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Returning to work/class discomfort - normal?


I am in post op week 6 from a microd on my L5S1. I started PT/walking at least a mile a day Post op week 4. I am a nursing student. During the break between semesters, especially while walking a lot and doing my PT routine, I felt a lot of relief and progress. I was able to do house chores like vacuuming, sweeping, dishes, and even squatting to reach the floors. If I felt any discomfort, I would just sit back in my recliner with my legs propped up on some ice, and it would go away so I could continue.

I started nursing school this week (Monday lecture was from 10-3 with an hour lunch break). The chairs are not very posture friendly for someone my height so I have asked for a lower chair but haven't heard back from the school yet. I feel like I have regressed back to post week 2 or 3. I can sit in the chairs for 30 minutes tops and then I have to get up and walk the halls for a couple of minutes to stop the aching. When I get home I can walk for a little over a mile and do my stretches and feel mostly better, but still achy. It mostly feels like I am bruised. I can rub my spine and not feel any of that bruised sensation until I get to about a half inch above, over, and below my incision site. I don't have any sciatic pain with the rubbing/pressure and the numbness in my right leg (which was there pre op) is not worse or feeling like it has regressed.

My theory is the sitting, and I am hoping if I can get my hands on a chair that allows someone my height (5'2") to sit with proper posture, than the aching won't be as bad. Did anybody else have this same situation? Feeling better and returning to work/school and feeling a regression? On days I have clinicals/lab and we are moving around, the aching is minimal and no more than what I felt at home when doing house chores. I just take some ibuprofen and feel it diminish. But the longer I sit in those chair, the more I feel an aching and the longer it lasts.

I guess I just wanted to write this to see if anyone else had a similar situation, and if so, what did you do to combat it?



  • BardamuBBardamu Posts: 3
    edited 01/15/2014 - 8:49 AM
    I think it's normal to feel discomfort and pain when sitting for that long, at his stage in your recovery. Maybe you can try standing during classes and see how that feels? I remember that was easier for me when I got back to work after my microdiscectomy. But I took 8 weeks off, I didn't feel comfortable enough for active life at week 6.
  • You don't want to risk re herniation. That's great your back to school and feeling good!
    Herniation of l5 S1 l4 , DDD , microdisectomy in June 2013 and re herniation in September
    Cervical herniation at C5-7 Jan 2014 with impingement of spinal cord. 2 level cervical fusion Feb. 2014 and 2 level lumbar fusion in April 2014
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,863
    It is very important for any spinal patient to get up and stretch and walk around every 50 minutes or so. And that break should be between 5 and 10 minutes.
    This applies to almost any stage in disc surgery. I havent had spinal surgery since 2000 and my last lumbar was in 1989. I still have to pay attention to this when I am sitting

    • - Watching TV
      - In a Car
      - In a Plane
      - In a Train
      - Especially at a computer desk
    Chances are you will not re-herniated yourself with bad chairs or not getting up every once in a while, but you will be real sore come the end of the day. And then each day this piles up, you will be sorer and sorer each passing day. Could be to the point where you get a flare up and need some off your feet type of rest.

    I know that nursing school can get pretty intense at times. Talk this over with your teachers. Even if they gave you the
    BEST POSSIBLE CHAIR in the world, you still need to get up in the timeslots we talked about. I know if you are near the front of the room, getting up every 50 minutes or so, could get disruptive to the others. How about a seat in the back, so you can get up, stretch, walk abit and as another mentioned, stand for a while in class.

    You want to avoid any flareups. The roller coaster ride for back pain can start so quickly almost before you knew it was coming. Don't allow multiple days of discomfort as a result of classes.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thanks for the replies. I did talk to my school and they provided me with a chair that is lower so I can sit with proper posture. That seemed to help today. I can only sit for about 30 minutes and then I have to walk around and stretch so I have been sitting at the back and I've let my professors know so that I won't come across as disruptive/rude.

    I really thought my worst enemy would be clinical days when we move around more, but I have 0-2 pain those days. My surgeon suggested I try to take 800mg of Ibuprofen with some food to see if that helps with the pain. He believes, based off of my symptoms, I just got so use to being more active during my semester break that now I've gone to sitting for at least four hours a day and I have some inflammation from the pressure.

    I will keep all of this in mind! Still no sciatic pain and numbness hasn't increased. Ron, you are right about the roller coaster ride. I had this pre concieved notion that after week 6, I would be good as new. I'm ready for life to be like it was before the herniation but I'm scared it won't be.
  • Following the advice outlined above has helped me as well. I mostly sit everyday at my home office. I now make sure that I get up at least once every hour and walk around or do something else in my house for 5 or 10 minutes. If I am on a call, I use my wireless headset and walk around. For lunch, I take a longer one and lay on my side and watch some TV, maybe 20 minutes. TIVO helps here or I can get bored or angry at the news.

    Earlier this week I had to work a table at a half day conference. That was a bit hard since the provided chairs are not particularly comfortable. Also, if you stand up and talk to someone, you loose your chair. The thing that I don't like about most conference chairs is they have a slight backwards tilt which is uncomfortable for my back. When I am smart and remember to bring my Tempurpedic lumbar cushion, I can use it to rectify the tilt issue. However, it is a hassle to have bring a pillow around.
  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 06/17/2016 - 2:01 PM
    Ron posted this link some time ago. It is a diagram of the pressure put on your spine when you are in different positions. You will see from the diagram that sitting puts the most pressure on your spine - much worse than standing. The hospital gave me this diagram to take home. 

    I used to take a chair massager to work with me and leave it on the gentlest setting most of the day. They are not expensive but you need to be careful as some are too powerful - I had to exchange one because some of the expensive ones massage really hard and hurt me more. If you can have your chair next to a powerpoint you can plug it in and leave it on all day. You can target areas of your spine.

    I think I paid around $30 -$40 for mine, it was worth every penny. Most of them will heat as well. They aren't noisy so shouldn't disturb anyone else. It really helped especially with the heat on and the very gentle massage setting.
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