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Will I be able to return after 12 weeks to moderate physically job

katie0219kkatie0219 Posts: 11
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:53 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am scheduled for minimally invasive lumbar fusion for L4- S1 through posterior side on May 23. My doctor said I will only have a few 1-2 inch incisions and no muscles will need to be cut. He stated I will be out of work for 12 weeks.

I work as a pediatic occupational therapist with patients with cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, autism, brain tumors, etc. They range in age from newborn to 15. Half of my case load I am very hands on, sometimes having to physically restrain if they are being a danger to them selves or others until they calm, completing hand manipulation, lifting patients on and off of tables, toilets, equipment.

Has anyone had this surgery and been able to return after 12 weeks to a moderatly physical job? just want to know what to expect.

Thank you for any advice, wisdom, experience you may have.


  • I had a 360 ALIF but the posterior portion was done about the same way you describe.

    I think 12 weeks is preety soon after surgery to possibly be rolling on the floor with a patient. Consider that most bone growth happens in 3-6 months.

    I would be very careful about going back to work too soon after surgery.

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • I had a normal PLIF l5s1 and went back to teaching after 11 weeks - that was pretty tough and was for another three months. No way I could have done a more physical job - just pacing the lab where I teach was too much somedays!
  • I had an ALIF L4-5 in 09 and it was 6 months before I started feeling normal and wouldn't have been able to go back to work before then.

    Each one's recovery is different and it takes up to 6 months to fuse and then 6 months plus for the fusion to become strong. Even though your muscles won't be cut, it's the bone that has to heal and there are bending-lifting-twisting restrictions and you won't be able to increase activities until your surgeon gives you the ok.

    If you were go back to working with patients who needed to be lifted, etc then you could possibly injure yourself and go backwards in your recovery. Once you've had your surgery and into the recovery phase, you will know how much you will be able to do. Your age, fitness and surgeon's skill will have a bearing as to how quickly you recover.

    Athletes are able to recover more quickly than most of us because their muscles are strong and they have optimum cardiovascular endurance.

    Hope your surgery goes well on the 23rd and do post again when you're able to as we'd like to hear how you're going.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • i have a friend that has had a similar operation to you and returned to work {in my opinion too soon } that person is now regretting it } my consultant told me that i would need to recover for at least 12 months and to be really sure that the fusion has taken place .a further 24 months would be required ..a fusion however minimal is still a massive operation .with the capacity fir many thing to go wrong ..so if you value your back repair .leave it for as long as you can ..the more stress that you put on your new back the more is going to fail sooner rather than later ....on the good side ..see how you are in 3 months and if you feel able to carry out your duty then go for it ..but if you are in any doubt ..stay off work ..its your back ..and you want the best possible outcome . dont rush it ..it will heel when its ready
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • that you may have to use your body as a human shield to keep patients safe, or the potential weight that you might have to lift or carry, push or pull.

    Not only would that put your back at risk, you could potentially put your patients safety/and your liability at risk should you be unable to handle the weight or have a severe muscle spasm while in a particular activity.

  • In my experience are not shared by surgeons.

    I was not at all able to do much of anything physical at 3 months out.
  • hi katie

    Ive had my fusion 6 weeks ago and work in healthcare like yourself as an acute medical nurse though. Your job like mine is far too physical to go back to soon never mind 12 weeks.

    I asked this of my surgeon yesterday, and im not allowed to work as a medical nurse on an acute ward for 1-2 years due to the demands i would face which i think will be like you.i had alif which like yours, no muscles are cut, but it still has its major limitations.

    Ive been advised i can consider looking at going back but in a admin or clinic capacity.

    Would your job give you the option to work in a different capacity for a while?

    L5/s1 discectomy & decompression 2009
    ALIF l5/s1 2011
    Awaiting X-ray & consultant to see if fused, but experiencing a lot of pain again :( 2013
  • if 12 weeks i would be able to go back with NO restrictions. He said yes, maybe sooner. The only thing I see different in regards to those who have commented is most have had anterior and mine is posterior. Would like make that much difference in return time? My concern is if my doctor is convinced that 12 weeks is enough, I will have a hard time convincing him I need more time if indeed I do.
  • ... the lifting and restraining. After 4 weeks from L5-S1 fusion I worked from home. After 6 weeks I was at work. I have a desk job. I was told limit sitting and no more than 10-15lbs. By 3 months I think I was allowed 25-30lbs. At 6 months I was told 50lbs is ok as long as it is not over my head, loading spine down.

    So I would just caution you on having one of the other OTs help you with real physical patients or lifting heavier kids any distance. The rest is all trial and error.

    Be very specific with your surgeon about wanting the option to step back if 3 months turns out too early. The catch to that is also you come back from STD/LTD then change your mind and go back out again. Many companies don't like that at all.
  • Katie
    Not wanting to be a kill joy here but I doubt anyone on the forum would describe a fusion by any means, anterior, posterior or lateral as minimally invasive.
    Which ever way you cut it - the doc has to get down to your spine, remove the damaged disc and either insert a spacer, replace the disc or whatever he is doing and then screw the whole lot together!

    My doc was an amazing surgeon but way too optimistic with the recovery schedule - i think I am doing great after 9 weeks but he said i would be back sailing after 12 - yeah right - i am only now able to drive for an hour at a time and sit behind my desk for 2/3 of a day - gettting up every 30 mins or so so the likely hood of me bouncing around on a boat in 4 weeks time is nil!

    Everywhere on this forum you will see people saying the same thing - recovery is crucial and time is crucial - your doc of course knows your case better than anyone so you must take his advise and not ours but just be kind to yourself and go easy post op - no point in pushing too hard and then having to go through the whole process again.

    Sending only positive thoughts/
  • AdrianL - Very well said!

    I think the difference is we have been through the surgery and know what to expect whereas doctors learned about the procedures without feeling the actual results of their education.

    I went back to work WAY to soon and I think that's partially why I still have pain.
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
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