Before coming home from hospital make sure you’re clear about:
- how to care for your incision
- your level of activity
- driving (don’t forget to also check with your car insurance company in case they have any restrictions following an operation) and clarify this with your surgeon
- symptoms for which you should seek further medical attention
- any changes to your regular medication
- what kind of exercise you can do
- how to manage pain
- when to have your stitches out, if they’re not self-dissolving.
You need to have someone stay with you
Because you’ve had a general anaesthetic, try and have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours after your procedure.
Your doctor or anaesthetist will prescribe or recommend some painkillers which you can take when pain bothers you and before exercising. Ice packs can also be helpful to reduce discomfort.
Early mobilisation is now recommended following microdiscectomy (as opposed to rest). Your physiotherapist can recommend a strengthening, stretching and conditioning program that can help your back to heal.
Caring for your incision
It’s important to keep your bandage over your incision clean and dry with the dressing intact. There may be some discharge from the incision but if the discharge increases or smells unpleasant, you should contact your surgeon.
You may find it more comfortable sleeping on a firm mattress.
You may experience constipation after surgery. This can be due to the side effects of opioid painkillers, a change in your usual diet or a reduction in your usual activity levels.
Returning to work and normal activities
Follow your surgeon’s advice about how much time to take off work, particularly if your job is physically demanding. If you work in an office, you may be able to return to work after 2-4 weeks. For a physically demanding job you may need 4-8 weeks off work. Allow up to 8 weeks to get back to your normal level of activities.
You’ll need to make a follow-up appointment to see your surgeon 2-6 weeks after your procedure to assess your recovery and address any questions you may have. Your first post-op consultation is covered under the surgical fee.
Watching out for problems
You should call your surgeon if you experience:
- excessive pain around your incision or in your legs or arms
- discharge or excessive bleeding from your incision
- redness or changes in the skin around your incision
- pain and swelling in your calf
- unexplained or sudden shortness of
- severe headache, nausea or vomiting.