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Good Careers for People with Chronic Back Pain?

brokenrobotbrokenrobot Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:01 AM in Chronic Pain
I don't get it. When I use a mouse or a keyboard, all my muscles around my neck go agro and I get pain shooting down into my pinky fingers.

I'm 5 weeks into recovery from a c5-7 fusion. The focal pain that was in my neck seems to be getting better. But not the shooting pain to my hands when I use a computer.

I've tried 5 different types of physical therapy.Acupuncture, chiropractic, drugs, etc.

I got a degree in digital media, so it kinda sucks that computers kill me.

Thinking about new career paths. Something where I don't have to use a computer, sit, bend, or lift. Since my low back is totally screwed.

It's too bad teachers don't get paid very well and that America's educational system sucks so bad. Teaching could probably work for me.

My best idea so far is to do physical therapy! But that's another degree.

I don't know. 7 years of pain. I don't even remember what it's like not to be in pain anymore. It's depressing. Hmm, that'll be my next post...


  • If you have computer degree in digital media perhaps the computer laptop could work for you. They have little tables that go over your bed or stand station where you could do the work. I know what you mean about getting pain while typing but they have light touch computer boards now and dragonspeak but not sure if that would work for digital media.

    I sit with my feet up on a step stool and arms on the chair and sometimes put a pillow to rest my weak arm and I have numbness in my fingers also. Getting up every 20 minutes and doing stretches may help. You're very early out of your surgery right now but if you have an option and can get another career it would be great.

    Right now our Administrator was a computer Programmer but he's now working in a wine store as different types of wines and wine making is his hobby. I hope others can offer more advice but did you mean to become a Physiotherapist? Their work is very physical all that is physically challenging so you would need to find the requirements for those careers you have in mind.

    My Niece is going in for a Teacher and her cousin went to Japan to start his career so guess it maybe more money there. Follow you passion. I hope others can give you more ideas though. I found it helpful when I was young to go to the Manpower or Employment Services to get advice from a counselor on what job would work for me.

    I hope your neck and arms improves with time and healing. Take care and welcome here. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 11,630
    and about 34 11/12 dealing with spinal problems and chronic pain.

    They are not a good blend!

    I had tried so many different things over the years, the correct workstation, the correct chair (those who have read my posts know I was involved with the design of the perfect workstation chair), etc...

    None of that really makes a big difference.

    Its all about moderation. Knowing when to get up from the computer , walk away, stretch, etc before returning.

    I know, its easier said then done... but, if you want
    a career with computers, this is something you must adjust to.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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  • 5 weeks out from a 2 level cervical fusion is very early days.

    I would imagine (I haven't had cervical surgery) that working on a computer could be stressing your surgery site before it is ready. Those shooting pains into your hands are telling you to stop.

    There is still time for you to heal from your surgery and possibly get back to your career. Do give yourself enough time to heal fully from this surgery first though.

    I would say that my neurosurgeon has told me if I have a 2 level ACDF I will be off work for 3 months! (I am a Teaching Assistant and spend a lot of time looking down at the children's work)

    Keep healing.

  • I am hoping that when I read your post you are not saying that you have tried all those things like Chiropractic and PT within the 5 weeks after this recent surgery???

    As mentioned...you are still wayyy away from the time it takes to heal after a fusion.

    Your time on a computer should be very limited right now...

    I wouldn't be looking for a new career being so soon after surgery...You still have no idea how well you will heal and many people have full recoveries and can go back to work.

    The unfortunate thing about this type of board or online in general is you are going to read abou 99% of fusion/surgery failures and people living with pain and only 1% of the people who are doing great...

    That is NOT representative about the actual stats and success of surgery.

    My mom had an extensive lumbar fusion back in 1982 and has been fine every since..

    My point is that I would just be following the Dr's orders and if they are starting you SLOWLY on PT than only do what you can each day....but ONLY what they say and not your own...

    And there isn't a Dr. out there that would send you to a Chiropractor after a fusion and known spine issues...That is absolutely dangerous and could mess up the entire fusion or worse!

    So..I would think you can work with your surgeon about the career you have and how to slowly be introducing you back to work when you are able...

    But try not to think negatively that your entire career is over as it is just too soon to know anything.

    Good luck..

  • Somthing else I've remembered that my neurosurgeon said about cervical fusion surgery. That we won't know how much benefit I'll get from it until 6 to 12 months after surgery.

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  • I agree with lovetrotravel.... I am 6 wweks post-op and feel like I am going to have to make some changes in employment soon but everyone keeps saying to wait at least until healed which for me is 3-6 months. I have a friend who is in early 50's and had complete full spine fusion and spent 2 weeks in nursing home then went home and started the healing. She is now back at work full time at that nursing home and doing great. We are all different and our bodies heal or don't heal at different rates. I hope you are able to go back to what you love if this is your choice or maybe with all the changes you will choose a new career. Just hang in there, this is #4 back surgery for me and each time I thought I would never heal and go back to work but I did:)
  • SwedishFishSSwedishFish Posts: 57
    edited 07/05/2012 - 5:58 PM
    Others have given you great info on recovery time. I am a high school teacher and most days wouldn't trade it for anything. But standing a lot, sitting a lot, grading and tons of computer time are realities in my work life. It's exhausting. I am having cervical surgery (no fusion though) next week but I also have pretty bad lower back issues. And I make a decent salary although not commiserate for someone with 2 B.A. degrees and a M.A. Anyway - I would give it time before just switching careers honestly! Sounds like you have a long time to go before there's an expectation of full recovery!
  • You have a degree in digital media so why don't you pursue some higher degree and in the meantime do some freelancing work at home which can make you give some rest to your body. And when you complete the degree start your own coaching institution and the like.
  • I was lucky enough to be hired as an aide at the physical therapy place I went to after my surgery (microdiscectomy C3-4,C5-6,T7-8). In fact, I was really surprised that they even wanted me for part-time work. They knew I was interested in it, but I always showed up late to appointments or not at all from lack of sleep and depression ( sometimes would cry uncontrollably at therapy and have to leave), looking haggard and unshaven with a polite but grumpy attitude. Luckily, they were cool enough to get me working at my own pace, often no more than four hours at a time, and I was able to get the same kind of comfort and validation talking about my problems with other people in pain and frustrated with disabilities while I worked.

    Lately I've gotten well enough to go back to school. Still unable to work more than 30 hours a week, and sometimes a bad day will make me immobile for several more. But I feel so great about myself being able to do something! It was really nice taking some classes too, was lucky enough to not have to use stools in the lab, they had good chairs everywhere! But couldn't really study for more than 40 mins at a time, still wishing I had a clear table directly above my bead so I could lay down and read above me...

    I'm applying to school to become a therapist assistant, in a setting where I don't have to move a lot of patients. The job I have now i very easy on my back, the hardest thing being ultrasound because I have to hold my arms up and it's very tedious. I'm still kind of banking on my back continuing to improve, been 18 months since surgery and every few months my pain stays the same ~4, but I'm able to do more and more. But the school seems to make exceptions and help people who have their own problems with pain or being disabled. \

    I'm not sure what else I could do, but I'm really happy with PT. I disagree with some of the stuff we put patients through without being able to order MRI's, since I went to 8 months of symptom aggravating exercise before we even knew what was wrong (myofascial syndrome give me a break!) It's just so nice to be able to take my own pain and new understanding of how powerless you can feel, and use it to give empathy to others who are going through the same thing and don't often have someone who wants to listen about their lack of sleep, problems with significant others, and major depression. It gives me a lot of hope and meaning, a even if I can't work enough to be independent, I still feel like I am doing something positive with my life.

    I don't have much advice, just wanted to share my positive experience and wish you good luck with finding something that will work. I agree that it's all about moderation and being your own advocate. I often have to remind people of my limitations, but they eventually understand once they see my hands shaking, mouth open, twitching muscles and utter silence when I'm in pain. Though, I still am afraid of getting worse or plateuing in my recovery, can only cross my fingers and keep hoping that things will work out. Until then, give yourself some slack and be your own judge of how hard you are trying and what kind of person you are. It still angers me to remember that I'm the exact same man I was when i was chair-ridden, and I never felt good about myself and what I was doing...

  • Hello! I have an idea for you that I am looking into. If you aren't able to do what you used to do, how about training others to do what you used to do? You could be a consultant of some sort and offer your services to those who don't have your training. I don't know what type of jobs there are for digital media, so I can't use your field for an example. But. Let's say someone used to be a cook and can't anymore with a spine injury. They could teach cooking classes to others and tell them what to do instead of demonstrating themselves and causing pain by holding your arms up or lifting heavy pots. The student would pick up their own pots, etc.
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