

The spinal discs can rupture and change form, either so that the core leaks out, or that the disc bulges out. In both cases, it can push on nerves and cause pain. Even if a leaking disc sounds serious, it’s not enough to hurt. The nerve root must also be inflamed. We think. In fact, nobody knows for certain why we get herniated or slipped discs or why it hurts. Many have an injured disc without necessarily having pain. An injured disc is most often due to the water content of a disc dropping so much that the disc ruptures. The discs get drier as a part of aging. This does not mean that all older people get injured discs. Actually, injured discs are most common among people in their 40s.

So do you need surgery or not?
There is no definite answer guys when it comes to injured disc operations. Nor do I intend to tell you what you should do. But I can pass along a few opinions that you can consider when you’re thinking about it:

1. The vast majority of injured discs heal on their own. The pain subsides after a few months without surgery, with medication, shots and rehabilitation. You have around a 50% chance of recovering within one month. After six months, you have around a 90% chance of being more or less free from symptoms. This means that you only have a 10% risk of needing surgery.

2. If you have strong pain, numbness or weakness in your buttocks and down your legs, also known as sciatica, and it’s caused by a herniated or ruptured disc, surgery might give you some pain relief. You should carefully consider surgery if you have had severe sciatic pain for more than four weeks. Leg pain is more easily cured with surgery than back pain.

3. If you have moderate to severe pain, you will probably experience faster help if you have surgery. Pain that means that you can’t live normally and requires large amounts of pain relief pills is often helped by surgery. But five to 10 years after the surgery, your daily life will be about the same regardless of whether you have surgery or not.

4. To check if you need surgery, the spinal surgeon will perform various examinations (both manual and with machines). You have to have enough pain and a herniated or ruptured disc that can be operated on in order for the spinal surgeon to consider it to be worth it.

5. Having surgery always entails risks. They’re often small, but bleeding, infections and back injuries are possible. There are also risks with anesthesia, even for perfectly healthy people.

6. Guys I also want to send out a BIG WARNING TO EVERYONE! If you have difficulty urinating and have less feeling in your genitals, you’ve probably suffered cauda equina syndrome. Then it’s very important that you have surgery immediately (within eight hours) to avoid permanent damage!

I appreciate you guys. If you liked this podcast, please tell your friends about it, and also, I’d love if you would leave any feedback on our channel. We’re trying to get some more feedback, because we’re a brand-new podcast, but we’re having fun so far, and we’ll talk soon. Thanks, everybody. And guys remember you are just one step away from healing your back pain.

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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.