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Old 07-10-2012, 05:27 PM   #1
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Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I'm scheduled for Posterior Lumbar decompression and fusion at L5-S1 on 8/20. I'm a school teacher and was told that as long as I was able to sit at work I could return after a week. School starts on 8/27. I do have the ability to leave work after about 4 hours each day and I can sit while I teach. I don't have to do any heavy lifting of items and I don't have to carry any paper work around. Is this really a doable option if anyone who's had this surgery could respond that would be great.

 
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Old 07-10-2012, 10:01 PM   #2
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I laughed out loud when I read your post. Who on earth told you that you would be ready to go back to work after a week? I personally think that is the height of irresponsibility to give a patient such unrealistic expectations. It is very unrealistic. I'd be surprised if one in ten patients would be able to go back after a week. That must be assuming you will be off pain medications at that point since you wouldn't want to be responsible for a roomful of children if you are taking pain medications. Think of the potential for a lawsuit if something were to happen to a child and the parents discover you were taking pain medication.

Also, you cannot drive back and forth to work if you are taking pain medication. I wasn't even allowed to ride in a car at one week post surgery. I was allowed to ride to my surgeon's office on the 12th day for my first check-up, but no further. I started driving at 3 weeks post surgery with one fusion and more like 8 weeks with the first fusion. I was allowed to drive sooner, but I didn't want to because I didn't really feel well enough to leave the house.

Most surgeons restrict their lumbar fusion patients to 15-20 minutes sitting at one time...and some only let their patients sit three times per day for meals. Sitting puts 30% more pressure on the discs than either standing/walking or lying down. This restriction can last anywhere from the first six weeks to at least three months, and even then, they don't want the patient sitting more than about 45 minutes at a time.

The problem isn't so much WHEN you can do something but is it the best thing for your successful recovery to do it? Sure there are lots of things you COULD do, but it might set back the development of the new bone cells, cause the screws to loosen, cause nerve irritation or inflammation that can be difficult to get under control once it gets going, and a myriad of other issues as well.

The second problem is that there is no way of predicting who may sail right through the surgery and who may end up having complications, just as there is no way to predict if you will successfully fuse, or not. All the surgeon can do is quote you statistics and give you a best-case scenario.

I could go on and on, but I have already been much more bombastic than I normally am. But this topic just makes me crazy. I would seriously reconsider letting anyone from this office operate on you if this is indicative of their level of judgment. I feel you have been seriously misled!!!

 
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:37 AM   #3
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

thanks I will call the doctor today now I may have to cancel this surgery. I can't really miss work like that I can maybe take two weeks off which would give me 21 days from surgery. My job is very easy I can sit or stand but from what I'm hearing I will need to lay in bed most of the day.. Man I'm confused now..

 
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:51 AM   #4
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

[QUOTE=bruinfan23;5017127]thanks I will call the doctor today now I may have to cancel this surgery. I can't really miss work like that I can maybe take two weeks off which would give me 21 days from surgery. My job is very easy I can sit or stand but from what I'm hearing I will need to lay in bed most of the day.. Man I'm confused now..[/QUOTE]

Hi,

I will say that you MUST give your body healing time! If you don't you may end up with compensation issues ( si joint problems, severe muscle trigger points, etc ) It would be like forcing yourself to run five miles with a bad knee. You very well may limp well enough to finish the race..but the cost would be hip pain.

My doctor told me ( because of the kind of work i do ) I would be out for at least 6-9 months! For your line of work I would advise at least two months - if every thing goes well.. And sitting all day would not be advised!

The last thing you want is another surgery! I would think that after one week your body would still be in shock and in need of rest.

No one has said that you will be stuck in bed all day. We just understand that these things should not be pushed. I worked with a guy who let my former boss bully him back to work before he was ready. This fella had his neck fused because of a work injury with this company. My boss was calling the doctor saying " we can have him do light duty, we just need him back.. etc." Well his neck never did fuse and he had ANOTHER surgery because of this. In my State the doctors are very pro-employer and never give their honest opinion regarding the injury. They have people back driving trucks ( all day, every day ) one month after lower spine fusion. In Washington ( right next door ) they tell people that it takes 6 months - one year before you can do that kind of work again - if at all.

Just be careful

Last edited by One day; 07-11-2012 at 09:14 AM.

 
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Old 07-11-2012, 09:01 AM   #5
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I had a 3 level anterior/posterior fusion on 12/28/11 and even now do not sit for long periods of time. Recovery from these surgeries takes a long time and having stamina to spend a day working would be impossible at one week post-op. Your doctor should be more upfront with you about the activities you will be able to do after surgery. Even if he said you could return to work, I'm betting you wouldn't even want to do so soon after surgery. It's too bad that you will have to delay your surgery, but when you do get it done, give yourself a significant amount of time at home to recover.

 
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Old 07-11-2012, 11:29 PM   #6
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I had a posterior L4-L5 fusion/decompression & instrumentation Feb 22. I didn't start back to work - part time - until thee first week in April, and that was pushing it. My surgeon was optimistic in telling me that I'd be off work 2-4 weeks. From everything I've learned and experienced since, plus learned from what I''ve read here, reality is, you need to give yourself at least 6-8 weeks before going back to work.

I was in bed or reclining most of the time, but I walked every day. Inside of 2 weeks I was walking a mile a day, which is the best thing you can do. Going back to work was hard. I couldn't sit for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a stretch for a good 2-3 weeks at work and I had terrible leg cramps. I learned the hard way that I had to listen to my body and let it dictate what I could and couldn't do. Fortunately, I have an employer who gave me the time I needed even when I ran out of leave.

The nerves take a loooonng time to heal. By heeding my body's cues and sticking to the walking regimen, eventually I was able to put in a full 40 week. In the last two weeks I've not had my "evening pain'" at the end of the work day. I was able to start physical therapy in June which is helping align the spine and work the back muscles. Baby steps, steady progress have yielded very positive results. But the road is long and a tad arduous, I dare say. But worth it!

All this,is to say, this surgery is major and I agree with others here who've noted the irresponsibility of that Dr. in telling you 1 week and you're good to go. I'd be getting a 2nd opinion - pronto!

 
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Old 07-12-2012, 08:49 AM   #7
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I am sorry, this is absurd! 1 week after fusion back to work? Did you discuss this with your DR? Is he serious, not to say more?
I couldn't even walk normally, forget sitting - even a month after surgery. My surgeon told me I will be back to work in 8 weeks and if i still be in pain, he will keep me longer.

3 month later I asked him how come I am in still so much pain, he said to me surgery was very serious and you dont expect to recover in 3 month... How about that?
When I insisted to go to work and try (I was afraid to loose my job) and maybe I will get better by being busy, he said I am sure you will be back in 1-2 days with worse pain than you have now...
And another thing, which I found out later. If I would go back to work even for couple days and than realized I cant work, I would loose my disability benefits and may not get them back, they would be able to fire me since I came back to work. I am lucky to have a person in HR who explained this to me. Make sure you know how your benefits work. Otherwise you may end up not in a pleasant situation.

Good luck to you!
Moldova

 
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Old 07-17-2012, 08:37 PM   #8
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I am 1 week out of surgery tomorrow (1 level fusion....laminectomy and this was my 3 rd back surgery). I sm 35 yrs old. 1 week out of surgery....i just got home from the hospital yesterday!! I am lucky i can walk to the bathroom today. You definitely need a new DR. I am sorry that is crazy. My Dr gave me a ballpark of a few months out of work but it all depends on ur body and how u heal.

 
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Old 07-18-2012, 05:00 AM   #9
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Smile Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I had a laminectomy in March, 2011; herniated 3 discs in May, 2011; and finally had a 3 level fusion in July, 2011. Finally was able to go back to work end of September, 2011. I was fine until November some time and started having pain on other side of body (lower back, side, buttocks, thigh). More tests and a different doctor but on April 18, 2012, I had a 9 level fusion, S1 - T10 due to more stenosis and buldging discs and instability (I have a very narrow canal). I came back to work on July 3rd. I use my walker to get into the building but otherwise, I am having no problems walking, sitting, or carrying light items (I'm a legal secretary for a municipal government). I'm still in therapy and muscles are getting stronger every day! I can go to the store and finally use a real buggy if we aren't going to be but 15 minutes or so; weekly hour long shopping is riding cart time! I have some pain if I move wrong or walk too long, but mostly I am fixed and fine and loving life again!!! There is light at the end of the tunnel!!!!

 
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Old 08-02-2012, 12:33 AM   #10
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I am a teacher and just had a 2-level fusion. I totally agree with 90% of what is being said. I planned for 4 months for this surgery after my doc told me to plan the better part of a year to recovery AND with complications I Should be able to return to work part-time by late September. My surgery was June 12 and I have had a couple set backs. Start PT aug 7. Right now I can barely walk because of hamstrings cramping. I lay in bed with heat on both thighs. I took the whole year off. Thinking now about being ready to teach in 6-8 weeks ( a month late into school)... All I can visualize is more setbacks after a week or two at work while finishing PT. you need to budget yourself at least 6-8 weeks to realistically be ready to work successfully and be finishing pt after a one level fusion. You only get one chance to get it right and heal 100%... DONT RUSH things.

 
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Old 08-02-2012, 07:22 PM   #11
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

[QUOTE=MaudieB;5017728]I had a posterior L4-L5 fusion/decompression & instrumentation Feb 22. I didn't start back to work - part time - until thee first week in April, and that was pushing it. My surgeon was optimistic in telling me that I'd be off work 2-4 weeks. From everything I've learned and experienced since, plus learned from what I''ve read here, reality is, you need to give yourself at least 6-8 weeks before going back to work.

I was in bed or reclining most of the time, but I walked every day. Inside of 2 weeks I was walking a mile a day, which is the best thing you can do. Going back to work was hard. I couldn't sit for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a stretch for a good 2-3 weeks at work and I had terrible leg cramps. I learned the hard way that I had to listen to my body and let it dictate what I could and couldn't do. Fortunately, I have an employer who gave me the time I needed even when I ran out of leave.

The nerves take a loooonng time to heal. By heeding my body's cues and sticking to the walking regimen, eventually I was able to put in a full 40 week. In the last two weeks I've not had my "evening pain'" at the end of the work day. I was able to start physical therapy in June which is helping align the spine and work the back muscles. Baby steps, steady progress have yielded very positive results. But the road is long and a tad arduous, I dare say. But worth it!

All this,is to say, this surgery is major and I agree with others here who've noted the irresponsibility of that Dr. in telling you 1 week and you're good to go. I'd be getting a 2nd opinion - pronto![/QUOTE]

 
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Old 08-02-2012, 07:28 PM   #12
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

[QUOTE=MaudieB;5017728]I had a posterior L4-L5 fusion/decompression & instrumentation Feb 22. I didn't start back to work - part time - until thee first week in April, and that was pushing it. My surgeon was optimistic in telling me that I'd be off work 2-4 weeks. From everything I've learned and experienced since, plus learned from what I''ve read here, reality is, you need to give yourself at least 6-8 weeks before going back to work.

I was in bed or reclining most of the time, but I walked every day. Inside of 2 weeks I was walking a mile a day, which is the best thing you can do. Going back to work was hard. I couldn't sit for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a stretch for a good 2-3 weeks at work and I had terrible leg cramps. I learned the hard way that I had to listen to my body and let it dictate what I could and couldn't do. Fortunately, I have an employer who gave me the time I needed even when I ran out of leave.

The nerves take a loooonng time to heal. By heeding my body's cues and sticking to the walking regimen, eventually I was able to put in a full 40 week. In the last two weeks I've not had my "evening pain'" at the end of the work day. I was able to start physical therapy in June which is helping align the spine and work the back muscles. Baby steps, steady progress have yielded very positive results. But the road is long and a tad arduous, I dare say. But worth it!

All this,is to say, this surgery is major and I agree with others here who've noted the irresponsibility of that Dr. in telling you 1 week and you're good to go. I'd be getting a 2nd opinion - pronto![/QUOTE]

 
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Old 08-02-2012, 09:27 PM   #13
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I don't have very physically demanding job. I was told I could go to work after two weeks. I couldn't do it because of my long commute work. I worked an hour and forty five minute away from my home. As for being in the bed all the time that's nonsense. You can take short walks several time a day. If you follow your restrictions to a tee which is really hard, you can be off you pain meds in no time. I take no pain meds as of right now and I have had three back surgeries including two fusions since February. I currently have a herniated disc that may need to be fused. I hope your fusion goes well. I just want to let you know that not everyone who has a fusion is stuck in bed and you can be active after the surgery if you follow your restrictions. Not everyone falls victim to the pain.

 
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Old 08-03-2012, 03:05 PM   #14
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

I just had a double fusion on July 17. I was told it would take 1.5-2.0 hours but it took 6 hours. I was told I'd be in the hospital 3-5 days. I was in 11 days. I just had staples out on day 16. I don't see Dr again for another 5 weeks. So all I sk is walk laps with a walker or to the bathroom. I recline or lay down. I have therapy in home 5 days a week. He already wrote I will be off work at least until Jan 17 but maybe longer. I cannot even imagine if I will. Be ready then. Its hard to imagine. Having this surgerybis HUGE and you don't want. To mess it up and have to go back in a few weeks later. I feel its a gift if it works so I will be patient and struggle and be broke just to recover completely.

 
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Old 08-03-2012, 03:53 PM   #15
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Re: Back Surgery Recovery time? L5-S1 Fusion

It's a shame employers don't realize how difficult it is to recover and get back to work. I can't imagine how people can survive with severe back problems and have to work. It seems people are more understanding when it's some type of illness or problem they can relate to. It takes so long to get well and worrying about money doesn't help anything.

 
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