Some of you might remember me posting six months ago or so contemplating L5-S1 SCAPF fusion surgery. Well, I decided to go for it. In a few months time I will do a comprehensive overview of my recovery in the hopes that it will help others contemplating the surgery but, for now, I am looking for a bit of advice on returning to work.
Below is a little bit of background information but, if you don't want to read through it, then the main questions I have are in the bottom few paragraphs.
So far I'm pretty happy with the progress. Less than 3 weeks post-op I was walking around 4-5 miles a day for around 45 minutes at a time. However, it did make my back flare up a little. I started sitting at my desk, gradually increasing the time each day.
After 6 weeks I was only taking half my original dose of tramadol (strong opiate painkillers) - 3 x 50mg a day - and the occasional ibuprofen. I was only wearing my brace when sitting and when leaving the house. I was also trying to ween myself off it, sitting for the odd half hour without it. I was still walking around 45 minutes a day and sitting for around 5 hours. I saw my surgeon who was very happy with the xrays and we agreed that a phased return to work was a good idea.
The next day I then had a bit of a set back. Between weeks 6-8 I have found that, while I am able to walk (and even run up the stairs), it makes my back flare up a bit and affects my ability to sit afterwards. As I work a desk job and am desperate to return ASAP, I am having to avoid any kind of walking beyond what I absolutely have to do, which is very frustrating as most seem to say that the amount you can walk is a measure of how well your recovery is going.
At 8 weeks I am still sitting for around 5 hours in the morning, getting up to walk regularly, and don't experience much pain. I go for a short walk and then spend the second half of the day half sitting / half lying in bed.
I have no pain sleeping and can lie on both sides.
So, generally, I am extremely mobile and don't experience much pain, though walking makes the back flare up.
However, at 8 weeks post-op comes the question of when do I return to work? Well, I decided to try it yesterday and again today.
For some reason the process of commuting means that I get more pain sitting at work and means I get less sitting time than I would at home. I get a lift to the station, stand on the train for around 20 minutes, walk to the cab rank at the station, and get a cab to work - so it's really not a strenuous journey.
I start sitting at work with a mild pain / discomfort and this generally gets worse for around 2 and a half hours, when I leave to go home. At this point the pain becomes moderate (maybe a level 6) and I don't want to overdo it. I was taking a lot of pain killers during this period, much more than I would at home.
After the first day I was very sore and tender in my back, I had tingly nerve sensations in my right leg, discomfort in my glutes, and my legs felt like I'd run 20 miles! When I went to bed that night I thought I'd overdone it and that I wouldn't be able to go back in the next day / wouldn't want to go back through fear of doing damage.
So I woke up today and deciced to give it a go. To my surprise, I actually got on better than I did yesterday. I stayed for a little bit longer at work and found sitting a little bit easier. Again, I feel a bit sore and tender in my back and have a bit of nervy tingling in my right leg, and discomfort in my glutes, but it's all a lot less notieceable than yesterday and I don't feel like I've run a 20 mile race!
I think the chair at work is contributing as it isn't as comfortable for me as my one at home. So I am getting that shipped to work today.
I have tomorrow off for physio and will speak to the guy about it then, but am currently thinking that I will go back in on Thursday and Friday, see what difference the chair makes, see whether the pain stays the same or gets less pronounced, and see if I can gradually increase the time I spend there.
So my main thinking here is, am I right in going back to work? Is pain a normal part of the process? Am I getting pain because my back, muscles, nerves etc are getting used to a different routine? When returning to work is it normal to experience pain and for this to get less and less as the back recovers?
Or is it that i should not return to work until doing so is pain free? Is what I am doing likely to have a detrimental effect on my recovery?
What if I get to 12 weeks post-op and my situation is exactly the same as it is now? I'm already under a little pressure to get back and I don't want to just keep delaying my return week after week, indefinitely.
Any help, advice, or details of people's experiences would be hugely appreciated!