That depends on the kind of work you do and how long you have to drive to get there. Some minimally invasive cervical and lumbar surgeries have no absolute restrictions and patients can return to their normal activities once their postoperative pain is better. Other surgeries may require several months of restricted activities that involve bending, lifting or twisting. Often surgical patients can return to desk jobs that they can reach with a drive of 15 minutes or less whenever they feel comfortable, usually two to three weeks after surgery. It is best to probably not drive long distances, 30 minutes or more, for about one month after many surgeries. If your job requires physical labor, you need to consult your surgeon.
The chances of neurological injury with spine surgery are very low and the possibility of catastrophic injury such as paralysis, impotence or loss of bowel or bladder control is highly unlikely. Injury to a nerve root with isolated numbness and/or weakness in the leg is possible. It is important to specifically discuss the risks of any specific surgery with your doctor.
You should resume low-impact activities as soon as possible, starting with walking. Try to walk a little farther each day, building up to a brisk three mile walk each day by six weeks after surgery. Once your staples are removed, you may swim, which is an excellent form of exercise for patients with back problems. By two to three weeks after surgery you may try more vigorous activities, such as an exercise bike or treadmill. Talk to your surgeon about aerobics and jogging. Physical activity is good for you, if done properly. Limit heavy lifting, bending, twisting and high-impact physical activities, including contact sports.
Unfortunately, yes. As mentioned previously, only part of the disc is removed and there is no way to make the disc normal again. Recurrent herniations do occasionally occur. Also, adjacent discs may also be abnormal and could rupture in the future.
A fusion is a bony bridge between at least two other bones such as vertebrae in your spine. The vertebrae are the blocks of bone, which make up the bony part of the spine, similar to a child's building blocks stacked on top of each other like a tower. Normally, each vertebrae moves within certain limits in relationship to its neighbors. In spinal disease, the movement may become excessive and painful or the vertebrae may become unstable and move out of alignment putting pressure on the spinal nerves. In cases like this, surgeons try to build bony bridges between the vertebrae using pieces of bone, called bone graft. The bone graft may be obtained either from the patient's pelvis or from a bone bank.
There are advantages and disadvantages to either source. The bone graft is either laid next to the vertebrae or actually placed between the vertebral bodies (the rubbery disc, which normally lies between the vertebrae, must be removed). In either case, the bone graft has to heal and unite to the adjacent bones before the fusion is solid. Spine surgeons often use plates or rods to protect the bone graft and stabilize the spine while the fusion heals.