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How Long Will I Be out of Work?

chwill17cchwill17 Posts: 10
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Lower Back Pain
I am having a L5/S1 microdiscectomy on 8/8. I am 31 y/o and in very good health and shape. I actually believe that bodybuilding + 2 young children resulted in my herniation. Unfortunately, PT, exercise, NSAIDS, etc. over 10 months has not helped the issue.

My O.S. has told me to prepare to be out of the office for 3 weeks. However, I am not in a physically demanding job and it seems like my activities would the the same at the office as they would be at home (alternating sitting, standing, walking). Unfortunately, my job responsibilities will make it very difficult for me to stay away this long.

I'd appreciate any advice. I'm not going to push myself more than necessary, however I need to prepare for a realistic time away from work.



  • Has the doctor recommended a lot of bed rest and icing of the area? If yes, then I would take his/her advise. If he hasn't mentioned bed rest, then I would ask him if you should bed rest and for how long. If he said bedrest isn't needed, then I would think that you can return to work since you said your work environment is low risk.
  • Actually no...he doesn't want me to do any bed rest. Its all sitting, standing and walking. He just isn't giving me a good reason to stay out of the office.

    He did say that he doesn't want me to drive for 6 weeks as he doesn't want me to use my right foot.

  • Chwill, I had a microdiscetomy on May 4, within 48 hours the surgery failed and had another discetomy on May 11. After the second surgery I felt great; walking within hours of surgery, at home the next day, moving well. Within 3 weeks I was walking 3 miles a day. But six weeks out I woke up one morning with intense back pain. Once again my disc had herniated. Now I have been in and out of the doctors office for another six weeks doing an array of tests. I have now been out of work for 3 months and am facing doing a fusion in a week that will keep me out another 8-12 weeks. Now I chalk my problems up to a lot of things. But I know I have to take some of the blame.
    Please don't rush to get back to work, it may seem simple to not bend, twist or lift but its not. Get as much help as possible. You won't be able to lift anything over 10lbs for 6-8 weeks. This is harder with young children. Even simple household chores like dishes, laundry or mowing are out. You basiclly have to take this time to focus on resting and walking. But taking 3 weeks will be cheaper in the long run.
    Interesting thing is I am also 31, 6'2" 240 and very athletic (basketball coach) and have two kids 2 and 5. I hope maybe my mistakes can help you have an easier road. Good luck and God Bless.
  • Great feedback...thanks so much for the help. My kids are 2 and 5 also...it's amazing how easily they can break you.
  • 3 weeks .you must be joking ...its your spine .and fit or not .spinal surgey is major .and if it goes wrong your life is a life of pain take the posters advice and don't be in a rush to get back to work .for a microdiscectomy i would give yourself at least 6 months rest and gentle exercise like swimming .no weight bearing exercises .believe me if your back operation failed .your will be in terrible pain .so hopefully it wont and you will get about ten years out of it {many people that have back operations have to have revision surgey } i am on my third lot i have gone from an open laminectomy to a open discectomy and now ALIF that's a fusion {big stuff|} i was an electrician i have not worked for 15 years due to constant pain /lack of sleep and other illnesses due to intractable pain and loads of medication ..i was very fit at your age too !!
    tony {uk}
    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
  • I'd take it much, much slower this time!

    Get as much information as you can about microdiscectomy surgery - chat to your surgeon about any questions or concerns you have and ask what a realistic outcome of the surgery might be.

    The microdiscectomy surgery I had failed after one month. It was NOT the surgeon's fault I hasten to add, it was just one of those things. I had a repeated operation the following month. The surgeon told me afterwards that when he took out the offending fragment of disc, he noticed another 'piece' fell into the same space - so he had to go back in and take that one out as well - of course, if he hadn't, then it would have failed for a second time.

    I'm probably not explaining myself very well, but it's possible this can happen to other people when the disc fragments into many smaller pieces - it's not something the surgeon is aware of beforehand.

    So, after your surgery, it will be in your best interest to take things very slowly at first. Let yourself heal properly before you return to work and hopefully your employer will support you when you return by
    1) possibly buying an ergonomic chair with good lumbar support or
    2) Allowing you to work on a "Phased Return" or
    3) Assessing your needs after surgery and making any identified, and mutually agreeable, 'reasonable adjustments' for you (like they did for me here in the UK, and I was lucky because I know this doesn't happen in alot of companies)?

    When you say "Unfortunately, my job responsibilities will make it very difficult for me to stay away this long" this upsets me in a way. We put so much pressure on ourselves to return to work ASAP because we don't want to let our employers down, or because we think nobody else can do our jobs better than ourselves, but in the real world, if supposing you were knocked down by a bus (G-d forbid!), what would your employer do then? They would probably get TWO people in to do your job whilst you recuperated.

    Your [good] health is the most important thing you need to concentrate on because, without it, you couldn't work at all.

    If you put off having this spine surgery until a later date because it is too inconvenient to be away from your work, you may unfortunately find that your back condition deteriorates and you may, therefore, require a more invasive surgical procedure because more damage may have occurred. Do you see what I mean?

    I'm not trying to frighten you in any way, honestly, because everyone who has spine surgery recovers at a different rate of course. I am just trying to explain it from my own personal experience. I spent many years trying anything and everything to avoid taking time off work, making sure I put my employer/job first, postponing my hospital appointments so I wouldn't be off work during term-time - WORK was all I focused on at that time and not ME. However, 5 years after those surgeries, I definitely think differently now. Why? Because I ended up having a 2-level fusion last year. I don't know if I contributed to this at all by going back to work too early, by staying at work whilst experiencing extreme lower back and leg pain (possibly due to working in schools with excessive bending to work with the little children etc.). Should I have stayed at home resting my back a little bit longer? To be honest, I could have ended up needing the fusion surgery anyway whatever I did or didn't do, who knows, but at that time I thought I was making the right decisions. After the fusion surgery I still have ongoing issues with back/leg pain, other medical issues have since cropped up and I am back on the medications I took BEFORE the fusion, so yes, I would have done things differently if I'd known then what I know now.

    All I can advise you is: Please don't overdo it after surgery. Listen to your surgeon's advice/restrictions (if any). Do what you can, when you can and take each day as it comes. That's all you can hope for until your spine has completely recovered. You could still go to work (within reason) with a broken arm, but you CANNOT work effectively when you experience a high level of back pain.

    I really hope it all goes well for you and that you are able to return to work quickly. After my first microdiscectomy, I returned to work after 2 weeks and in hindsight, this was definitely too early for me personally.

    I'm sorry for such a long post - I do get carried away! But please let us all know how you get on OK?
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • Day 1 post surgery - feeling pretty good. Was able to take 2 walks today. Both were about 1/4 mile. Sleeping has been a little difficult, but manageable.

    Looking forward to more recovery in the coming weeks.
  • to the other side! Wow, 1 day post op and you have already taken 2 1/4 mile walks. Please be careful though not to over due it. Walking is the best thing after surgery, but please be careful to balance it with rest. Limit your sitting, don't do any bending,lifting or twisting.

    Was your surgery day surgery? How are your pain levels and are you on medication? Any immediate change with leg/ back pain ( minus incission pain) already?

    Wishing you all the best with your recovery and please keep us updated on how you are doing.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Outpatient surgery...went in @ 9 and out by 3:30. Leg pain is 95% gone. Took percocet last night and Tylenol this morning. May not take anything else.
  • Made it through the second full day. I took one long walk this morning for 3/4 mile. Later in the day, I went with my wife to the mall to walk around and have lunch. No pain but I was very tired by the end. Came home and took a nap and rested, which helped a lot.

    Later on, I went with my wife to the store and to pick the kids up from school. One last walk of 1/4 mile before dinner. Struggling a little with the lack of control..it's giving me some anxiety. But being out helps. Goal for tomorrow is a 1 mile walk in the morning.

    So far, so good.
  • I had the surgery on January 7th. I'm on disability until February 5th. I also work in an office mainly sitting. So far so good but I do have intense pain where the incision is. This all started in August. Hopefully this will be my last round of oxycodone. Can't wait to be done with it. My L4 L5 herniated deep in the root. I'm 37. The problem is I also have two annular tears above it. My fear is that eventually they'll herniate and l'll end up the the dreaded fusion. After one week sitting is extremely difficult, it's painful cause it stretches the incision area. I walk about a quarter mile a day. The oxycodone masks everything as it has been since August. I guess my point is, I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to do. Another thing. I'm pretty sure the problems started with my old job as a very hands on Housekeeping inspector and my intense back country hiking. My doctor has provided no feedback as to lifestyle changes. I have tried to pull it out of him but he just won't. Kind of confusing. My leg pain is gone and no pain from the dusc, just the incision. So I think things went well. Any advice on what to do in the future to avoid this and what I should be doing for the next three weeks.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
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  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Curious if your surgeon referred you to pain management for continued monitoring of you spine and pain management as needed?
    Did surgeon recommend this kind of follow up to also keep an eye on the tears you mentioned?

    I have to agree that your surgeon certainly should be more forthcoming with any limitations and or restrictions for you...and for what length of time..etc...
    Post op instructions seems a basic thing to do.....to me.

    If referred to pain management, that doctor should be familiar enough with your spine to instruct you.
    As he would best know your spinal conditions besides your surgery....as you mentioned tears.

    Others may come along and share their experiences, but everyone is so individual.
    What may work for one may be harmful to another.
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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