Patients heading into any type of surgery almost always have one common question: How long will it take to recover? Back surgery is no exception.
Not only are people anxious to resume the activities they loved before their trouble began, but they also want to prepare for the upcoming weeks or months when they may need extra help.
Most doctors outline recovery norms prior to surgery so patients know what to expect. Long-term recovery expectations for disc replacement come from a combination of science and experience. From a scientific perspective, lumbar disc replacement recovery time partly depends on the time it takes for the bone to grow onto the implant, bonding the two together for stability. With anterior disc replacements, forming a complete bond takes about three months. In my experience, it is around that time when most patients have no further restrictions on activity. (Note that cervical artificial disc replacement surgery recovery time tends to be faster than lumbar disc replacement surgery recovery.)
Patients who receive the BalancedBack® surgery can expect a similar recovery time—about three months. As with disc replacement recovery, full stability of the new total joint replacement occurs when the bone has integrated and bonded to the BalancedBack® implant surfaces.
Both BalancedBack® and disc replacement patients normally recover faster than fusion patients.1 Why? Because fusion surgery leaves a larger gap for the bones to fill in—approximately four to five times larger than the thin margin that remains after joint arthroplasty procedures. As a result, patients could take anywhere from six months to a year for the bones to fully heal from surgical fusion.
Looking for an alternative to spinal fusion? Find out more about an innovative new procedure that might be right for you.
A BalancedBack® and Disc Replacement Recovery Timetable
Below is the typical recovery timetable for patients undergoing BalancedBack® and lumbar disc replacement surgeries:
Day of/Day after surgery—Patients begin ambulating as soon as possible, getting out of bed, moving around, and sitting up.
Day 3/Day 4—Patients begin a walking program. Walking is the best type of exercise after disc replacement surgery because it puts low stress on the back.
Here is a clip of Travis talking just a few days after surgery.
Two weeks after surgery—Patients can get in a swimming pool, do aerobic activities, use light hand weights, or do a stationary bike. At this point, most patients can do a small amount of stretching (about 25 to 30 degrees)—enough to bend forward slightly as needed, take a shower, etc. The majority of patients can also drive short distances at this point.
Six weeks after surgery—In this stage, patients are usually able to bend further—45 to 50 degrees—as needed, and can continue to do the activities listed above.
Three months after surgery—On average, most patients have no further restrictions on their activities three months after their procedure.
Patients whose pain is caused solely by a degenerating disc can benefit greatly from disc replacement surgery, and outcomes have been shown to be good.2 However, a greater number of people have additional issues besides a degenerating disc, which could prevent this surgery from being successful. In that case, BalancedBack® may be a more appropriate option.
BalancedBack® is the latest type of disc replacement surgery. Want to learn more?
Most people are familiar with disc replacement and fusion surgeries, but you may just be learning about BalancedBack® Posterior Total Joint Replacement. It’s the latest development in addressing leg and back pain in the lumbar spine, and—just like knee and hip surgery—replaces a damaged disc and/or facet joint with an entirely new joint. It allows you to keep moving naturally after surgery, so you can once again fully enjoy doing the things you love.
1Mattei, T. A., Beer, J., Teles, A. R., Rehman, A. A., Aldag, J., & Dinh, D. (2017). Clinical outcomes of total disc replacement versus anterior lumbar interbody fusion for surgical treatment of lumbar degenerative disc disease. Global spine journal, 7(5), 452-459.
2Scott-Young, M. N., Lee, M. J., Nielsen, D. E., Magno, C. L., Kimlin, K. R., & Mitchell, E. O. (2018). Clinical and radiological mid-term outcomes of lumbar single-level total disc replacement. Spine, 43(2), 105-113.