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Return to Work post ACDF

Jennifer76JJennifer76 Posts: 20
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Just wondering how long one is usually off work after having this surgery? Mine will be a 1 level fusion at C5/C6. I have a desk job but it requires me to twist and turn constantly. Mine is also a W/C case if that helps...


  • Returning to work is a very difficult answer to come up with, as each person recovers so different. Typical with a one level fusion my guess would be 6 weeks but have seen some go back in two weeks. Just all depends on the surgery and what is done and if there is any complications or not. Keep in mind once the hardware sets up you will be pretty solid with that area of your spine. Now also it depends on your employer and their requirements. If your job title has any weight issues with it and or they don't allow light duty that may change. I would speak to your HR representative and find out what you will be required to do and or if light duty is available. For example do you need to be able to lift a ream of paper for a copy machine or is there someone else who can do it? The ultimate decision will be up to your doctor and your employer/worker comp insurance. So you should also ask your surgeon what is his/her anticipated return to work date for you?

    Good luck on surgery and keep us posted on how you do.
  • My husband had the same surgery at the same level and he returned at 4 weeks. After being there for only 2 days he regretted his decision to not stay out for the entire 6 weeks that was recommended. But as tamtam stated, each person recovers differently.
    He is a workaholic and also has a desk job with a lot of travel throw in there too. He said that the main issue he had was typing. Once he repositioned things it became a little easier. As far a the driving to and from and the travel involved, he continues to have some difficulty with turning his head.
    Hopefully this will resolved itself soon.
    Wishing you a speedy recovery!
  • Stacy, That is what I fear most about my job return.. the way my desk is positioned... (the only way in our office to position it) my desk and the window make a right angle if that makes any sense...so I am constantly turning my neck to the left... I have tried the whole "Turn your body not your neck" thing but ha that doesn't work for me either... at least not all day! Luckly my commute to work is only 15 minutes so I am not complaining there! I type all day long at my job so yes that will pose a major problem and I answer phones all day long too! There is no such thing as light duty even if they say "light duty" on my W/C papers around here! LOL... I tried that when i first got assaulted and nothing was any different so I just asked the doc to put me back to fulltime status so I could start getting my paycheck back! I am a VERY independent person so this surgery is going to very hard for me. Being off of work for any amount of time is going to be hard for me... They have tried to convince me to go on disability because I also suffer from Fibro and severe migraines but I would be bored to death!.. LOL Thanks for the info! I just wanted to know what to expect when I came home from the hospital... everyone posts about SPINE recovery but not ACDF recovery!!
  • Jen my recommendation is to take the high end of what your doctor recommends. It is very hard on you and your employer if you go back and then have to go out again. You also don't want to compromise your healing in any way.

    As far as being bored - lmao. Never happens. At least not for women. You should feel pretty good after those first few weeks. The next few are the ones where you can do alot so you will get all those annoying chores done. Start making your list now :) Do things like getting your eyes checked, cleaning out your closets, lunch with friends, clean out the freezer. You get the idea. Light duty things that never seem to get done.

    You really do need the time to fully heal. And you will appreciate being able to rest during the day as needed.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I had an Aspen Brace I wore for 6 weeks so I returned to work around week 7 post op (needed a week without the brace to adjust).

    For me, with the brace and without, I had difficulty typing, etc, in the first 6-8 weeks after.

    Since your claim is a WC claim, make sure you do what you need to recover and stay out as long as it takes (reasonably) to consider going back to work. And, if possible, see if you can gradually return to work with part time to start.

    My biggest barrier when I returned to work was exhaustion. I had done NOTHING in the 6 weeks I was home so when I did go back it was awful. Not from the neck, but the walk from my car to the office. So if you can, get short walks in as soon as you feel better. With my second neck surgery I began (with the surgeon's blessing) a treadmill walking plan on day 10 (gave my body 10 full days of rest). I started with 5 minutes at 1 mph. Added 1 minute a day and would not push myself as I normally would in a workout. So if the day called for 8 minutes that's all I did. When I got to 10 minutes I upped to 1.25 mph. When I got to 20 minutes I upped to 2 mph. Again, if on any day I was in pain even at the first minute I stopped.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • I had the same surgery on May 5th of this year. I went back to work on July 5th. I stayed out for 2 months even tho my dr told me he thought I would be ok going back after 4 weeks. I was a little worried, but from the first day, I realized that the surgery was totally worth it!! I went home from work a little more tired than usual, but I was in way less pain and suffering than before the surgery!
    I have a desk job and sit a whole 9 hours at the computer, moving, twisting, and rotating between 3 computer screens. I did fine! As a matter of fact, I painted my bedroom this past weekend!!! My right arm is weaker than it used to be, but I cannot tell you how pleased I am with the results.
    Take it easy and just go with your feeling. If you feel ready, then go for it. Take all the time you need to, don't rush it.
    Take care,
  • Thank you! I was just talking to a co-worker yesterday about my desk arrangments and how poor they were as I too have mulitple screens... She mentioned that I should get a script from the doc to have my PT come out and assess my work space and try to get them to fix this area I sit in for most of the day... It will no good to do all of this surgery just to come back and tear it all up sitting like i do now again!! Twisting and turning wrong!! Hopefully he will listen and so will my company!! I am dealing with Work Comp so I don't know what I am up against in that matter.
  • Hi there,
    Got questions, surgery upcoming w/in 2 wks. Exactly what should be expected realistically? I have herniation's, stenosis, etc...Needless to say. But with the hardware which will be put in place and how much range of motion is lost w/ the fusion - compared to now? Exactly what is done or installed? I know a plate but what else... :/
  • Jennifer,
    Yes, that is such a good idea! I wish I could do that, but because of the kind of environment I work in, I don't think that would even be a possibility! I hope your PT can go and ergonomically fix your area, because it's so true - after all the pain of surgery recovery, you don't want to mess it up again!
    Take care and I hope it works out.
    By the way, again, take it slow and take as much time as you can to fully recover. Everyone is different, so listen to your body.
    I am happy to say that I am so much better, but still definitely not 100%. I really didn't even start driving until right before I started work, just because I didn't want to have to turn my head too much, changing lanes and such.
    I hope your recovery goes well!
  • You commented on turning heads... LOL... I am having trouble already driving and turning my head and I haven't even had the surgery yet! I depend on my kiddos to help me most of the time when backing out of parking spaces and busy areas such as the mall but we also live in a small town per se! I definitely won't be driving in Dallas traffic anytime soon! I have to travel for my surgery and will have to let my husband drive down there and back home again! He is a sight-seeing kind of driver so I am not looking forward to this trip :) ANY suggestions on how to handle this long 2 1/2 hour trip back home after surgery would be helpful and also the trouble turning my head while driving too :)

  • I suggest that during your journey home from hospital, you take several breaks to get out the car and take a walk. Probably need to do that about every half an hour. Have lots of cushions in the car, to help you get comfortable. I had a lumbar fusion, so not familiar with cervical limitations. I was told to lie the seat back to be as flat as possible. Also to put a plastic bag on the seat to make it easier to swivel round. A plastic bag in the car might be useful in case of nausea! :sick:

    I wonder if sitting on a turntable seat would help you to turn to see better while driving. It might not be a good idea, but perhaps worth a try. Then you could turn your whole body, keeping your head fairly still.

    What do you think? :-)
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