Bulging disc fusion surgery recovery

Many patients have questions about the recovery time after fusion surgery to treat a bulging disc. Unfortunately, there is no short answer for how long recovery will take because recovery time is directly dependent on the type of fusion surgery a patient receives and ranges based on the severity of each person’s condition.

There are two types of fusion surgery for bulging disc pain — traditional open back surgery and minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Because of the highly invasive nature of traditional open back fusion, patients must endure an extended recovery time of six months to a year as well as a two- to five-day hospital stay.

However, Laser Spine Institute offers a shorter recovery period and a lower risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.^ As you research your options for your spinal fusion, we encourage you to contact our team with any questions. We are here to help you learn about your treatment options so you can make the best decision for your needs.

What to expect after traditional open back fusion to treat a bulging disc

Traditional open back fusion is a highly invasive procedure that begins with a large 6- to 8-inch incision down the back. In the process of accessing the spine, the muscles surrounding the spine are cut and torn, which leads to an extended recovery time while patients wait for those muscles to heal. After the surgery is over, the patient is required to stay in the hospital so the doctors can monitor the patient’s circulation.

The highly invasive nature of the surgery allows for an increased risk of blood loss, complication and infection. Once the patient is released from the hospital, many patients are unable to return to daily activities for a full year after surgery. Here are just a few things a patient may face following a traditional open back fusion for bulging disc pain:

  • Pain management — at first an injection is administered into a vein and then it is switched to oral medication as the pain diminishes
  • Nourishment — only ice chips or liquid are allowed for the first 24 to 36 hours until the stomach can handle solid food
  • Low-impact activity — although you will be immobilized, for the most part, it is important to try to walk again as soon as possible
  • Physical therapy — this treatment may begin at the hospital, or you may be sent to a rehabilitation center to begin recuperation
  • The return home — it is recommended to undergo continued pain management using medicine and ice, as well as take short walks and follow your physician’s instructions for permitted activity

A minimally invasive alternative to traditional open back fusion surgery

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive stabilization surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back fusion.^ Instead of requiring a large incision in the back, our board-certified surgeons+ can access the spine through a small incision that is less than 1-inch in length, which allows the muscles and soft tissue surrounding the spine to be pushed aside.

Once the spine is accessed, the bulging disc will be removed, which will free the impacted nerve root in the spinal canal and help relieve your chronic pain. An implant will then be inserted into the now-empty disc space to help stabilize the spine and prevent future deterioration in that area. Due to the minimally invasive nature of our stabilization procedures, our surgery is performed on an outpatient basis.

Many of our patients are up and walking within a few hours after surgery.^ For more information about our minimally invasive stabilization surgery and other treatment options for bulging discs, please reach out to our team. Through a free MRI review,* we can determine if you are a potential candidate for our muscle-sparing procedures. We are here to guide you through your journey to wellness.