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chronic pain and returning to work

MingMMing Posts: 1,127
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Chronic Pain
Have any of you been forced to go back to work even though you are still suffering with your chronic pain because you have no other choice financially?

I am curious to hear your stories because I lost my job after working there for 11 years due to being on disability for so long. I now have been offered a great position with a wonderful insurance company. I finally accepted the offer today but I am so afraid I won't be able to do it. I am going to give them a start date of mid Jan but I still haven't resolved my pain issues from 5 mos post op l5 s1 fusion. I'm having si injection on thurs hoping this is going to be the answer. I am so scared that I am going to mess up the greatest opportunity that I have been given because of my pain. I can't imagine working everyday right now as it is a chore just to get to the grocery store when we run out of bread and milk. Not only to I live in constant pain but I am exhausted all the time due to the pain.

I will be selling insurance so I will be on my feet traveling to homes frequently which means I must dress up and I dread thinking about putting dress shoes on.

Anyway, I just wanted to hear some of your stories as well as vent some of my fears and frustrations to those who understand.

Thanks for listening.

With love,


  • :) hi! :H well, i could never work a full time job and admire you for trying. =D> perhaps you need to be very realistic. one issue to think about is you don't want to do any more damage to your back. could this job do that? you seem to be aware of the other issues. :? i can tell how badly you want this and maybe if you don't try, if you can, you will have a big regret later. regrets can never be taken back. neither are those great opportunities that come along only once in awhile. the kind you have to grab like a brass ring. so think long and hard. look at all the angles. and if you know, and you do know, you can't do it, that is another issue altogether. and honesty may be the key there! best of luck! Jenny :)
  • I wish I could work, but it's out of the question for me. That's one of my many guilts. My fusion hasn't worked out for me and the pain is intense, nonstop. I admire you for having the charisma to tackle this. The only way I bear my pain is to take medications, lie down, and use ice packs and heat to get by. It has been so long since I've been able to sit comfortably.My life has changed drastically and hope for better days.
  • I do have the luxury to do a lot of work from home and do all my continuing education and additional education, which they pay for online so I will be home. I do realize to be successful I need to work at least 40 hours at this per week and make several appts per week. I really hope that I can do it. I have one month to get back on my feet. I don't want to regret not trying but like you said, I hope I'm not going to do more damage to my back. I don't have to worry about heavy lifting so that's a plus and I can do my appt setting and calls while I am reclined on the couch being iced or heated or both.
  • I have the feeling you'll manage very well. Just be careful and take things one step at a time :)
  • thank you for your kinds words of encouragement.
  • when you start this job and maybe all will go well. I agree with you that if it is that great of an opportunity you must at least try. What is the worst that can happen? If you can't do the job you will be back to where you are right now. But, since you are only 5 months post op you may be alot better in a month and continue to get better from there! Keep a positive attitude and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish!
    BTW- I have no problem dressing up and wearing comfortable flat shoes! With lots of support and shock absorbtion. I think that it would be very important not to wear any heels or hard soled shoes at this point. I have seen lots and lots of people even wear tennis shoes with dresses. I have done this on occasion myself. Good luck to you Michele
  • Michelle I know that you've been looking forward to returning to work and it just may be exactly the thing that that you need. Getting out of the house may be a great experience for you and it's great that you can do some of your work from home!

    I agree with painintheback, the worst that can happen is that it doesn't work out.....yet. You may just find that little niche' in the insurance world that allows you to do MOST of your job from home, who knows? Sometimes opprotunity comes from the unexpected.

    I am soooo lucky that I don't have back problems. I couldn't give up my heels! They don't affect my neck at all but some days I have leg problems and have to wear "sensible" shoes....yuck LOL!

    Good luck, I can't wait to hear all about your first week on the job!

  • I do understand - I have severe chronic pain but I also have to work, no way around it. More days than not I do not feel I should be working, well not working is not an option. I try to be upfront with the people I work with that when I am having an especially bad day for them not to take it personally. Fortunately I do not have to wear dress shoes - I have worn a 2" heel once for a dinner since my fusion and it was dreadful. Try looking for some stylish Aerosole flats or very low heels- they seem to be the most comfortable. This time of year you can probably get by fashion-wise with a low-heeled or flat rubbersole boot.
  • You know it at once. It may be the fiery sensation of a burn moments after your finger touches the stove. Or it's a dull ache above your brow after a day of stress and tension. Or you may recognize it as a sharp pierce in your back after you lift something heavy.

    It is pain. In its most benign form, it warns us that something isn't quite right, that we should take medicine or see a doctor. At its worst, however, pain robs us of our productivity, our well-being, and, for many of us suffering from extended illness, our very lives. Pain is a complex perception that differs enormously among individual patients, even those who appear to have identical injuries or illnesses. :))(

    Ancient civilizations recorded on stone tablets accounts of pain and the treatments used: pressure, heat, water, and sun. Early humans related pain to evil, magic, and demons. Relief of pain was the responsibility of sorcerers, shamans, priests, and priestesses, who used herbs, rites, and ceremonies as their treatments.

    The Greeks and Romans were the first to advance a theory of sensation, the idea that the brain and nervous system have a role in producing the perception of pain. But it was not until the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance-the 1400s and 1500s-that evidence began to accumulate in support of these theories. (|:
  • if you have read any of my comments the past few months, i was cooerced to going back to work when i was still on disability. had my 4th back surgery in april, went out on catastrophic leave, teachers donate i day of sick leaave to a bank and draw on this. i went out in april. i got a note from head of specia ed and my principal saying it would behove me to take a class in sra reading since i was the only one qualified to do this. well they can't force teachers to work in summer, but i said yes due to fact that i thought i would not be working in my school or even get laid off. i wrote back saying i was still on disability and it takes at least a year to recover from fusions. nothing happened. i went back to work and back got worse. i was forced to do things my dr did not want me to do. i had noted from dr stating what i could and not do. when i got back at beginning of year, you would think that i was the incarnate of satan at school. my principal even mad a comment that i went out last year and this for surgery at same time. she was inferring that i went out so i would not have to finish school year. yes it does and will and will always happen where our jobs make it tough for us

    good luck and pain free holiday to all

    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • ooh. I remember all that crap you endured from your snotty principal. Man. Some people are idiots, aren't they?

    Ming - I want to wish you the BEST of luck! It's great you will be able to work at home. And, like the "Optimist" said - get some comfy Aeorsole shoes. I am a shoe freak and I have more shoes than Imelda probably. But they are sitting in my closet because A) I can't wear them and 2) I won't donate or put them in a garage sale. I have donated complete outfits for an organization who helps women down on their luck dress nicely for that all important first interview, but no way are they getting my shoes!!! I know - shame on me.

    Listen to your body. Maybe at first you won't be able to do too many housecalls. That's something you will definitely build up to slowly. For me, walking is not bad. BUT, that slow, shuffle type walk that's done usually when shopping just kills me.

    I went back to work because I love to work. I just don't know what to do with myself otherwise. I have to be assisting someone somewhere do something, or else I feel I am wasting time and am not useful to anyone.

    You will do fine. Once you get back into the routine and gradually get your back into the swing again. And if this doesn't work out, try something else. Remember: Failure does not mean God has abandoned you; it just means He has something else in mind for you. But, you have to get there first. I believe in manifest destiny. Everything I've ever done has gotten me where I am today. Even the whole awful back issue has had some positive outcomes. Especially making new friends here on this site. Which I would have never done without my back problems.

    OK. Enough rambling. I really wanted to say Good Luck Sugar! Let us know how your first day goes!

  • Jon,
    I am sorry to hear of your problems. I remember reading some things that you went through. It's not easy being forced to do things you know will have a negative consequence on your body.

    Thank you for you support and well wishes. I too am a shoe person and have a ton of shoes that I will not get rid of either. I am hoping someday I will be able to wear them again. They aren't 4" spike heals or anything but all my shoes have a heal on them because it makes me feel tall :D I am 5 5" and it seems my pants are always too long if I don't have atleast 1-2 inch heals but petites are too short. I don't like spike heals so my heals or chunckier. I wear new balance sneakers all the time because they are the most comfortable with my back and feet. I have a pair to match all my outfits. I love shoes too 8> I would love to go buy another pair right now. :X
  • what is weird is that my pain dr loves people to work and as long as i work and have a next to normal life he will keep my pain meds where they are. if i did not work and laid around all day, he woud decrease my meds. i don't know what thats about but i work because i can't afford not to and i plan to retire in 2-3 years. i like teaching but all of the other b.s. that goes on in education you can do without. pain dr does not like people not to work in they can. i don't know what happens if you can't work. i think he said he does not like to carry people who can work but chose not to. but how do you know if one can work or not? who makes that decision? my back dr said if work does not believe me tell them that you will sue them if they do not believe you. i think work got that because everyone treats me like the king lately when i complained about work not following my accomodations

    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • I lost my job also and could see that continuing with that type of employment was going to be difficult if not impossible so I used what I like to call my downtime to learn new skills and eventually do some voluntary work. We had three children under 7 and it was a trying time, with my failed fusion, every day is painful and although my objective was to return to work a very small element questions that viability. I am paying a high emotional and physical price for that notion of being included and my capacity goes into employment and even with a understanding employer doing the very basics, it does as said take disproportionate effort and vigour. More than ever you have to be realistic with yourself as never before, trying beyond capability because you want it so much, will not change that reality of your ongoing condition.

    That voluntary aspect gave me the understanding if I could actually work and that practicality of continuing even though I had the desire, that is not sufficient to get you through. I had many years of not being employed and would never return to that dark place for me, to feel included and part of what is going on and be proactive in my own life rather than await decisions about me from others, I did work for nothing and that was an important part for me, to test myself and adapt a new and feasible strategy.

    Jon is correct in what he says, even as the patient if we feel that the notion of a job in employment terms is impossible and for some it is, we can use those windows of opportunity however short to feel included, as we may have done in our healthy persona. Jobs are not designed for bad backs and finding any job, let alone one that suits our personal capability a lost opportunity for every nation to use a skilled and knowledgeable sector, left to sit in the corner and watch life go by. Disabled job club is what we need.

    Take care and pace well. John

  • be realistic and don't be too hard on yourself if you have bad days.
    The in/out of the car may take it's toll on you!

    Shoes, be creative with dark colored flat and springy boots!
  • i talked with human resources about this about 3 weeks ago and i had union rep with me. i complained about what i have mentioned in my posts, especially about being made to come back early before back healed. i let all know i was recovering, and it takes a year to recover from back surgery. no one mentioned a thing. i talked with hr 2 weeks ago about a follow up meeting to discuss my complaints, and guess what they said that they can't have a meeting until this week. well it is thursday, and hr has still not contacted me. i have a feeling, i will not hear from them. maybe they are talking to their lawyers, i don;t know , but i think that a follow up meeting would be important to them. maybe i need to call and mention the dreaded words, law suit, and they will contact me, but i won't hold my breath

    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • Michele,
    I worked at my job 29 yrs 11 mos. I went off work 11-10-07 due to extreme pain associated with lower back, neck, very weak legs and too many other problems to list. I had an Anterior Cervical Fusion C5-6, c6-7 on March 19, 2008. Since I had been there so long I had alot of sick time and vacation days accumulated. I was forced back to work May 28th even though my surgeon did not want me to go back. I had to return or my insurance benefits would have been cut off. My husband is also disabled with heart problems so having insurance is critcal to both of us. I think I worked a total of 3 days. One full and two half days. I could not sit, barely stand, still cannot drive, cannot talk (suffered vocal cord paralysis after surgery). I gave it my best. I could not take all my pain meds as I just could not function. My legs also give out so I was falling. My boss was so mean. No compassion whatsoever. It was as though I had put her out by being off. She would say our policy allowed six month off per year then she would take it back. One day she actually threw the policy at me. I then developed stress induced shingles and was put off work for another two months. During that two months my condition worsened and my dr put me off permanently. I have applied for soc sec dis but after reading many posts I am scared to death. Not only must we live in constant pain but I never thought my employer would be so unkind and cruel. I fear my husband and I will end up in financial ruin. I have also applied for long term disability. Currently I am on short term disability which runs out in January, then it's supposed to go to LTD.
    I truly understand all your concerns and your fears. I don't want my post to scare you. Remember we are all different. Just take it slow, do what you can but be careful not to injure yourself. I have tried to be optimistic about my situation. I don't think I have even totally accepted my limitations. But I have learned a few things from my illness. 1) Your health comes first. I always put 110% into my work and where did that get me.
    2) I have to put my trust in God and pray he will take care of us. 3) I can't do it all by myself and I can't hold everything in. That is why I found a support group which I should have done a long time ago.
    I hope and pray you have success at going back to work. I know you are scared. Just take one day at a time. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. We are all here due to pain issues and I have learned the hard way getting stressed out only adds to your pain levels.
    Please keep us informed as to how you are doing. Good Luck to you!
  • boss' don't care about your health etc. all they care about is that you are there and put in the hours and do a good job. they don't care if you have pain issues or feel bad or take meds or anything and if you complain, you are labled a cry baby or not a team player. even my orhto dr said this. we are screwed when it comes to work and bosses if we suffer from chronic pain. the world does not care brothers and sisters. they will get someone else if they feel you can't do the job. this happens even if the law is on our side. we have to prove that our work is discriminating against us. work can say anything they want to. they will lie if it will protect them. they will say you are being fired because you did a bad job and not due to your pain issues
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • I am so sorry to hear about everything you have and are going through. I pray that LTD and Soc Sec works out for you. I too trust in God and know that things will work according to his plan. It is scary though to think about what I am going to face when a trip to the grocery store or Christmas shopping is too much for me.
  • Hi Ming-
    You sound really motivated and excited. This job sounds like it has potencial for you to be able to work around your pain issues etc. Hopefully as you progress in your recovery, you'll feel better.

    I've recently returned to work full time out of necessity as well and yet deal w/a good amount of chronic pain. I'll try to list a few thoughts that may or may not help:

    - the truth is, whether our disibilities are hidden or not we all have certain limits as part of the human condtion. Its just that we are more aware and have to manage ourselves pro-actively.

    - to me its all about initiative more then things outside myself i have less or no control over. its about learning exactly how far i can push myself before i have to stop. with this knowledge i can work around my limits and get a lot done.

    -if i only look at things outside myself to help manage my pain problems i allow my pain to manage me and renders me powerless.

    -i'm challenged to be a good self manager. like you i'm working fairly independently.

    -write a small list each evenling of what you'de like to accomplish the next day, (5 things) order them in the most to least important and then give yourself lots of wiggle room to accomodate mobility issues or pain flare-ups. you'de be surprised at how much you can accomplish.
  • Bridgie,
    Thank you so much for the great advise and kind words. I have been testing my limits lately especially with the holidays and have a hard time stopping when I know I should because there are still things to be done. I can't just put my life, kids and home on hold because I am suffering with chronic pain, yet at times I truly wish I could.

    How are you making out with everything with your work situation? I am sorry you are having such a rough time. I pray everything works out for you. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

    To all of us that are trying to work with our chronic pain, I will say a prayer for you everyday and for those of you who can not work, I will pray for you too. I wish circumstances were better for all of us financially so that we could take care of ourselves and not have to be pushed back to work when our bodies aren't ready.

    I am still waiting to hear back from my pm doc because my SI injection only offered about 2 days releif and now I don't know what to do. I have to go back to work in about 3 weeks. I need a magic shot to fix my pain, do you think Santa will bring that for me? :? I have been good this year. :))( O:)
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