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Returning to work after one-level fusion (PLIF)

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I've been reading and posting to the forum for a few weeks now, and have had people question the date that I'm to return to work (with doctor approved). I had a one level PLIF with decompression and hardware (L5-S1) on December 4. It's been two weeks now and I'm scheduled for my doctor visit on Jan 5th with the understanding that I will return to work the following day. I'm an office manager and spend most of my time sitting at a desk and using the computer.

Am I being unrealistic in my return date? During my initial visit the doctor stated that I would need to be off for "at least" a month, so I have basically gone with that in completing my FMLA paperwork. My husband wanted to know if this date is perhaps too early. I'm feeling pretty good if I alternate during the day from standing, sitting and lying down. The back is still pretty tender even with the pain meds that I'm taking. My biggest fear is falling on the icy surfaces (we live in the midwest).

I know each person's situation plays a huge part in this; however,I'm curious about the time frame others have experienced. Any thoughts?? Thanks.


  • Hi O2B, I might have mentioned my situation before to you, can't remember, but I was off work for 15 weeks after PLIF L4-5. I am a RN in mother/baby working 12 hour shifts. I believe that surgeons often under-estimate how long you will need to be off following fusion. Mine initially said 6-12 weeks. Well I thought 12 weeks sounded good, until I weaned out of my brace and started PT which brought on lots of new pain. I was not allowed to take NSAIDS and can't take narcotics while at work, so stayed off a few extra weeks. I have seen many fusion patients here off for 6-9 months, so the time is very individual. Just keep an open mind on returning. Perhaps returning for partial hours is an option. For me it was not so I had to go back to 12 hours my first day back. So far, doing well with it, trying to be careful with my body mechanics. Good-luck, and remember FMLA is up to 12 weeks and your doctor can write an extension if needed. >:D< Cali-Sue
  • oh2bback, its not necessarily unrealistic at all. I had a laminectomy and fusion at L5-S1 and returned to a desk job at 4 weeks post op. However, I worked half days for the next two weeks - not because of pain, although sitting for long stretches hurt, but more because of tiredness.

    I suggest that you aim for a return to work after 4 weeks but prepared to only work half days until you feel up to working longer. Also get up frequently - don't sit for too long when you get engrossed with work. 15 to 30 minutes then up and about for a bit.

    Hope this helps... Bruce
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

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  • First, keep in mind that each person recovers differently. I had plif L5-S1. I thought I would be able to return to work at 6 weeks. Dr. initially said I'd be off 6-12. My surgery went well, my recovery was "normal", but I was off 20 weeks. Even at that point, my first weeks back were tough. It wasn't until 7 months post surgery that I started to feel like I could handle "life" again.

    Best luck. Take time to heal well. No job is worth compromising your health. If you can get an extension on your leave, take it.
  • I had a PLIF at L4L5 on 12/9. I am scheduled to visit the surgeon on 12/24. I am determined to go back right after the first of the year. My concerns include that my commute (to icy Chicago) is nearly an hour, whether by car or by commuter train. Tennis in July.

  • Thats good to hear. I have a PLIF at L4/L5 schdld on Jan. 13th. I'm hoping I have the same results you did. Can you give me some details on how things went? Like how much pain post-op, etc.. I'm a 31yr old male and am hoping this is the right decision.
    just want to live pain free!! Thanks in advance for your help.

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  • I had a 1 Level PLIF 8/21/08 and I am not cleared to go back to work yet. My doctors first goal was January but is now saying March. I commute up to 90 minutes from home and drive throught the day, during the day I must lift children ranging from 30-100 pounds in and out of wheelchairs and deal with physically aggressive students. I want to make sure I am totally ready! Everyone is different, you will know when you are ready. Also FMLA can be amended if needed.

    Good Luck,
  • that it depends on what damage is recovering as well as the surgery trauma.

    For example, PLIF for say a displaced disc versus a more complicated and perhaps longer standing injury may take longer to heal.
    That is only my opinion.

    I had numerous problems and took 16 weeks after my first op which was a mistake and am still of after complications and extended fusion, some 9 months later.

    Only you can say what you think, how your current mobility is, pain levels and flares etc.

    Just be honest with everyone and if it isn't realistic, speak up, please don't struggle on. This is a big operation.

    Good luck
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