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gregalanggregalan Posts: 9
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Chronic Pain
I will appreciate comments and guidance. I am also trying to guage the percentage of chronic back pain people that work. I have been suffering from chronic back since 2003 and had two coflex spacers inserted in 2008. I have DDD, stenosis, arthritis, herniated discs, & mild scoliosis. I tried to deal with the pain for years and worked full time from 2003 through 2005. I am a 20 year government worker that sits and drives a lot. From 2005 through the end of 2008 I received partial disability. I returned to full time in Jan. 2009, it was a struggle but I managed with the help of tramadol, trigger point injections, rest, heat, ice, tens, etc. In March 2010 I was in a bad car accident while in work status. Approved for workman's comp. due to three bulged cervical discs and post concussion syndrome. My back pain is worse now but it wasn't approved due to a pre existing condition. My doctor ramped up my work schedule and I am scheduled to return to full time in 2 weeks. While the back pain is chronic and troubling, I am so fatigued. It is a struggle to do anything for 4 to 6 hours straight. I know many of you have the same problems or even much worse. I am struggling whether to apply for retirement disability if I do not get much better. How do you put in a full day's work and attend to personal responsibilities? It doesn't seem fair. The doctor did give me oxycodone for pain, and taking 3 5mg pills per day can make me productive. However, should I have to take those just to work? There is not much of an exit strategy for us.



  • All I can really say is if 3 5mg pills of oxy make you productive, then you need to get a firm handle on whether this is "all there is".

    Are you being seen only by workmans comp? Is there a Pain management doctor in the picture? Taking 3 5mg oxy pills a day would seem like a walk in the park to many people here. Not downplaying your pain at all, pain is subjective and don't let anyone tell you how much you should or should not hurt from any of your problems.

    If, you have no other avenues to pursue and must work and need those 3 pills a day to do it, then that in the end will be your choice to make. I've done it, many still do it. You will need to be sure that you have access to a doctor to manage your pain treatment. Don't just take the 3 pills a day till they are gone then try to figure out where to go from that point. Be proactive and make sure your care in the future has some continuity.

    As far as an exit strategy, there may not be one.
    Whoever said that life had to be fair? My answer to that has always been that no one ever promised us that life would be fair. If someone made that promise, well, they were not exactly being truthful!

    There is a lot of good information here and a lot of good people willing to share their experiences. read, ask, learn.

    Welcome to Spine-Health
  • I still work full time every day. I have a sedentary job, I sit on my ass every day and program. Personally, I like the money to much and I really love what I do for a living. Having 2 kids approaching college in a couple of years also adds to the equation. I understand the fatigue and deal with it on a daily basis. The only one that can truly gauge whether you should continue working is you. 15mg of oxycodone is really not a lot to take every day and if it helps make you comfortable, I'm not sure you should use that as part of your decision making process. You do get used to taking it after a while and some of the fatigue does go away. I do understand your position and am currently struggling as I acclimate to a new muscle relaxer, I say that as my eyes struggle to snap the toothpicks holding my eyes open.

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  • If you can get by with 3 pills a day - that's pretty amazing right there! I get 4 10mg percosett and have one helluva time working 9 or 10 hours a day, taking care of the house, the yard, the animals (which I LOVE to do) afterwards. Frankly I just can't do it all anymore, even tho I want too. Work kicks my butt bigtime. I personally feel that I waste my life at work and by the time I get home, I'm so trashed I can't enjoy anything - then spend the weekend trying to catch up. To me, it is a vicious cycle that doesn't seem to have an end. IF I did not take narcotics at work - I would not be able to be here at all - simple as that. I think many are in that same boat. You cannot function if you hurt so bad with every breath that you cannot stand it. IF there was any way possible for me to take a medical retirement, I surely would - no question about it! I am wasting my life working and not enjoying anything else because I have to work. If you can get by with a medical retirement, I wouldn't think twice about it. I too am a government worker for 31 years now, (IRS) and a medical is not too good. I would lose over half my pay and I cannot do it. I would lose everything. IF you can afford it, I certainly would. Best wishes to you, I sincerely hope you can and will do what is best for you.
  • That made me laugh. It is nearly "finally" time for me to break free of this dunghole and I feel the same way. By the end of the day, my eyes will hardly stay open LOL!
    One thing I will say, I was on the 10mg lortab, and my doc switched me to the percs. Same amount and mg. She said it was possible I was getting too used to the lortab so they weren't as effective. I can tell a huge difference. The percs really work well in controlling the pain, my trouble is that they only last 4 hours..
  • I worked for quite a few years after my second injury. It took me 4 10 mg Norcos to get through an 8 hour shift, but that's just what I had to do. I got to a point that I could no longer sit, therefore I could no longer drive. That is the only reason I chose to quit working. I guess there are a lot of us who are of the same mind- you just do what you gotta do for as long as you gotta do it. Messing with the whole workers comp/disability system is a job in and of itself! I loved my job, loved the people I worked with and the hospital I worked for.

    Unfortunately this is something that has been thrust upon. And that which does not kill us will make us stronger....:) Or so "they" say.

    I'm going through the w/c system right now and thankfully I've had no problems thus far. I wish you the best of luck in whatever decision you choose. I understand how hard those choices are, because like mentioned above, they don't just involve us. They impact our family, our children. I know personally that I fight harder and faster when it comes to my children and their well being. And my well being directly involves their well being....you see where this is going...:)...

    Again, best of luck to you!
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  • If you can be productive on 3 oxy a day, you wouldn't qualify for SSDI, if that is what you're talking about. At least I don't think you would.

    I do not work. I take 3 MS-contin a day and Norco for breakthrough, but the other meds I'm on make me far from productive, and I am still in pain much of the time. I've never, ever thought the words "this isn't fair." Of course it isn't fair. But I got over thinking life is fair long, long ago.

    I would love to be able to go back to work. If I could trade spines with you, I'd gladly do so.
  • I am also a federal employee. I have chronic lower back/hip pain and neuropathy in my feet/legs and hands. I continue to work full time although i pay for it dearly every night. I also have considered disability retirement until i look at the pay offer. 60% of your high 3 for the first yeat then 40% from second year on sounds decent. But after looking long and hard, it really isnt that great. So i struggle through the week the best i can until i can not do it anymore. Right now my PM does not have me on any narco pain medicine. But that may have to change after my appt come Monday. The decision to retire is a deifficult on that only you and your family can decide on.
  • rplatt56 said:
    60% of your high 3 for the first yeat then 40% from second year on sounds decent. But after looking long and hard, it really isnt that great.
    You need to remember that the 60/40 doesn't consider your TSP portion. I retired under FERS DR, and when *I* crunched the numbers it actually is a push to a plus!?! Let me explain. When all my stuff started, I knew I wasn't going to mandatory age anymore (law enf. 57 max) so I got my finances in order, and planned as if the TSP wasn't there! Now if I went out right at 20 law enf. at 1.7% per year, that would have been a retirement of 34% not counting the TSP! Take a non law enforcement FERS with 25 years, and then you're looking at 1.1% = 27.5%! Again, not counting the TSP portion of the annuity. Maybe I missed something here? Just thoughts..... :) I went out at 19 years, 9 months and 29 days - per OPM Retirement gurus! Due to getting my finances in order, plus being now in a lower tax bracket, my take home on the annuity is literally only $50 less a month!

    One other thought... Lower tax deducted, no TSP, SS, or Medicare removed, retirement etc., not coming out of your pay, so that for the take home money may not be as bad of a bite either.

    Like Mouse said too, *if* you can afford DR, than it works out. Each of us has different finances and obligations (bills, kids, toys etc.), so it all comes down to the individual. Good luck!

    Ps.. If you do opt for the disability retirement route, it isn't easy to get approved. OPM has the guidelines on their site and too what is considered to be disabled - it is a benefit you paid into much like social security. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Whoops forgot one other thing about DR under FERS. Unlike SS, your not restricted much if you wish to work while retired under FERS DR. You can earn as much as 80% of the current years salary for your grade and step that you retired at. So if you want or need to work after DR, as long as you don't exceed 80% your annuity won't be affected. Please let us know how it goes. *hug*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Gregalan,
    It is always hard for anyone to surmise what level of pain is sustainable for another, the key is to focus on what you can do and that is not always conducive to any working environment. Even with effective pacing you will not be able to continue to do it all and some of those want objectives have to be sacrificed on the basis of the things we need to do. Over time that need to do list also comes under pressure, it is the accumulative effect of continued effort, having committed ourselves to a unsustainable pace we are then mandated to evaluate what and how capable we now are.

    Many are working through financial necessity and many chronic pain patients pay a high physical and emotional price for the desire to continue working. Knowing how our condition may deteriorate or be impacted in working is always difficult and we are trying to guess, with the option of making a decision before we are forced into one through increased pain.

    For me having not worked for a considerable period I always wanted to return to work, which I have now done, I did voluntary work to pace back into working and understand the skills and effort needed to continue, it is not easy, pain all the time while trying to present functional capability. I have a finite physical capability which does vary every day, so once that time has been used my day is done. Nobody should be expect to work with this level of pain and I have seen both sides, using what I like to call my downtime I used that specific opportunity to change jobs to one less physical. I want to work and have used all my skill and endeavour to assist this, some days it seems impossible.

    Some here desire work and that is not always achievable, given the right environment conditions and appropriate support it may be possible, and we all have that decision to make for ourselves, the working environment is not chronic pain friendly and our accumulative skill and knowledge is not fully utilised as it should be, once the word disability appears we are attributed with all those misconceptions of our perceived capability. I am adapting to my own new normal and pacing effectively, my current employer is aware of my condition and makes reasonable adjustments to facilitate my specific needs.

    Pacing into work will take time as you may have not experienced that, can you sustain every day 4-6 hours, making adjustments is part of the managing process and we need to have some feeling of control.

    Take care and good luck.


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