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Old 07-08-2003, 07:49 AM   #1
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sgc123 HB User
Question Recovery time after surgery

Hello! I am new around here, but have been reading everyone else's posts for about two weeks. I herniated the L5-S1 disk in January. I had excruciating back pain for about four months then I woke up pain free one morning.

That sounds great, but I traded back pain for leg pain and numbness. I had a myelogram on June 20th. It showed that the disk had completely ruptured and was pressing on the nerve one level above the herniation. Has anyone every heard of this? Apparently my disk ruptured up the spinal canal instead of out.

Anyhow, to get to my question. The surgeon's (all three of them) suggested having a discectomy done. Unfortunately, I cannot have surgery until mid-September because that is the first opening. I am a teacher and the doctor said that I could return to work three weeks after the surgery. Is this realistic? I have read the thread on the surgery (yes, all 17 pages!) and it seemed like it took a little longer than that.
I am trying to prepare work for when I will be gone and would like to know how long it took most people to go back to work after this surgery. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

 
Old 07-08-2003, 08:46 AM   #2
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If your surgery is just a laminectomy without fusion, it probably can be done, but I wouldn't advise it. I was out for 4 weeks, and should have stayed out one more, but since I have a sedate job, went back for half days. The half days lasted 1 day, and then I was back full time.

jdog
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L3/4 Lam. 2/2001
ACDF C5/6/7 8/2002
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Old 07-08-2003, 09:57 AM   #3
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I think the 3 weeks is a little early, I had a semi hemilaminectomy on the 23rd of May, and went back to work on the 23rd of June---4 weeks. I think I went back too early as that 1st week was a little rough, but I made it---I still am on my pain meds..but down to just 1 10mg oxy and maybe 3 or 4 lortab 7.5's, but I was too chicken to just quit them so my doc and I are doing a SLOW taper---but my mid back is still giving me probs---(surg was on l5 S1) I am doing his traction therapy in August (have to wait 3 mos) to hopefully decrease that pain a little.
Good luck with your surgery---hope it all goes well!

Karen

 
Old 07-08-2003, 01:39 PM   #4
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Thank you jdog and shakarkia for your wisdom regarding recovery time. I must give work an actual time off work- if I say it's four weeks then they will hold me to that. I am more inclined to take six weeks off so that I don't go back too soon. I hate laying around so I don't know that I am going to make it for four weeks let alone six weeks.

Going through this whole process seems to take forever. I would have the surgery tomorrow if I could because of the pain, but I have to wait until September.

Shakarkia- Good luck with traction. I had it initially to see if I could avoid surgery, but it didn't help because the disk was completely ruptured. It felt pretty good though!

 
Old 07-09-2003, 08:09 AM   #5
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Every case of post recovery is different as
surgeries can be multiple levels etc. But
your looking at a good 3 to 4 weeks for which
you can go back to work. Perhaps you'll just
work a half day but from what I remember it's
working a full day lets say 2 or 3 times a week.
Have your students carry your books for you
from the staff area, they'd probably be glad to
help. Your conditioning helps too and of course
after 3 or 4 weeks your post surgery exercises.
You know yourself that when your in this physical
condition that your in now and after surgery
that you have to be careful when your going out.
It's best to have someone with you for protection.
In general no one can hurt you unless they come
close to you so be on the look out. I found this
to be the case with me as your an easy target
when your in this condition. Another thing it
generally takes up to 6 to 8 months to get feeling
really comfortable with your back again it
doesn't happen in just 4 weeks but then again
every person is different.

 
Old 07-09-2003, 09:05 AM   #6
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sgc-

I highly suggest you overestimate to the 6 weeks if you can. I understand it depends on your work situation.

Even if 6 weeks turns out to be too long, make sure you have ordered some good books or have other plans, such as catching up on correspondence. I felt a little guilty after the first 3 weeks of my first surgery off, but I made sure that during the last week, I spent some time for myself catching up on books I had wanted to read etc.

My funny story (not at the time) was my second back surgery, a 3 level ACDF. For some reason, the stuff they gave to me to knock me out really did a number on my head. For the first week after surgery in the hospital (complications kept me there), the ceiling tiles were making faces at me, I was beginning to understand everything and it's place in the universe, etc.

Well, my boss came by to visit one of those days when I was pretty much speaking in tongues. My friend who was staying with me equated me to Linda Blair in the Exorcist. All I know is that is was the first time I had ever seen my boss rattled. And the last thing he said before he left was "take all the time off you need." I think it was a good thing he saw me like that. I can laugh out loud today, but at the time, I was afraid I was stuck like that.

jdog
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L3/4 Lam. 2/2001
ACDF C5/6/7 8/2002
L4/L5 Herniated 1/2003

 
Old 07-09-2003, 09:27 AM   #7
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Thanks for the humor jdog! I am sure that it wasn't funny at the time, but it is good that you can laugh about it now. Maybe I will get some good painkillers after the surgery like you did. Seriously, I don't really like that disconnected feeling you get when on them.

I made an appointment with my neuro to go over the procedure and ask questions. I will be sure to ask him about recovery time. I don't know how helpful that will be because I have come to the conclusion that Drs. have no idea. They seem to live in their own pain-free world and don't seem to understand what it is like to live in your painful world.

I think I might take six weeks off. I never take any time off of work so I guess I deserve it. I won't be able to get too bored. I am sure someone will bring me papers to grade. I don't think that I could go back part time because of being a teacher so I am probably better off taking more time.

I am so happy that I found this board. You guys live in the real world and have been through what I am going through. I trust your wisdom much more than a Dr.'s wisdom. Thanks.
J


 
Old 07-12-2003, 08:15 AM   #8
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Skyrider HB User
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Hi SGC the doctors may say 3-4 weeks but it
depends upon "how you feel" you may not be
strong enough yet. After the surgery your
area of pain will diminish greatly but you'll
feel sore where they did the actual operation.
Also be patient after the surgery take things
nice and slow and of course walk each day.
You will start to feel better on a week to
week basis and sometimes you'll wonder if
your condition that your in weeks after surgery
will improve. Most of us have been through the
surgery here and will tell you it just takes
time for you to start feeling normal again.
The one thing I made sure of recovering from
surgery was to not hurt my back again while
healing and you only want to go through the
waiting for surgery and the recovery from
surgery once in a lifetime.

 
Old 07-13-2003, 10:20 AM   #9
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Skyrider,

You are absolutely right- I only want to go through this surgery once! I am worried that I will return to work too soon and reherniate or have a setback in my recovery. I am a teacher so my job consists of standing, sitting, and bending over students desks to help them. It wouldn't be fair to my students to go back to work and not really be able to do my job.

Thanks for all of your advice. I still haven't made up my mind about how much time to take off work. It's hard because you want to take off enough time, but financially there is only so much time you can take. I am sure everyone has faced that dilema. I have a lot to think about [img]http://www.healthboards.com/ubb/confused.gif[/img] but your input has helped.
J [img]http://www.healthboards.com/ubb/heart.gif[/img]

 
Old 07-13-2003, 08:29 PM   #10
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twinkie41 HB User
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Hi J

I had the same surgery on April 14, but my surgery was pretty extensive and I did have complications. I went back to see my neurosurgeon last Tuesday and he is sure I have reherniated. I will have another MRI this week to assess the damage.

I would take off the full time that the doc recommends. I was off work 6 weeks and I work at the Dept of Motor Vehicles. I really have an easy job...I sit but I am able to get up and move whenever I need to. The first week will be really tough on you, so get lots of rest after work whenever you can.

Just follow the doc's orders and you will do fine! I will be thinking of you and please let us know how you get along.

Janice

------------------
April 14, 2003 - L5S1 laminotomy/decompression of the spine. 5 hour surgery. One nerve almost severed by herniation, two nerves adhered together b/c of inflammation. Neurosurgeon had to reattach the almost severed nerve. He also coated the nerves that were stuck together with silicone.
May 27, 2003 - returned to work full time. The first week was agonizing.
July 1, 2003 - still having a lot of pain. The last two weeks the pain is different...it has moved to the right side, just above my hip. It is a stabbing, burning pain, very severe. I still have no feeling down the back of my left leg, the outside of my foot and my two smallest toes. Appointment with the neurosurgeon July 8...my three month visit.
July 8, 2003 - Neuro vist. He ordered another MRI ASAP. He is sure the disc has re-herniated and will probably want to do surgery again. Either laminotomy/decompression of the spine or fusion.

[This message has been edited by twinkie41 (edited 07-13-2003).]
__________________
April 14, 2003 - L5S1 Partial laminectomy/discectomy. 5 hour surgery. One nerve almost severed by herniation, two nerves adhered together b/c of inflammation. Neurosurgeon had to reattach the almost severed nerve. He also coated the nerves that were stuck together with silicone.

May 27, 2003 - returned to work full time. The first week was agonizing.

July 1, 2003 - still having a lot of pain. The last two weeks the pain is different...it has moved to the right side, just above my hip. It is a stabbing, burning pain, very severe. I still have no feeling down the back of my left leg, the outside of my left foot and my two smallest toes. Appointment with the neurosurgeon July 8...my three month visit.

July 8, 2003 - Neuro vist. He ordered another MRI ASAP. He is sure the disc has re-herniated and will probably want to do surgery again. Either another partial laminectomy/discectomy or fusion.

July 16, 2003 - MRI With- and without-contrast - hopefully will tell us what is going on and why I am in so much pain.

July 21, 2003 - MRI results show that the disc has re-herniated on the same side and that I have "significant" scarring. The neuro doesn't want to wait until August 5 to see me. I have an appointment next Tuesday. (July 29)

August 5, 2003 - Going crazy with worry. I have never been as scared of anything as I am this surgery!

August 13, 2003 - Scheduled for surgery. Fusion with a cage, rods, screws and bone marrow from my hip.

 
Old 07-14-2003, 01:33 PM   #11
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sgc123 HB User
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Thanks Twinkie- it's nice to have different opinions about recovery. After all, every person is different. I am so sorry about your reherniation. That is my biggest fear about going back to work too soon. I hope that you can get some non-surgical relief.

I do have another question. It seems like one answer generates another question I am trying to prepare for surgery by building up my ab and back muscles as much as possible. A friend of mine told me about Pilates exercises. She said that they were easy on the back and would work the core muscles. Has anyone ever done these exercises? I don't want to aggravate my sciatica by doing them, but I would like to tone up a little before surgery so that recovery would be easier.

J

 
Old 07-14-2003, 04:26 PM   #12
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Suddzrus HB User
Wink

sgc123, I have just started doing pilates at about 5 months post op. I am very tight as it is but it definately stretched my back, neck, and legs out a lot. As building pu your abs it works them and the intesity really depends on how much you concentrate on that individual squeeze or hold of the abs but it focuses a lot on the core. If you do have sciatica though i think it would irritate it slightly or a lot since it does irritate my leg still when i do it and I had the surger alrady. I also think it dpends on hwo good of shape you are in before hand, I am really tight still so i think that adds stress onto the nerve itself. If you are really concerned with getting strong abs I would do crunchs, ball crunches and core stabilizing exercises, you can ask any of the trainers and they should be able to show you how to do them. If you need me to explain some of the things my football team used to use for core strength just let me know. Well I hope this input is useful and just let your body be your guide, you don't want to hurt yourself further but it is a good idea to get into better shape prior to surgery. How far away is your surgery?
-Coby

------------------[list][*]Chronic back pain for 6 years[*]Epidurals, PT, occasional relief[*]Hurt back severely during college football[*]Ruptured L5 S1 and nerve damage[*]Hemilaminectomy/Discectomy, medial facectomy on 2-20-03[*]Pain is getting better every week[*]Residual numbness and pain in foot, butt, calf[*]Rehabing at new PT and getting better[*]Still have numbness and occasional pain in leg[*]Eric Davis goes to the same PT as me! I'm in good hands![/list]
__________________
  • Chronic back pain for 6 years
  • Epidurals, PT, occasional relief
  • Hurt back severely during college football
  • Ruptured L5 S1 and nerve damage
  • Hemilaminectomy/Discectomy, medial facectomy on 2-20-03
  • Pain is getting better every week
  • Residual numbness and pain in foot, butt, calf
  • Rehabing at new PT and getting better
  • Still have numbness and occasional pain in leg
  • Eric Davis goes to the same PT as me! I'm in good hands!

 
Old 07-16-2003, 01:57 PM   #13
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Thanks for the info. Coby. I worried about the exercises aggravating my sciatic nerve considering it is already inflamed. Anyhow, my dreams of being in shape prior to surgery aren't going to happen. I just found out today that I can have surgery next Friday instead of having to wait until September. I am glad, but now Pilates is out of the question. At least for long enough to do any good. Oh well, it gives me an excuse to stop exercising for now I will try some crunches, but I won't do too much. I don't think having sore abs will help me recover any faster lol.
J

 
Old 07-16-2003, 07:34 PM   #14
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Skyrider HB User
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Sounds great that your having the surgery next
Friday it's soon and if you've decided already
we'll then your mentally prepared. It's a small
operation and you don't need a physical to have
one. I remember waking up and the surgeon first
asked me can I feel my leg more and I said yes
it feels good thanks, but the sciatic nerve was
under a good deal of pressure and I was lucky
not to have nerve damage. Also when your recovering
and slowly returning to normal either leg may
fall asleep from time to time, this is normal as
the nerve is trying to return to normal after
being pinched for a considerable time. Just the
big thing, take it real easy the first week you
want have the scar tissue to form well, you
don't want them to want to reseal you again. The
bad thing is you will always feel where they cut
you open for the first year or more it's just the
way it is, but it will return to normal it just
takes a bit of time. Good Luck!

 
Old 07-17-2003, 01:19 AM   #15
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photogman HB User
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I returned to work 2 weeks after having a discectomy and having problems now and am really sorry I went back so early. Also, for anybody that went back to work and had problems, what exactly would you define as having a "setback"?
__________________
1973 severe herniation-chiropractor,ortho surgeon-muscle relaxants
1973-2002 several herniations-more chiropractors
Feb 2003-back went out bending over to pick up a 45# weight plate
Feb-May 2003-chiropractor
March 2003-started feeling weakness in left leg
May 2003 MRI-diagnosed nerve sheath tumor on L3-L4 herniations on L3-L4 and L5-S1, severe arthritis on L5-S1 & L5-L4, moderate degeneration on at least 3 lumbar vert
May 2003-2nd opinion revealed no nerve sheath tumor, instead severe disc fragmentation pushing on nerve root L3-L4
May 2003-neurologist tested me and said severe nerve damage as a result-don't know whether temp or perm
May 28, 2003-micro discectomy L3-L4
June 27, 2003-anethesiologist-nerve block L3-L4
June 27, 2003 - present 1800 neurontin per day, Hydrocodone/APAP 5MG/500MG- 1-2 tablets every 4-6 hours

 
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