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Old 09-05-2008, 09:35 AM   #1
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Lumbar fusion and physical work

I had a lumbar fusion on L4-L5 (5-6-08) after a a failed microdecompression surgery on 8-16-07. I am wondering if anyone has had a spinal fusion and were able to continue at their physical job? I was told I would be able to return to my line of work as a building engineer at about 6 months post. op., but I have been reading conflicting threads that you cannot do physical work after a spinal fusion!

Last edited by emm11; 09-05-2008 at 10:21 AM.

 
Old 09-05-2008, 02:45 PM   #2
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Re: Lumbar fusion and physical work

Well, everyone's different. I had a T4-L4 fusion 30 some years ago for severe scoliosis, which was left mostly uncorrected. While in the hospital, I grew to love the atmosphere, seeing it as a whole little world in and of itself. It was fascinating to me. After I healed, I went back to school and got a degree in an allied health profession, not nursing of course --- my back would never handle that! I loved what I did and continued in my field for 18 years, until my spine became unstable and I had to quit. Maybe I would have been better off never doing such physical work, but I was determined. I admit that I did go home crying many nights because of my pain, but I never let on to anyone I worked with that I was in pain, I never asked anyone to help me out. I always carried my weight and then some, probably because I'm thick headed.

I guess as I'm writing this, telling you it can be done, I'm probably more convincing that it's not a good idea.

I think it depends a lot on HOW physical it is. You and your doctor will need to decide together whether it would be in your best interest to return to your current line of work.

Emily

 
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Old 09-05-2008, 08:41 PM   #3
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Re: Lumbar fusion and physical work

Subscribing. I definitely want to hear experiences as well!

 
Old 09-05-2008, 10:00 PM   #4
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Re: Lumbar fusion and physical work

You'd have to follow really good body mechanics/ergonomics. Bending at the knees, keeping your spine straight. It may be useful to consult a physical therapist (for body mechnics instruction) and also be fitted, by them or a doctor, for a back brace you can comfortably wear every day at work.

Ideally, if you had the option, I'd tell you not to return to physical work. But I know that's easier said than done - if that's your line of work it's hard to make a switch to something else.

Are you out of work on Workers' Comp? If so that itself may affect if you can return to your prior position.
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Rt&Lt thumb arthroplasty 2012 ; RT TKR & Bilat CTS 2011
Fusions: L5-S1 (87), L4-S1 (93), C5-C7 ('06), L3-S1 ('10)
C5-C7 foraminotomy 08

 
Old 09-06-2008, 02:53 AM   #5
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Re: Lumbar fusion and physical work

I had a double at L3-4-5, so my restrictions may be more.

they are: limited bending/twisting. 30 lb limit, and he would rather under 20. he said 50 once in a (great) if I absolutely had to although he said he would prefer me not to, and thats the absolute upper limit. frequent position changes (like 20 mins sitting, then stand and walk etc).

however a buddy of mine who had a L5-S1 fusion 16 years ago does physical work as a machinist and lifts over 50 lbs all the time (including his grand kids) with no issues. so it varies.
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Old 09-06-2008, 05:58 AM   #6
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Re: Lumbar fusion and physical work

Thanks for your replies. I am on workmans comp., and work made it clear they want me back at 100%, no light duty. I had returned from my microdecompression at light duty and re-herniated the disc. Which is why I had it fused

" Are you out of work on Workers' Comp? If so that itself may affect if you can return to your prior position. " (Why would being on workmans comp effect if I can return to my line of work?)

Last edited by emm11; 09-06-2008 at 09:55 AM.

 
Old 09-06-2008, 06:52 PM   #7
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Re: Lumbar fusion and physical work

Emm:

If you can't do your specific job 100% with no restrictions - it's likely that WC and your employer will not allow you to return to your prior position. They want to be sure you don't injure yourself further.

However, you could seek a position with a different company - but may have to divulge to them your physical limitations.

If you can't return you may be offered vocational rehabilitation services to help find a new job with less physical demands.
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Fusions: L5-S1 (87), L4-S1 (93), C5-C7 ('06), L3-S1 ('10)
C5-C7 foraminotomy 08

 
Old 09-07-2008, 09:38 AM   #8
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Re: Lumbar fusion and physical work

[QUOTE=SpineAZ;3718990]Emm:

If you can't do your specific job 100% with no restrictions - it's likely that WC and your employer will not allow you to return to your prior position. They want to be sure you don't injure yourself further.

However, you could seek a position with a different company - but may have to divulge to them your physical limitations.

If you can't return you may be offered vocational rehabilitation services to help find a new job with less physical demands.[/QUOTE]

SpineAZ:

Thanks for your response. I am not sure what you mean "If I can't do my job 100% with no restrictions" My hope was to not have any restrictions when I am completely healed. I guess my question was are there people who have come back from lumbar fusion surgery with no type of restrictions and could do their physical type of work? Or will there always be some sort of restriction with this type of surgery?

Last edited by emm11; 09-07-2008 at 10:12 AM.

 
Old 09-07-2008, 11:01 AM   #9
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Re: Lumbar fusion and physical work

I think realistically there will always be some restrictions. You are never 100% after a fusion and you do have to change your body mechanics. Once you have a level fused (be it lumbar, cerivcal or thoracic) the level above and below the fusion are always at risk for damage as they get more physical use and stress. A fusion helps stabilize the spine but then other areas of the spine have to "pick up the slack" in terms of spine movement and taking on the strain of bending or weight bearing where they might not have before, etc. A fusion changes the entire dynamic of the funcitioning of the spine.

You should ask your doctor about what permanent restrictions, if any, you will have. I worked in disability claims (not workers' comp but short and long term disability where we would pay a benefit minus whatever WC was paying). In many cases the person was given permanent restrictions that did not allow them to return to their prior job IF their job involved the restrictions. For example, if the doctor says you can't lift over 50 lbs. but the most you are required to lift at your job is 25 lbs. - then it's a restriction but not one that affects your ability to do your job. But if you are required to lift/carry 75 lbs and the doctor gives a permanent restriction of lift/carry no more than 50 lbs - it would then be a limitation/restriction that would prohibit you from going back to your job.

Some employers will alter job requrirements to get an employee back to work. So if an employee is required to bend to lift a security door once a day - but the doctor says the empoyee is restricted from doing so - sometimes the employer can give that duty to another employee (if there's another employee available who can do that task). Otherwise WC will often offer vocational rehabilitation services to help you find a job with comparable income (hopefully) given your permanent restrictions (if any).

Even if WC or your doctor didn't give you permanent restrictions - my personal advice would be to seek out a job with less physical requirements. That would be to keep you spine healthy and be able to work well into the future without concern for possible re-injury or injury to a new level of the spine.

Given my lumbar fusion and now cervical fusion ideally I'd like to find a job that doesn't require much travel. I often have to travel for my job and I know if I can find something with a comparable salary but infrequent travel I'll be much better off in the long run. That being said I have yet to find that type of position so I keep plugging along with my current job - travel and all.
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Rt&Lt thumb arthroplasty 2012 ; RT TKR & Bilat CTS 2011
Fusions: L5-S1 (87), L4-S1 (93), C5-C7 ('06), L3-S1 ('10)
C5-C7 foraminotomy 08

 
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