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Back Surgery, to go back to work, or change careers?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Any advice would be great.

I had a L5-S1 spinal fusion on Nov 4th, 2008. I am scheduled to return to work May 1st, that will be 6 months post-op for me. I am an international flight attendant for a major airline. I will not be able to have any restrictions for work, unfortunately. I have to go back full force. Ill probably work 15 days per month.

At 3 1/2 months post-op I'm doing pretty well. I'm down to a half a vicodin each day plus Ibuprophen. I'm excersizing everyday. I completed 6 weeks of PT.

I'm just wondering if there are any of you out there with physically demanding jobs who have returned to work after a spinal fusion? How are you doing? My doctor says I should be perfectly fine going back. Any help would be appreciated. :)))


  • I am still not ready to go back to work and I have a desk job. There may be other issues going on because my pain is still as bad and at times worse than before surgery and I'm having numbness and pins and needles in my legs.

    I am happy to hear you are weaning off pain meds and doing well. Keep up the good work doing whatever it is that you do to help with your healing process.

    I wish you the best of luck returning to work.
  • Wow, Im sorry your still having problems. It sounds like you have some other issues going on. I had spinal decompression also. All I got out of it was a $3,000 bill from the Chiropractor, with an increase in my pain level as a bonus. Good luck to you.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,842
    Two of my closer friends are Pilot captains on International routes.
    But over the course of a month, if they actually fly more than 4 days worth its a lot, much is spent (mandatory rest time) and days off between flights.

    Now I know that Flight attendants do not have it as easy and the job is much more physically challenging.

    But with your type of surgery, you know what can cause the biggest problems in the future? - Desk jobs.
    When you can be on your feet and move around, you are always building up endurance and strength.
    Now, of course there are limits to how long you can remain on your feet before needing to take a break.
    The other factor involves lifting, bending , twisting that you might have to do in your job. Some of those restrictions will be life long, so understand what you can and can not do.
    I would talk to your doctor, let them know exactly what kind if job you are returning to and IF they have some concerns, fears or whatever.

    Through the use of a dedicated approved exercise program you would be amazed at how much you should be able to tolerate.

    One plus is that you would be moving. The single worst thing for spinal patients when flying distances is staying in their seats. I always look for an Emergency Exit Row or the last Seat on the plane so that I would have more leg room and I can get up and move around every 40 minutes or so.

    Don't overdo it, dont convince yourself that you can take om more without problems and in the same train of thought, dont sell yourself short, you can be surprised at how much you can regain when everything falls into place.

    Good luck

    Changing work careers is not an easy task. I have been with computers for over 35 years now, 34 of them spent with spinal problems. One of the larger contributors to my ongoing pain is spending 10 hours a day on a computer.
    As much as I understood, I love what I do so much, I try to deal with it.
    If I had changed jobs earlier in life, who knows if I would have had all the additional spinal surgeries I did have.

    Now, closing in at 59, I was fortunate enough for a company resource action plan. I have the option to retire, so that is what I am doing. In just the past two weeks in not spending all that time on the computer, my thoracic and cervical areas are not driving me crazy.

    So bottom line, you do not want to work in an industry that is only going to create additional and long lasting problems. If that is the cause considering your condition, then I would look at changing career paths.

    Good luck
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thanks Ron for your input. The other career I'm thinking about is teaching. Teaching has advantages and disadvantages and is DEFINATELY more stressful which causes back pain. Thanks for your advice on staying away from desk jobs. Sitting is a lot more painful than moving. Thanks again for your thoughtful response.
  • I have a strenuous and physically demanding job but not much bending over. I just completed my first week going back to work. No restrictions for me either. It has been 3 months since the fusion and artificial disc replacement and I have some soreness in my back and shoulders. The fusion location is at L4/L5 and it feels great. The area above it is a little sore but nothing to medicate for. I have not taken any pain meds or OTC products for my back yet because I want to feel what is going on. Since you have completed PT now I would say that was probably more difficult than work. The worst part for me has been getting back in the swing of things and not fearing what might happen. I was a little nervous but now I feel ready to do anything. I know some soreness is common when you start using the muscles you have let rest for so long so I am not worried. I do wonder if changing jobs would be beneficial in the long run but financially I have decided to stay where I am at for now. Good Luck to you and take it easy
  • Can you do 1/2 days for a couple of weeks to ease yourself into the routine? That may be something you might want to look into. Also, maybe you should considering starting on a Wednesday rather than Monday so you won't be overdoing your first week by working a full week. Just a few suggestions I thought of while reading the post.

    Good luck with everything and happy healing.
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