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Unrealistic Expectations of Recovery Time Period

jdwinklerjjdwinkler Posts: 24
edited 05/09/2015 - 1:15 AM in Recovering from Surgery
When I found out that I would be getting a L2/L3 fusion, I was told that I would need to be off work 3 to 6 weeks post-op. Guess I was naive enough to think that I would be better at that point. I have no clue why they would give me such a delusional time frame. I am almost 7 weeks out now. I tried to go back to work for a half day at my desk job this past Monday, but that definitely didn't work out. I mange to do a little work from home, but I spread it out throughout the day. My lower back hurts, I have sciatica pain and numbness that I didn't have prior to surgery. I am exhausted and miserable!
I guess my biggest problem is work. I feel like it would have been nicer to have been able to give my employer a more logical time frame. People that have not had surgery like this just don't understand.
Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) Surgery (Open) L2/L3 (23Mar15)


  • I had cervical surgery, but my doc told me to ask for 6 weeks, but I'd probably only need 4. In surgery recovery, he told me I'd probably be doing desk work in 2 weeks. LOL...I went PT at 8 weeks and shouldn't have. At 5 months out, I'm struggling with every other day work. My boss let me go to permanent PT (hopefully that will change in year).
    I wish they would say, "Most go back at ...6 weeks...." blah blah blah.

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

  • I'm 5 months post fusion and am still having problems sitting for an 8 hour day. I'm miserable and not sure if I'll ever be able to have a full time sitting job again. My body is telling me NO, but my bank account says differently. Uncertain and concerned for my future. On the upside, on weekends when I'm able to stretch, exercise and move around, I feel better than ever. I even bought an expensive standing desk for work and it just aggravates the sciatic. You're not alone. Good luck.
  • I'm trying so hard to do 5-6 hours m,w,f. I'm supposed to do 8. why do these surgeons say "oh 4- 6 weeks for a desk job?" I went back 4/13 at 6 weeks post op ... and am probably pushing myself too far at this point.
    good luck to all of you.
  • I'm glad it's not just me being a weenie.
    Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) Surgery (Open) L2/L3 (23Mar15)
  • I'm approximately 7 weeks out from L4-5 fusion and I feel like I got sucker punched in the back, weak legs and my foot has a tingly sensation with a side of camp fire built on it
  • No Summer you are definitely not crazy! :)
    Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) Surgery (Open) L2/L3 (23Mar15)
  • I'm 9 weeks posy of a 360 C3-T1 fusion and tried half days last week but just don't have the energy. I hadn't been having to take pain mess for a couple of weeks but after working half days I come home and need something to take the edge off. Struggling to know how long the recovery will really take.
  • I am scheduled to have C5/C6 acdf and I am a speech therapist I work with children 0-3 with disabilities. I sit on the floor almost 5-6 hours a day, I carry kids, I run a class, and I sit for reports. My doctor said 12 weeks but I feel it's not going to be enough time after hearing about others. I have my pre-opt on the 18th and I am going to ask what to do if I need more time. My FMLA only gives me 12 weeks, unless I have a doctors note has anyone else found it hard to get an extension if they still don't feel "normal"? I am super scared and I just don't want to hurt myself even more because I pusses too hard. Happy healing to everyone and none of us are crazy although we may feel like that at times we are not!!!
    Monica Gomez :)
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,858
    unless you run into some complications, 12 weeks is a reasonable time period to allow you to get back to work.

    Are you a private speech therapist or working for a hospital or other medical institute? The reason I ask, is that many larger organizations will allow for 'breaking' in periods. That would mean something like 4 hours a day for the first 2 weeks, then to 6 hours a day for the next two and finally the full shift after you have been back to work at least a month.

    This way you should be able to gauge what you can and can not do.

    Cervical ACDF surgeries in my opinion have better outcomes than lumbar surgery. I have had both lumbar and cervical surgeries in the past, and even though its been a long time since then, I still have lumbar issues, where as my neck is in good shape. My only problem is some permanent range of motion issues.

    Just keep with the physical therapy and in contact with your doctor. This way when the 12 week period is coming up, if you still feel you are not ready, then your doctor should be able to help you
    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
  • jdwinklerjjdwinkler Posts: 24
    edited 06/10/2015 - 3:22 AM
    I work for the Federal Government, and also put in for FMLA. I really don't know much about it except the fact that it saves my job for me when I return. Here are a few good sites I was just checking out...



    Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) Surgery (Open) L2/L3 (23Mar15)
  • jdwinklerjjdwinkler Posts: 24
    edited 06/10/2015 - 1:28 AM
    I had 6 weeks off at first and now I am on week 5 working 1/2 days at home. Today, my Dr gave me 6 more weeks of working 1/2 days. I was asking him all these questions about my pain, why this, why that. He told me that it just takes some people longer. I thought to myself, yea some people 3 weeks and some 6 in accordance with what I was told prior!
    Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) Surgery (Open) L2/L3 (23Mar15)
  • I work at a non-profit organization. I was thinking about 12 weeks too. I am glad you saw the doctor but not that your still hurting! Hang in there hopefully the pain gets less and not worse! Good luck with recovery! I go in on June 22 for mine!! I am nervous very nervous. Thanks also for links they were very helpful!!
    Monica Gomez :)
  • after 12 weeks thats it...you should be running STD along with your FMLA. Rememeber too, that if your company is paying your STD they may determine YOU can return because pain is "subjective" , if they do that appeal and they can hace you see there drs on their $$ if they don't believe whats going on with you, If you can't get back after your FMLA is exhausted (remember thats just job protection) if you are a "key " employee they will replace you. If your dr says you can go back but on limited duties until you are well but that too is within limits and falls under the ADA americans with disabilities act, but if thats after your 12 weeks they can offer a job comparable...and sometimes the company will allow you to stay out, with drs note , might be without pay but it will give you an accommodation to help you recover, again under ADA and you might lose your position but still have a job....its up to your company and as long as its not causing undue hardship to the company....
    Also note FMLA, and STD can be intermittent if you need time from work for Dr appts and PT utilize the time for that... hope this helps anyone reading this....
    This can't be happening
  • The unrealistic recovery time kinda pissed me off actually! 
    The pain,the set backs,the worry of not knowing what's normal or abnormal is horrible! 
    I'm 4 weeks our  and still in agony! 
    How did you ever get?
  • allyinscaallyinsc Aiken, SCPosts: 19
    I'm also worried about my estimated return to work! I'm a burn and wound nurse, which is literally total care nursing with no techs on our unit. I just had an anterior and posterior L4/L5/S1 fusion 6 weeks ago and I was given 12 weeks by my doctor for disability... I have no idea how I'm supposed to practice safely for myself and my patients on light duty and restrictions! Not to mention the exhaustion, instability, and aches and pains I'm still feeling while only walking and doing light house work occasionally. It baffles me how quickly people expect us to jump back to normal after such extensive surgeries...  I'm worried what's going to happen to my job if I can't return when they expect, how my bills will get paid without my small STD, what will happen if i don't have a great recovery... I feel for everyone going through this will me. I'll be praying for us all!
  • I had fusion of L5-S1 in November.  My surgeon said I would be off one week, work from home week 2, and back to the office feeling great after that!  He was so completely wrong -- I was so stressed and upset by his underestimation of recovery.  I was mentally unprepared for the lengthy recovery, and really didn't make arrangements to be out of work for 4 complete weeks, and then back extremely part time.  Who are these surgeons that give such false expectations?!  He claimed forever he had no cue why my recovery was taking so long and why I still had pain...finally got a second opinion and there are issues so I have to go back for another surgery June 22.  I feel so betrayed by the surgeon I trusted who covered up his mistake, and made me feel like I was a total wimp & the pain was in my head!  I hope you both continue to improve and turn a corner quick.  It will get better!  Even with the complications, I had a pretty big improvement around 6-7 weeks and then each week thereafter until week 12 when I plateaued and knew something was wrong.  Hang in there!  My new surgeon says 3 weeks of work for a posterior fusion of L4-L5, and fixing the hardware at L5-s1.  Sounds a little optimistic!
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 728


    3 weeks off of work for posterior lumbar fusion is a joke... except in the rarest of cases.  Especially since your June surgery is a second round it will likely be tougher.  If I was in your shoes I would take the 3 weeks your doctor gave you and change it to 3-4 months as Ron has noted.  Doctors by their nature are totally overly optimistic... it's part of their sales pitch... and if they told everyone the real truth on recovery many patients would probably go eslewhere. 

    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • Hi Harry,
    I thought 3 weeks might be a bit optimistic but I really hope it isn't 3-4 months!  I will need to go back before then...I am really nervous.  I am hoping to be able to get back part time at 4 weeks.  I can work from home and flexible hours which is nice.  Thank you for your comments on this and the hardware issue.  I agree, that correction should not be a big deal - but the additional fusion will definitely be painful.

  • jdwinkler said:

    I'm glad it's not just me being a weenie.

    I'm sorry, but I'm laughing out loud at the word weenie.  You brought out the fourth grader in me with that one!!
    I was also told I'd be able to go back to work at the 6-8 week mark, but that didn't happen.  My job had to do what they had to do, so I'm now unemployed because I wasn't able to return in the time frame I was told I could.  I did have complications from the surgery (L4-S1 fusion), though, for which I was recently treated (and hope it's a success--playing the "wait and see" game now!).  Even so, I don't feel that I would've been able to go back to work (very physical job) at 8 weeks, anyway. 

    So no...I don't think you're being a weenie!!   

    Kimmy72, Spine-health Moderator
    Firm believer in PMA!
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