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Starting Physical Therapy Tomorrow--What Should I Expect?

lmacleanllmaclean Posts: 16
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:31 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am about 12 weeks out form a one level lumbar fusion (l5-S1). My neurosurgeon said I could begin PT. He said I need to do it for 4-6 weeks. He put my return date to work as 6/15. I am an Accountant and sit for long periods of time. I am still experiencing pain if I do not have the brace on. I can now stop wearing it since I will start PT. I would like to go back to work sooner if I am doing OK in PT. What should I expect from others experience with PT? Will I be sore after? Will it be too much to go back to work and do PT 3 times per week? I need to also mention I am going back to 2 jobs so I will be very busy. There really is no such thing as going back gradually. Confused on what to do...


  • I had great PT and it helps build core strength so you feel stronger, great advice too. Sometimes you might be sore and need to rest afterwards. Sometimes you feel fine after, always let them know if you hurt more or felt bad so they can help you decide what to do, not to do each visit.

    Wow, back to work with PT might wipe you out to start with, esp, with 2 jobs. I think you need to re-think it and try it slowly at first. Also, sitting for long periods only 12 weeks post-fusion is not easy so you may need several breaks during the day and possibly lumbar cushions, etc. Read other posts about working after fusion.

    What did your Dr. suggest? Listen to your Dr. before any of our advice here on the forums.

    Every one is different so you might ease back in and be fine. I'm 7 months post- fusion(L2-4) and I have nerve issues but my Dr. tells me to try something, take it slow, if it hurts let the pain be my guide, stop, wait and try again another time. I think that is good advice for anyone after this type of surgery.

    I hope you get back in the swing of things and never look back! Good luck!
  • I went back to work and did PT 2 times a week for the first month back. It helped me out tremendously and I felt better after the appts than before I went in. I was very nervous of going in for the first time. I thought that they would have me bend and stretch and do things that I wouldn't want to do but it turned out that they really helped me. After the month I was able to walk better and they taught me how to do the stretches that I needed when I had spasms or nerve pain. It was a work saver for me. Without it I wouldn't have been able to make it through the day. I too work at a desk all day so my manager had put in a desk that lowers and raises as I needed to stand up every 20 minutes.
  • I had PLIF, decompression and large cyst removal 5 months ago and was in a back brace for 3 1/2 months. I then started PT 3x week and it really helped to start to use your spine after being immobilized for so long. For me, I was not sore after PT, even though it was pretty intense. I was having a lot of muscle spasms and PT has helped. At that time, I also tried to go back to work full-time, (desk job 8+ hours a day) and after 3 weeks I decided to back off and work less, as I found I was going backward in my recovery, even though the PT was helping other issues.

    Sitting was and still is so hard after surgery for most of us. I have since gone to only working 3-4 hours a day and am building up to more hours as I can. The PT explained to me, though the fusion and recovery was taking place from right after the surgery, the rehabilitation is slower from being in a brace for so long.

    Hopefully, you can try to return to work a little slower and see how it goes. Everyone is different - I hope you do well!
  • Thanks for the replies. Kathy, did you try to go back to work full time when you started PT? My doctor has me out until 6/15, but I am worried about work and think I should back at the beginning of June (the 1st week of the month is always busy and I am taking on an additional job). I know once I am back it will be hard to work reduced hours. The more I am reading, I should just stay out until 6/15 so I feel stronger when I return. Getting used to not having thee brace on is difficult and the PT said to do it slowly. I did not do much on my first visit today. It was more of an evaluation. They are so busy I don't go again until next Thursday and then 2 times a week until 6/18.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,856
    Any of us who have been through some type of spinal surgery was faced with some time in physical therapy.
    This is a very important phase in your total recovery.
    Now what to expect:

    In the beginning

    You will experience some new pain, new soreness and could be really tired. This is basically a result of starting to use muscles that have been somewhat dormant during your pre and post surgical times.

    As it progresses

    Three or four weeks into your sessions, you should start seeing some positive results. Your muscles, your ligaments, etc are beginning to cooperate with the rest of your body. Never be blind sided and thing that because you are feeling good right now, you no longer need Physical Therapy

    The Final Stages

    I am a big supporter of Physical Therapy. But that support only goes so far. Initially there should be nothing but goodness, but that can change.
    PT's by nature of physically fit folks. So many times its hard for them to separate what normal people should be doing in rehab vs a person recovering for a spinal surgery. From my own personal experiences, once I moved past Stage 2 and starting to do some more physically challenging exercises, I went downhill or started new problems.
    My close PT person knew my inside and out. She would know what I could tolerate and what would cause new pain. Its sad that she moved away. The remaining therapist are good, no question about that, but I know what my body can do and what it cant, the newer PT's have not yet grasped onto that mindset.

    Overall Physical Therapy is very good. It is an important part of your recovery. Just never let it get to the point where it starts to do harm. Sure, it will cause some pain, listen to your body... if something is wrong, talk it over with your therapist and if needed your doctor.

    And as I part, understand what exercises you need to do at home ..... And KEEP UP WITH THEM!!!

    I am a perfect example of people that do not comply.

    If I did all what I was suppose to do, I probably would not have the ongoing pain that I do. Would it have preventive some of my surgeries???? Hard to answer, but I can tell everyone out there.....
    Keep up with the exercises that you should be doing
    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
  • I really thought I would work "part-time" in the beginning, but once I started back to work I did not know when to quit. It sounds like once you get back to work, there will be no turning back. I am basically self-employed, so I don't get paid when I don't work, but when I found that my recovery was going the other way because of working, I knew it was important to STOP and rethink this. None of us go into these spinal surgeries lightly. Please take it easy when you start back and listen to your body.

    Like Ron said, there is great benefit to PT. With that said, you need to find a really good PT and also do the exercises!! I do not get out of bed without doing a few of the exercises knowing that once my feet hit the ground there are always excuses why it isn't the right time to do them. You have to make time to do them and more than once a day.

    If you have any questions and want to PM me, feel free. I would be happy to answer more specifics if I can be of any help.
    PS--- Walk, walk, and walk. make sure you are moving.
    6/15 sounds like a better option....

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