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READ ME PLEASE!!!! Any comments you have will help me...

SueDSSueD Posts: 545
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:58 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Spine Health 'friends' have supported me so much over the past couple of years, so I'm going to explain what's happening so far to see if you can offer me any advice, once again. If you remember my posts, you'll know that my ultimate reason for undertaking tests, therapy, surgery, is to be able to work and earn money to pay my bills etc. etc. It has been difficult for me at work and barriers have been put up from my managers, although, on the whole they have tried to be 'seen as doing the right thing' by me.

Since I had a 2-level PLIF operation last July, I'm sorry to say my back pain hasn't improved. I am now taking a higher dose pain medication than I was before.

In May I had 2 steroid/anaesthetic injections. One into the sacro-iliac (SI) joint, and one into one of the screws. This was to determine which was the pain generator. That first night home I had NO pain whatsoever, it was amazing. Suffice to say, my surgeon has arranged for me to have another operation on 22 December to remove one of the screws - which is too long and at the wrong angle - and he'll check the other 3 screws to be on the safe side whilst he's in there.

I think his reasoning is that he'll tackle the 'easier' option first and hope it does the trick. Otherwise, if the pain does not go away, it could be down to the SI joint and, I understand, that's a far bigger problem to sort out. So I've got my fingers crossed.

I'm concerned that when I had an x-ray last May, my surgeon stated on the report that the disc above the fusion is now showing signs of degenerative changes. This wasn't the case in July last year. Is it normal for changes to occur so quickly and do you think these changes would have occurred anyway - whether I am working or not, or whether I've had fusion surgery or not.

I'm just left wondering now if the job I do (working with very young children with continuous bending, and sometimes on the floor) could be contributing to the continuous back pain I have now and causing the changes to the disc above.

I was off work for the Summer holiday and only returned for one week. Since 12 September I have been off sick with chronic back pain. I am desperate to return to work on 5 December (2 weeks before my surgery) and at least earn some money before my next surgery. My occupational health doctor has been so helpful to me, as well as my own local doctor, they have both been 100 per cent supportive. The occy health doctor has just sent his last report to my manager saying that, although I am NOT fit to return to my 'normal' duties, if it is agreeable to my manager, I could return to work NOW if I was given 'alternative' duties. Instead of working with children, I am wondering if they can give me a temporary job working in the office for just a couple of weeks until my next surgery. I know this would help to support me and ease me back to work after my operation.

Of course, I know there are no guarantees. I have been told that there's a higher chance of infection, tissue damage and even more scar tissue the more operations you have on the same site (this will be my FOURTH), but there's not much else I can do about it. I'm just following my surgeon's advice - and praying that this will be the end of it all and I can get back to some 'normality' sooner, rather than later.

I am very slowly being weighed down by all this. I feel guilty for not earning the money, am on anti-depressents, I've no stamina any more, am extremely slow in walking, have lost confidence in being able to do the job I did before (as I haven't used my skills for many months since last July 2010). Ha! I've only been in this job since January 2010 and bearing in mind how many school holidays there are, I have calculated that in sickness time alone I have been OFF for 14 MONTHS!!! I feel that my manager won't give me alternative duties now as she doesn't really want me there any more - because I've already had so much time off and am now looking to recover from yet another operation.

I was told at my last meeting with her in October that I should NEVER have been employed with them in the first place - she now actually blames the occupational health unit (and their failure to screen me properly) for even offering me the job. She said she should not have been put in that position. I even put on my application form that I DID consider myself to have a disability and was very surprised when I wasn't called in for a health assessment first. I was amazed to tell you the truth, particularly when my previous back condition and past operations were recorded in full in the occy health records back in 1995/6 ish (because I used to work for the Authority in a different job years ago). You can imagine how 'unwanted' her comments made me feel.

In the UK we have benefits like the Disability Living Allowance or Incapacity Benefits. I have applied twice before and have been rejected. I do understand why - it's because I CAN walk and CAN do most things for myself. As it's nearing Christmas there's obviously more pressure financially for me to get back to work.

I really do apologise for such a long post, but I felt that this explanation would help you to provide me with any comments you may have - good or bad, I can take it!!! If you have been in a similar position yourself or just want to give me some advice, I would really appreciate your help. THANK YOU.
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 !!


  • Nice to see you, although I'm sorry you're going through this.

    I'm in a similar situation in that I have to work and the job I finally got (after two years of being unemployed, not by choice) is very, very taxing. I have to lift paper boxes and bend constantly. I've also been experiencing additional pain due to this and went in to my surgeon to discuss the increased pain below my fusion (L5/S1) and was told it was mechanical pain due to all the work I was doing. He said that because my L4/5 can no longer move due to the surgery, the L3/4 and L5/S1 are taking the brunt of the load. That makes them angry. He'd like to do an MRI, but I can't afford it right now. He understood and allowed me to up my medications as needed. He even offered me stronger meds, but I turned him down on that. What I take takes the edge off enough for me to do my job.

    Then, he wanted to do injections and/or PT because they're less expensive, but I simply can't afford them either - it's not that much, but I took a dramatic drop in pay when I got this job. (For me, the good news is that I get a lot of vacation, flex days and holidays, so I can take a lot of time off, which helps.)

    The only thing I can do is work through it with medication and exercises. I have no choice. As I'm posting, my lumbar is killing me and it's only because I stood long enough yesterday to clean the kitchen which also involved bending of course (I've taken this week off).

    I'm lucky in my job, however, in that I can sit and stand alternately as needed. My boss is very understanding, but still there are things that are my duty that I must do and I wear my back brace when I have to do something heavy duty, like lifting boxes or hauling heavy loads to another building.

    I can't believe that your boss said that to you - that's one of the most rude things I've ever heard. I'm sure it makes you feel doomed.

    Have you tried wearing a back brace to work all day? My surgeon suggested that whenever I was having a hard time, to wear a brace and it really seems to help. I've never taken a day off in the nine months I've been employed due to back pain. I simply can't, as we don't have many sick days, but I have taken vacation time in conjuction with my flex days to give me a 4-day weekend to recover.

    My hubby is understanding that the house is a mess because with work, I no longer have days where I feel up to the major cleaning jags I'd get on before my spine surgeries. We just feel lucky that I can hold a job that's so taxing.

    I guess I don't have much to offer but support and sympathy and perhaps suggesting you wear a back brace, but I certainly understand how difficult it is.

    Good luck on whatever happens. Hopefully you'll be able to find the right combination of things to be able to keep your job - medications (if you can take them during work - I can), back brace, and perhaps a change in responsibilities. Maybe even the upcoming surgery.

    Take care, Sue, and please keep us posted.
  • I sure can empathize with you, and I hope the upcoming surgery will resolve your pain, which is depressing.

    I have no idea whether the deterioration you've experienced can progress as rapidly as yours has, but the bending that's part of your job hasn't helped matters. Do you use proper body mechanics, squatting instead of bending?

    I hope your employer can start giving you sedentary work. You're in my prayers, Sue. Keep us posted. Love 'n >:D< >:D< >:D< , Ess
  • I don't think you should be bending but instead squatting down like Essmoe says also. Is it possible to push a chair around with you so you can sit instead of crouching down?

    I'm sorry if you don't have any Long term disability benefits at work you could use or if you had to give up your job using sick unemployment benefits after the regular unemployment benefits are used up?

    I know if you apply for Incapacity benefits they may require you're off work when you apply and haven't worked for a year on unemployment benefits.

    I was totally unable to return to my job as my back will not get better doing constant lifting, bending and twisting and even using proper body mechanics. I can still walk but not too far and have to sit constantly and use a cane to help sciatica. Plus unable to concentrate taking these medications and also having to deal with depression because of not being able to work.

    It's good if your Boss will let you do a sedentary job for the next 2 weeks before surgery but hopefully this will resolve your back pain and you could go back to work and hopefully you can use a chair to get down with the kids and not bend all the time while standing up.

    Only you will know if it's time to apply again for Incapacity or Disability Allowance. Your Dr. should be behind you 100% saying your totally incapacitated. I know they look at age also but that's not the only thing they used to decide.

    I do hope this surgery will ease the pain as you did have good results with the diagnostic injection? Praying for you this surgery will be successful. Positive thoughts to you. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Sue,
    you could be getting a wonderful Christmas present if the surgeon is right (and an NHS Christmas dinner :( to boot). Even if his first hunch doesn't sort the problem, his second surely will.

    If you are not in a Union ask the Citizen's Advice for advice on your employment status. In these troubled times many employers are trying to cut costs and they are targetting those who cannot perform 100%, ignoring their legal rights if they can get away with it.

    I got DLA for two years after my surgery. It was tough in 2003 and I'm sure it's tougher now.
    It's worth finding out exactly what the criteria are for receiving DLA. It's very complicated (how many stairs you can climb, how far you can walk/ carry a kettle of water etc.). Your worse two functions then determine if you have enough points to qualify. It's a peculiar and not particularly fair system which favours fakers over genuine claimants in my opinion. The Citizens Advice may be able to help you through the hoops. I had a social worker help me.

    Good luck.

    I'm not young enough to know everything - Oscar Wilde
  • You've been very helpful, thank you.

    I have tried a million times to phone our local branch of the Citizen's Advice Bureau, but each time it goes straight to answerphone - with no opportunity of even leaving a message. I don't think they bother to answer their phones as they are so busy.

    The last time I applied for DLA, I had a Welfare Rights Officer fill out the form for me - and I was still rejected. I have heard that 97 per cent of ALL applications are denied and that I should have appealed. I didn't. You need an A Level in just trying to answer the mammoth questionnaire!

    I actually spoke to my Union man this morning. He was very helpful and basically told me to stop worrying. He even said that if my next welfare meeting can't be held before the 5 December, I should just turn up for work. I'll be on a phased return anyway, so they are bound to find me some 'light duties' to be getting on with.

    He also explained that I shouldn't worry about my wages for December. It's very complicated. I have obviously had to tell my manager about the operation on 22 December, but because I work in a school, I am not paid for the school holidays and I get 12 monthly paydays because my salary is spread over - pro rata. My Union man said that even if they know about my surgery, technically I cannot be signed off 'sick' as there is no work for me to do as the schools are all shut. Therefore, if I am not able to return to work, as normal, on Tuesday 3 January, then I should phone up and report in sick in the usual way - i.e. to self-certificate for the first 7 days and then, if necessary, get a sick note from my doctor.

    Even though he thinks it is all clear cut and that I would/should get a full wage in December, I have my doubts. I know exactly what they will say and their need to save any money (my wages) where possible.

    At least, when I have my next meeting, my Union man will be there to support me and he will object should they bring this up.

    I feel a little happier about things, especially when he said I could return to work - even if it means just answering the phones all day. There is always some work to do, so I'm more positive now that my manager WILL have me back. She will be following the occy health doctor and my own doctor's advice and, therefore, if they don't have me back then they know they will be seen as being unsupportive.

    I do appreciate all your comments, again, thank you.
    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 !!
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