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Average time off work after a PLIF???

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Old 02-19-2009, 12:09 AM   #1
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 16
mommyof2ak HB User
Average time off work after a PLIF???

Just thought I would start a thread to get an idea of how long people who have had similar surgeries have been out of work since surgery.

I have been out since Oct.2008, surgery in Dec. 2008 and still out of work and not sure when I will be able to return..... ????

Just wanted to take a poll and see what the average time off for everyone is.

Looking forward to hearing everyones thoughts. I know we can't write what our occupations are on here, but vaguely, ie; physical labor or office job, hours each day at work would help give me an idea.

Thanks in advance everyone.
Post-op 12/08/2008
PLIF L3-L4 with titanium cage
(Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion)

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Old 02-19-2009, 10:55 AM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Orlando, Florida, U.S
Posts: 63
bekkieboop89 HB User
Re: Average time off work after a PLIF???

Hey Mommy! (tee hee, I like typing that!)

I just had the 'basic' spinal fusion on Dec. 29th, so this is about 7 weeks out, and I honestly couldn't imagine going back to work yet. In truth, I don't have a job - I'm a college student. At the moment, I'm taking classes online (just part time, I can't concentrate enough to do full time) and I find THAT challenging and tiring.

The thought of getting up every morning, getting showered and dressed, and driving to work ..... then having to put in 8 or 9 hours behind a desk, concentrating, doing paper work, etc....I couldn't do it at this point. And I doubt I would be able to do it in the next month.

Hope this helped you out - I wish you the best of luck with getting back into the workforce, whenever it's good for you.

Take care,

"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.” - Frank A Clark

Old 02-20-2009, 08:15 AM   #3
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: na
Posts: 383
onyxgates HB User
Re: Average time off work after a PLIF???

My surgery was Feb 9th and my scheduled return to work date is April 13th. So that will be nine weeks off for me. I don't know what a PLIF is but I had a fusion from the back my incision is the size of my index finger (length). They called it a right L4/L5 Lateral Micro Decompression and fusion. But I do have an hour commute each way so I am sure that plays a part in my return date.

Old 02-20-2009, 05:30 PM   #4
Junior Member
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: san diego
Posts: 46
vicki19 HB User
Re: Average time off work after a PLIF???

Hi...I had a Anterior Two Level Lumbar Fusion and a Laminectomy, incisions in front and back, on Dec 2nd. I went back to work on Jan 5th. I have an "office job", 5 weeks after surgery. I know that is early, but my doctor released me and I felt I could do it. There were several factors in my decision, for sure. I felt I needed to go back. BUT... my job is very accommidating, in fact they offered to get a new chair for me the first day when they saw my pillows! But I'm already ergonomically set up so that wasn't necessary. It really hasn't been easy, but I am able to come home and rest and take care of myself, ie. no small children to take care of. I still take pain meds throughout the day and am going to physical therapy once a week. I try to walk during the day and although my job isn't really sitting for 8 hours, I make sure I don't sit for too long at one time. If you don't need to go back, for whatever reason, take all the time that your doctor will give you. My Physical Therapist told me with my surgery, I should have been out for 3 months.... she was very surprised that I back at work and not happy about it. But oh, well, I had to do what I felt I needed to do and its working out okay for me. I've started to fuse. I still wear my brace and will be for 3 more months as of right now.

Old 02-21-2009, 10:15 AM   #5
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 69
JanKR HB User
Re: Average time off work after a PLIF???

I had just started a new job when I realized surgery was a necessity so had to resign from the position. I had a bone onlay posterior lateral fusion without hardware on November 12th, 2008. I'm overwhelmed with the prospect of going back into the job force. I am still taking pain meds and muscle relaxers at night in order to get a good nights sleep (and because after 12 hours of gravity I'm starting to hurt!) so it takes me a while to get rolling in the morning. I get up and go to the track or do walking in the house. Then do some household chores around the house and bam......ready for the sofa at 2 pm for some heat treatment as the muscles across my back are in spasm by then. The type of work I do could require physical lifting. Most of the jobs that I am skilled for require a weight lifting ability of between 20 to 50 lbs on their job descriptions. I have just been out of the brace for two weeks so maybe these are the muscles responding that I haven't used for three months. Surgeon doesn't want me to do PT until 4 months out so I would assume that negates the physical aspect of my job for now.

I suppose if I had a job that did not have a heavy commute (as I can't sit for a long time yet) and I could get some use out of those Thermacare back heat wraps, I could tough it out for an 8 hour day at a desk job. But, not sure if I could even do that at this point (3 1/2 months out) as the fatigue during the day is still just too much on certain days. Sound like a whiner, huh? I'm amazed that people are able to go back to work at 5 weeks out. I was walking so slow at that point that it would have taken me forever to get there!! Guess that shows that everyone is different and recovers at their own pace. Could have somethng to do with the age factor too as I am 55, although felt like a healthy,active 55 until this occurred. One reason I went ahead and did the surgery was I was afraid if I waited I would be older and more debilitated the longer I put it off. Now I'm afraid I'll get the double whammy of age discrimination and damaged goods when I hit the street looking for employment. It's not eay sitting looking at the economic news daily either. I've had to forego watching the news as it just adds to my anxiety over this issue.

Well, Mommy of 2, that's where I am in this whole thing. Hope that helps but I am a generation ahead of you probably so that could make a difference in your recovery time. Sounds like you are doing good! Stay active and take care of yourself; take the time you need to heal before taking care of others!


Old 02-21-2009, 11:02 AM   #6
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Maryland USA
Posts: 31
DAJ819 HB User
Re: Average time off work after a PLIF???

I had a 2-level fusion (L4/L5-S1) in March 2008. I went back to work part-time in October 2008. My dr. would not agree to full-time work until I was solidly fused. I never fused. I developed a very large cyst (post-op) that was not detected until December 2008. I had the cyst removed, more bone materials inserted into my spine and two additional screws added in a surgical procedure in mid-January (2009).

I am currently almost 6-weeks post-op from that second surgery and all in all, I'm feeling much better. I will be going for x-rays in a few weeks to check for fusion. My dr. told me to expect to be home from work for a minimum of 3-months this time -- the first surgery I was home for almost 7 months.

Hope this helps.

Old 04-02-2009, 07:48 PM   #7
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Lancaster, PA
Posts: 1
jpdaddy0 HB User
Re: Average time off work after a PLIF???

I had a 2 level fusion at L4/L5 and L5/S1 on February 23, 2009, and I will be returning to work next Tuesday, April 7, which is exactly 6 weeks post-op. I've actually been doing a little work on my laptop unofficially for a few weeks now. I'm a sales rep, and I work from home when I'm not traveling, so it is easy for me to work from a recliner, my bed, or the kitchen table if I want to, but I anticipate sitting at my desk for the most part.

My first post op visit with my doctor was a month after surgery. They took an xray which showed that the fusion is setting up nicely. I was released to start driving that day. I'm still taking oxycontin, but I'm reducing my dosage and will be completely off all pain meds by the time I hit the 3 month mark. At that time I'm told that I can lose the brace, and start PT.

I walk about a 1 1/2 miles most days, and have gotten to the point where I can do a lot of light work around the house. I fold laundry, dust, empty the dishwasher, things like that, but all without bending, twisting, or lifting anything heavier than about 6 pounds. The "reacher" that they gave me in the hospital has been a great help. If they don't give you one, have a friend go to Wal-Mart and get you one.

Before surgery I made the mistake of reading some message boards and I read so many bad experiences that it really started to freak me out a little. But then I realized that I didn't know any of the people who were posting; I didn't know the extent of the medical situation, overall health, weight, other medical problems... it just wasn't mentally healthy for me to worry based on the posts that I was reading. I also wondered if the reason there were so many horror stories on some message boards (not so much on this one) was that people who run into difficulties understandably want to share that with others as they are looking for answers and support. Those of us who go through the procedure without much difficulty aren't going back to the message boards as often, we're out enjoying life! So I made a promise to myself that if I had good results that I would come back and let the world know!

It's still early, but I feel really good, and I'm getting stronger every day. I expect a full recovery and am even planning to play tennis and run another 1/2 marathon some day! I'll give myself a couple of years before trying the 1/2 marathon, but I am determined!

I'll post an update in 6-8 weeks. Hopefully I'll have more good news!

Old 04-29-2009, 12:06 AM   #8
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Calgary, AB
Posts: 1
guyLac HB User
Re: Average time off work after a PLIF???

I had a disectomy L2-L3 on May 6, 2008 and returned to work, as a lawyer, the following week with very little pain. Unfortunately my lower spine continued to deteriorate and when I started falling over when I walked and couldn't function without painkillers, I underwent posterior L5-S1 fusion, on February 10, 2009 and was released from the hospital 10 days later. The pain was literally unbearable. It took almost a full week to come up with a drug regime that could control the pain. (One of the screws had penetrated the nerve root.) Two weeks after being released from the hospital, I went back to work, mostly from home where I could see clients and work from bed as needed. Thankfully we have the internet and I have great staff. I was taking gabapentine, hydromorphone, dilaudid, for the pain. That was not enough.

At my first follow up, a month after surgery, it was decided that it would be better to do some exploratory surgery to find out the source of the pain and heavy weight in my left leg and foot. Four days later, March 17, 2009, I was back in surgery, for a second fusion. On my way to the recovery room, I realized that the operation had been successful. I was ready to dance, even though I have two left feet.

I was released after a week, and put on a heavy regime of 90 mg of hydromorphone per day, 4 mg of dilaudid as needed every 2 to 4 hours, and Flowmax so I wouldn't have to use a catheter like the first time. I managed to go to the office for a half day every day. I would work for a short while and lay down as needed. I have to say that I'm extremely tired of laying down, but it's great for the back.

I hated the drugs and the effect they had on me, so just short of 3 weeks after being released, I started to wean myself from the medication. By this time, I'd been on opiates for 5 months non-stop. The withdrawal was painful and made it almost impossible to do anything. I went through nausea, diarrhea, cold sweats, depression (quietly hidden), and feeling like hell. It took 7 days of reducing my pain dosage, with the help of my family doctor, until I was off the opiates. I must say that I feel sorry for those that have to stay on painkillers for months and years.

The recovery is very slow. On some days, it's easy to walk and on others, I barely have the energy. However, I'm at work every day and still following my regime of laying down on a regular basis as needed. There's still numbness, tingling and weakness on my left leg and foot, but it changes from day to day. According to my neurosurgeon that should clear up, since all the nerves are where they belong and there's lots of room for them.

It's difficult not lifting more than 5 to 8 pounds, not being able to be active, and having the discomfort in my left leg and foot, but as my neurosurgeon said, "Look at your recovery as an investment in your future".

It's going to be slow, so be patient. And when you're feeling low, just remember that there are lots of people out there like you.

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