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Back to work

mommatialuvmmommatialuv Posts: 269
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Just curious, will you all please let me know when you were able to return to work (full or part time). Please include what type of surgery and what type of work you do, what meds you went back to work on if any?
I am supposed to go back to work on 11/23, i dont see it happening, I have nerve damage, I am still on all meds, was told to start cutting back on Neurontin, i cut back one pill on Monday and by yesteday afternoon my fool felt like it was on fire with pins and needles in my calf,(PA says this is not unusual post op) I had to take an extra Norco just to be able to sleep. The Neorontin was keeping the nerve pain mostly bearable, but very sleepy, I need a nap after each dose. I obviously cant work like that, I also couldnt work with the pain i experienced yesterday.
Is anyone on long term disability or SS disability. I am very frustrated with my lack of progress, I feel like I am going backwards. My back has started hurting at different levels constantly, I am hoping that is just a side effect of PT. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
May God Bless and Keep you as you continue to heal or prepare for your proedure/surgery.


  • I'm not sure about the return to work time. I'm almost at 3 months from SI joint fusion, which is when I'm "supposed" to be back to work, but it's not going to happen. What my PT said was that with long term chronic problems that are corrected surgically the rehab and return to work time is always longer. I was told to block off 6 months instead of the standard 3 for my expectation to returning to a more normal level of functioning, so maybe 6 months would also be more realistic for you than 3?

    As far as the pain at other levels of your back, I think it is pretty normal following surgery. How it was explained to me is that when the spine is unstable the muscles tighten up and start firing in weird patterns. Then, when you correct the instability surgically you still have all these muscles pulling on the spine which creates pain at other spots. Another thing that is likely occurring is that the fusion puts additional strain on the segments above, and because you're not bending and flexing normally yet (I assume you are still on no bending and twisting restrictions) there is no where for the extra force to be absorbed. Once the segments above the fusion are allowed to move more normally and become less stiff they should absorb the extra force better and be less painful. Is your PT doing manual therapy to try to release some of the tight muscles? That has been one thing that has really helped me in my post-op recovery. You could also ask if they can gently spring test some of the vertebra above the fusion to try to gently unlock the facet joints. I'm not positive if they can do this after the fusion you had, but it might be worth asking. That is another manual PT technique that I have found has really helped with pain.
  • I am 10 1/2 weeks out and can't imagine going back to work. Maybe, MAYBE, very part time, like, 3 hours two days a week? That's not to say I wouldn't love to go back, I so miss the interaction, feel a bit secluded. I hope you figure it out AND feel better!
  • Every body is different. How fast you heal, when you get off pain meds, and when you feel ready to go back to work. The Dr. gives you and estimated time, but it's not written in stone. I had a very large surgery, 4 levels L2-S1 anterior and posterior. I take only 4 percocet a day and weening off them at this time also. I plan to go back to work on Nov. 18th. Dr. has given me the ok. Full time no restrictions. I have a mostly sedentary job with standing,walking,sitting. I all depends on the type of work you do! Good luck and let us know. If you don't feel ready TELL your Dr. Take care
  • I had a 2 level PLIF L4-S1 two years ago, returned to work 3 weeks later while taking Percoset and Robaxin. I was tired, but managed to stay productive. Last year, I had the hardware removed and a revision of my fusion at L4-L5 along with a full facectomy at both levels. Went back to work 1 week after that surgery with the same scripts as above.

    I sit all day and work on a computer. Unfortunately I have developed Arachnoiditis from my surgeries and years of ignoring my back issues. I personally will never be right and work provides me the necessary distraction to push through the daily grind. I also love what I do for a living and could not imagine what I would do if I couldn't work. Next month I will have yet another surgery, SCS implant. If I'm lucky, this will be my last.

    2 months is not a lot of time since your surgery. If you need the time, take it. At two months, life was a struggle for me. My back is much better now and I would have to say it took about 18 months to really feel better. I still have the broken nerves, but I can't complain, yet I still do sometimes.

  • I appreciate you all taking the time to respond. As of today, I know I will not be ready to return to work in 3 weeks, at least not full time, I will talk to my doc and boss about the posibility of part time, maybe 3-4 hours a day. You know see how that goes. I am a secreary so I am sitting about 75% of the time then at the copy machine, printer, mail room, things like that. Right now I can sit at my computer for about 25 minutes before the back pain makes me get up. Maybe if I time it right, that can be copier etc time.
    Again, thanks for the responses, Keep Praying :)
    May God Bless and Keep you all,
  • Better late then never - right?

    Just thought I'd add my experience:

    It took me 5 1/2 months to return to a fairly easy job - librarian. I do have to lift up to 45 lbs. I went back with restrictions. I've never officially been released to lift more than 20-25 lbs. so I just do my job with lighter loads and more trips.

    I had a S1-L4 fusion with screws and rods.

    I did/still do have complications, but I don't think those really had any impact on my returning to work.

    I did not take much medication and was off everything but Tylenol by the 3 month mark. But then I was VERY motivated to get off them -they make me terribly sick.

    Even at that almost 6 month mark I almost lost my job - they were pushing me to consider long term disability. VERY stressful and a big SHOCK to me to hear that last year.

    It's suprising how long it takes to recover and how long you truly are disabled - I won't take disability (I love my job) but if I'm honest I do consider myself to be disabled. I DO restrict my movements, my abilities and I am ALWAYS catering to my injury/injuries. Don't know that it will ever change for me in the future either. I'm not going to let it stop me from trying to enjoy life though!
  • I know this is a horribly personal question and you can tell me to mind my own business if you want, my feelings won't be hurt: how old are you? Just wondering because your pain and situation sounds a bit like mine I also feel "disabled" (hate saying that). I am only 40, but this whole thing honestly has thrown me so far off track (watch out I feel a tiny rant coming on!! image:)" alt=">:)" height="20" />) I can't imagine feeling normal again and right this second if asked, I wouldn't go through this again. I don't want to be discouraging for anyone, so forgive me if you are about to have this surgery, but I don't know if I am any better or worse. Feel as much pain as ever. If I do light housework etc. always have pain. Just wonder when I will feel better. That's all I really want is just to feel that it was all worth it.
    So sorry to rant on your post and forgive the personal question. Good luck with your job situation, I am a dedicated book lover and love the library, I bet you do too!!! Hang in there and keep us posted!
  • Its never to late to answer a question of mine, :) I hope others continue to answer. I have been with the same company for almost 9 years now, and I also enjoy my job as a secretary. I have had Hysterectomy 2006 Gastric Bypass 2004 Bladder surgery 2002 Sinus surgery 2000, and a child by c-section in 1988, so I am not a stranger to surgery. WIth exception to the birth of my second child in 88 I have NEVER taken more then 2 weeks off post-op so this is really throwing me for a loop. I have always prided myself on my work ethic, and cannot imaine going back ready to give less then 100%. I also have worked since I was 15 years old, almost 31 years now, I cannot imagine long term disability. I guess the truth is I am scared of what my future holds and doesnt hold.
    Thanks for listening,
  • It's horrible that so many spineys are on a timeline for their healing and expected to return to work with pain. I really feel for you and get quite angry at the unfairness of these things. I know, that's life, but it's so harsh.

    I gave up work 4 years before surgery due to the pain, and I think I was blesssed that I could heal in my own time. My dr. said 1-2 years recovery at my age, but I've recovered very well and I am now doing a course. It's 2 days a week and the only problem I've had is sore eyes, from wearing glasses all day which I'm not used to.

    My partner is 7 years older and still working full time at 66, so I'm hoping to get a part time job sometime next year and let him reduce his days, until I am working full time, then he can retire.

    Good luck Shirley.

  • I feel the same way and so understand your fears about the future. Would sell my left big toe for a crystal ball that really works!!!!
    Hang in there!
  • I am responding to your post to saltzworks....I would just like to remind you that you had, basically, two major surgeries about eight weeks ago. The surgeries you had are supposedly the second BIGGEST surgery next to open heart surgery....you not only had all your abdominal area rearranged but the major muscles of your back were sliced and pulled apart, too, so the surgeon could access your spine from the front and from the back....Personally, I think you have a right to still feel pretty crappy at eight weeks.

    Healing from an open fusion is a long process and it requires a great deal of patience. You will have an easier time of it if you just accept that fact and live accordingly. Your body will heal at its own speed. If you try to will it to go through the process faster, you will only end up frustrating yourself and possibly damaging the surgery by trying to do too much too soon. I know you want your surgeries to be a success and you do not want to have to go through this again, so try to keep that in the back of your mind as you move forward with purpose.

    I think perhaps you were not sufficiently prepared for how complex the process of fusion is. Unless you are truly unique, you will never "return to normal." Your body has been altered and there will be new things to learn, new ways to move, new postures to adapt, etc. You may find that once you are completely healed, you will still have some pain to deal with.

    The more time I spend on the board the more I am convinced that too many surgeons are less than truthful when it comes to explaining the recovery time and process to their patients. It is difficult to have a fusion on any kind of time table because we just don't know how we are going to heal until we begin the process.

    Please, Rachel, try to just leave your mind blank for now and let your body go through the process of healing. Don't compare yourself to others or compare this surgery to any other experience you've had, because it just isn't fair. You've come this far, so you might as well try to be as positive as you can muster....you're still at a rough point in recovery. In a couple weeks you'll start to feel a bit more like yourself...and things will get easier after that point.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "light housework" but almost anything that I consider housework is probably more than you should be doing at 8 weeks out from a 360 fusion. At this point your most important jobs are to walk and rest, walk and rest. After three months, you can start to think about other things!

    I'm sorry if I come off sounding preachy @) -- but I just get the feeling that you were not prepared for the intensity of this surgery and you're not fully realistic about the length of recovery. The good news is that you are through the worst of it...I just wanted to write this to encourage you to give yourself a break -- be a bit more patient and just take it day by day.

  • Please read what I just wrote to Rachel because most of it applies to you, too! You've never been off more than two weeks but then you've never had a two level fusion before either!! You too need to give yourself a break and let nature take its course. There's nothing you can do to rush the healing process...so you might as well just try to relax and make up your mind that healing well and completely is the most important task, regardless of how long it takes.

    A year from now, hopefully you can look back on this, you will be feeling great and back to your life and it will all just be a distant memory.

    xx Gwennie
  • Gwennie-thank you so much for the kind words, I cried when I read your post, mostly because you are right about not being totally prepared for the seriousness of this. My doctor really skirted the issue of how long my down time would be. I knew 100% about the pain I would be in after the surgery, but this is the first time where I can't put my mind to something and fix it. I know I have to get used to it and generally I am a positive person, usually glass half full etc. but this-WOW-really tough. I must say thank you (Gwennie and all of you out there) for being here. I can't say how nice it is to know there are people who know what I am going through and care enough to encourage me. I have lots of people who love me, but when they see me all showered, dressed and in a good mood they think I am well enough to be out doing things with them. Even a movie is hard for me. They are nice enough about it, but I feel like I am not understood. Thanks for listening and helping me feel better. Tomorrow is a chance for a better day.
    Maybe we will all sleep like babies tonight!!
  • Thanks for the responses and support. Gwennie I always read your posts and would have been disappointed if you had not said it is early in our recovery :) I know that you are correct, it just gets frustrating and scarey sometimes. My husband and I had to have a long talk last night about how my income being cut in half would affect us financially. We are making a list of our cutbacks. I have to admit we are blessed, which makes us a little spoiled. We have areas we can cut back/out. Our credit will be ruined, but we will still have plenty to eat and a home to live in. We will still be blessed, just not as spoiled :) .Its is the fear of the unknown that is the most overwhelming. My doc predicted 3 months, which if it wasnt for this "nerve problem" I am having would probably be doable. When I saw him at 2 and 6 weeks he did not sound hopeful about the nerve healing anytime "soon". He told me we are in a wait and see situation, and if it is not better in a year, it would be classified as permanant. See the unknown. For now, I will work on patience again, and see my silver linings. I have many blessings, I will count them twice. :) Thanks again everyone for your support.
    May God BLess and keep you,
  • about 4 weeks after surgery, part-time. Some days I would just go in and get work and bring it home and do it lying on the couch with my laptop on my knees. I went back full time after 3 months. There are days when I wish I never had to go back again. Sitting all day is very difficult. I generally do without any meds, but occasionally will need a oxycodone and, when I get painful flares, I'll have to go back on the oxy for a few days along with some Lyrica. I hate having to do that, but some times you've gotta do what you've gotta do. If you have the leave time and can handle not going back, I'd say take all the time you have. Fusion surgeries are not easy to recover from.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Whew! I am relieved that you understood my message. I do sound like a broken record with my "you're early in your recovery" speech, don't I? I should just type it up once and save it and then I could save myself a lot of work. ;) But you know what? People need to hear it and they need to be reminded of it because healing takes longer than ANY of us think it should.

    Rachel made a great point: When you pull yourself together, put on makeup, get dressed and walk OK, people assume you are fully healed. I still get this all the time. I am almost two years out from my fusion and I had a smaller surgery this past January. People know I am still having problems and I guess they expect me to look like I'm really in pain, or walk with a great deal of effort. They are always very surprised and say "Well, you're moving really well. You look fine." Then I have to tell them that I do move really great. It's just that I can only do it for about five minutes! You just have to learn to expect this attitude and deal with it or ignore it.

    Shirley, I'm still having a problem with a nerve. We thought my second surgery would fix the problem but it didn't. I have a lot of experience with nerve issues. It is important to have faith in your doctor, but he can't predict the future either. He can't tell you if the nerve will heal in a week or a year or what. He really can't even tell you that beyond a year it will NOT heal because that is unknown.

    You need to try to take things one day at a time and do what you can to help your recovery...walking, stretching...whatever it is you've been told by your doctors.

    I think that for those of us with spondylolisthesis, the surgery takes longer to heal and more work has to be done to realign the spinal posture, rebalance the muscles, etc. I don't believe there are any studies to back up my theory, but I believe it to be true!

    There is room to move up on the amount of neurontin you're taking to see if that might help. You could ask to try Lyrica instead of neurontin. There are a variety of things you could try -- but you are still early in your recovery and things may just kind of clear up after awhile. I still have changes in my nerve pain and I know others that finally started feeling pretty normal after 18 months. It took that long to fully recover from their fusion surgeries.

    I think this is one time when it is a good thing to "live in the moment."

    As my grandma used to say: "Thus ends the reading of the sermon" for tonight.

    xx Gwennie

  • I had a double procedure this year on 7/31. (Laminectomy/decompression of L3-S1 and a single level fusion at L4-L5.) I'm going back to work full-time on Nov. 2. I have a sit down job and am able to get up anytime I want. I have to admit though, I didn't start feeling "perky" till a couple of weeks ago. And you know, I have been off for 12 weeks and feel absolutely no guilt. I'm an RN and knew from the "get go" that I was having one BIG surgery and it was going to take time to heal. My doc said it could take as long as 6 months to a year to feel good. My doc told me that there were no guarantees that my nerve pain was going to resolved with this surgery so,I knew that going in.I had been in pain management for 4 years and had felt so rotten for so long,,,something had to be done. I know all to well about nerve pain and it is not a good time.

    My neuropathy in both my feet and lower legs came back at 8 weeks post op, so this week when I saw my surgeon, I asked about doing an SCS trial. I'm in the process of getting things set up for the that. In the meantime, I'm on 2700mg of neurontin a day to cover my nerve pain.

    My biggest issue for me going back to work is the people I work with. They were not very supportive the entire time I was struggling with med adjustments, epidurals, etc. Now with the SCS trial, I know I will hear comments from the peanut gallery about needing a little more time off.

    Sometimes it seems that it will never end. I just try to take things day by day. I accept the fact that my house can't be "clean as a whistle' and there are things I plain just cannot do. But, on the other had I try to look to the future at what I may be able to accomplish in doing next year.

    All of you, please take care!

  • Wow, Rachel and Shirley - we could be carbon copies of each other!

    Rachel - I am 43 (42 when I had my 2-level fusion) and I DO love the library! It's a dream job. But to be told that I needed to consider disability? It was such a shocker! I would do my job from a wheelchair if I had to. But I also have to be honest...does the pain wear on me? Do I get cranky? Does it not wake me up every single night? (in case you were wondering - the answer is yes!)

    But, I also consider myself to have healed better than almost every single person I know. I consider my surgery a success - despite the issues and the backache. I no longer have CES - let me tell you, CES is HORRIBLE. I no longer have the HORRIFIC sciatic leg pain either.

    And Shirley - I started working at age 14/15ish, have a very strong work ethic and am one of those super-enthusiastic-energetic people that just gets things done. Yes, we are very alike I think. AND..it WAS a big surprise to not be headed back to work at the 3 month mark that I had planned. I'm still shuffling last years debt (glad my 401 is doing well enough to take the pressure off!) and it's just NOT easy. I actually think all my heart issues (high BP and arrythmia are due to the pain, pressure and stress of the last few years.

    That said - I'm determined to make the most of what I've got. To enjoy each and every moment. To not take anything for granted ever again.

    For my legacy I don't want to be defined by my inability to physically do what I used to do, I want to be known for what I still accomplished - all while being a silent warrior (one who does not moan and groan and does things despite the pain - or maybe in SPITE of the pain)
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I'm 43 and my LTD claim was just approved. I've had a variety of surgeries in my working career and the longest I was ever out was 6 weeks. But this time it made no sense to push going back - so my STD was approved and then my LTD. The fast rate at which they approved my LTD proved to me that they see how messed up my spine is!

    While I still hope to return to work one day I am actually relieved that when I have my surgery (possibly in December) I won't have the stress of "when will I get back to work". All I will concentrate on is healing and if the time is ever right I can then think about returning to some type of employment. Ironically my position was eliminated in September so I wouldn't have a job to go back to even if I could. Weird sense of freedom.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • I sure love all the support and helpful advice here, you all are so kind and I appreciate hearing from you.
    SpineAZ- Good luck with your surgery and enjoy the time off to rest and prepare. So rare in our lives to have time to ourselves!!! Keep us posted!
  • I hate to say this...but thanks to pain medication (hydrocodone) and Neurontin I was able to tolerate my pain after surgery and work full time 2 1/2 weeks after my L5, S1 Fusion (PLIF). I was taking the maximum "legal" amount of hydrocodone along with 1800 mg Neurontin. I was able to perform my duties (desk job) with no loss of productivity. I know pain medication affects people in different ways, but it did not make me sleepy.

    However, it took me a long time to get off of the hydrocodone...I become dependent on it and had horrible....and I mean horrible...withdrawal symptoms. I'm still on 1800 mg Neurontin which helps with nerve irratation (7 months later).

    I've had ups and downs since my surgery, but I am close to 100% better (at this time) than before surgery and I think that going back to normal activities as soon as I could has helped.......because the 2 1/2 weeks that I was home I couldn't even imagine going back to work....but once I returned to work....every day got easier.

  • Thank you all for your support and encouragement, what a blessing you all are :) . I got a massage and a haircut today, very relaxing. My wonderful hubby found a place to rent me an electric wheelchair,and I was able to go trick-or-treating with my 4 year old. It was great. Hubby says we have it untill the first of the year for now. I can go Christmas shopping :) , life is feeling somewhat "normal". He wants to see if my doc will write a script for it so insurance may cover it. I will call Monday.
    I wish you all many days as great as my today was.
    May God Bless and Keep you... (all happy and mobile)
  • Sound like you received several lovely treats today, Shirley! How nice of your husband to problem solve like that. When you can get back to some semblance of normalcy it does help the mental aspects of healing.

    Do you just have your little boy living at home? Are the daughters close by? My kids are both far away and I miss them.

    Glad you had a memorable Halloween.

  • Yes the "baby" is the only one still at home, my girls are off on Friday and Sunday, They visit every Sunday and when they can on Friday. They are supportive but it is hard for them to see me so restricted. We just lost my mom to cancer in June of '08 and they watched very closely as she became imobile and dependent on others. They were rooming to together and took care of her the last 6 months of her life (she couldnt live alone anymore and they took her in, they are amazing young ladies) They know I am not "sick" like she was, but it is still weird for them to see me "down".
    Hubby really did surprise me, its like the "light just went on" that I am not kidding about how all this is affecting me. I think he was in a bit of denial after seeing me bounce back from previous surgeries.
    But things are on an up wave now and better days are on thier way.
    There is a light at the end of the tunnell and it is NOT at train :)
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