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    Returning to Work; Post Micro-Decompression Surgery
    An_244475 posted:
    I am 59 yrs old and otherwise in great health but I do have per multiple MRIs severe neural foraminal stenosis at L4-5 and moderate to severe central spinal stenosis at L2-3, L3-4, L4-5. After 2 (back to back) epidurals finally elevated my severe radicular [right sided> pain and several weeks of conservative PT, my neurosurgeon is recommending micro-decompression at all relevant levels of my lumbar spine. I'm a lawyer/litigator and although I go to court and take depositions fairly frequently [i.e., drive & am on my feet/standing>, about 55% of my "job" is sedentary/behind a computer. I would like to get a better idea, all other matters being equal, about how long it will be before I can return to "my work." My doc, a great guy, said "4 to 6 weeks, possibly sooner." Is it pie in the sky to think I could return to work w/in 2 to 3 weeks? Thanks . . .
    bj1208 responded:
    hi and welcome to the support group -

    everyone is different and heals differently - so would go with what your physician states and look at 4-6 weeks - you do have several areas where treatment is needed and it will take time to heal.

    one of the most important things to remember is to do as the surgeon says after surgery - remember all the do's and don'ts and be sure to get enough rest as this is the best medicine for speedy recovery.

    please keep us posted as to how you are doing - take care - Joy
    dianer01 responded:

    Joy is right, there are no short cuts in back surgery. I was 45 had a laminectomy and diskectomy at L2-3 and L3-4. When I woke up from the surgery I cried from relief because I was in no pain.

    My work keeps me at a desk about 75% of the day. My surgeon kept me out of work for 3 weeks. About the time I went back to work, I also started physical therapy 3 days per week.

    Everyone is different, everyone heals differently and plan for the worst, hope for the best. If you plan on 6 weeks of down time and find yourself able to get back sooner, go for it, but do not then turn around and say I don't have time for the PT as you get your life ramped back up.

    My best to you, and please do keep in touch about how things are going.
    trs1960 replied to dianer01's response:
    I agree, but I would also recommend you read The Art of Healing Back Pain Naturally by Dr. Art Brownstien M.D.

    Doctor Brownstien is an orthopedic surgeon that went through the same plight as many of us. You are just a few years older than me and I think you would appreciate gaining knowledge from an MD that found himself in the same boat as us and figured out how to make the best of his life.

    Books are a great distraction from pain and when the book is full of helpfull knowledge about working out your back problens it's a double win.

    I've found a handfull books helped me equally to all of the doctors I've seen. Part of chronic pain syndrome is caused by the body continuing to send the brain pain signals and the brain starts to freak out because the signal won't go away. That leads to apprehension, depression etc...all of which make pain worse which of course makes the brain worse. And on and on they say in Latin, ad infiniteum.

    Good luck and don't be afraid to get second opinins. Once surgery is performed it cannot be undone. So make sure it's right beforethe grab the knife.

    trs1960 replied to trs1960's response:
    Also, deoending on which muscle groups are affected, sitting a desk and doing what seems to not be physical, like talking on the phone or typing on the keyboard can be quite stressfull on the spine. Your spine is under more stress sitting than standing.

    If you spend a lot of time on the phone a wireless headset is a must. I find a chair with head and neck support helpfull too.

    Most important is to learn to listen to your body. It's human nature to push harder and think you can win by being stubborn, if your spine is healing trying to push through the pain may be the worst thing you can perfect answer, backs are complex.

    dianer01 replied to trs1960's response:
    Hi Tim:

    I started a new job at the end of January and the first special request I had was for a headset. Mine is not wireless but long enough I can at least stand at my desk. The headset is a lifesaver and neck saver!

    My previous job I had a small office and with the wireless I could stand up and pace a little which helped not havng to sit for too long. My current situation, wired headset not withstanding, will not allow me to pace and talk on the phone. So I don't mind the wired headset as it keeps me from scrunching up my shoulder and twisting my back and neck.

    I would strongly reccomend anyone who spends time on the phone at work, especially if you work on the computer at the same time, with or without back or neck problems get a headset. I find if I plan on spending more than a few minutes on my cell phone I get out the headset. It too has been a lifesaver.
    trs1960 replied to dianer01's response:
    Yeah, I get up and walk around while on long calls. Lifesaver is the right word!!

    georgia888 replied to trs1960's response:
    Sitting for extended periods is one of the worst things for our backs. Try to get up out of your chair as often as possible, i.e. place your waste basket away from your desk so you have to get up to dispose of garbage.

    I can offer two recommendations for chairs, both have helped my condition (similar to yours). The first is an exercise ball. It may take some getting used to but is so much better than a standard chair in that your muscles, etc. are constantly working to maintain a position. Of course, check with your doctor first & perhaps try one out before making the "investment" (they are inexpensive). My second recommendation is a Herman Miller Aeron chair. This is more expensive but well worth the money. You can find one with all the adjustable options allowing you to find the right fit for your comfort. "Sit For Less" is a website where you can buy one at a discount.

    Best of luck to you.

    owood4 responded:
    I had L4-L5 lumbar surgery to relieve sciatic pain on January 8th, 2008. The Neurologist had to widen my spinal canal and remove some bone from 3 vertebrae. I had no mid-level spinal issues as you do. I was able to return to work on February 26th, 2008... roughly 6 weeks. I do not want to scare you; however, you can expect SEVERE pain once you are home in bed flat on your back. I am a 48 year old male and I cried like a newborn on many nights for the first week or so... even while on pain meds. I wish you better than what I experienced and the technology may have improved; however, keep in mind that the doc must cut through muscle to get to your spine and that's what takes so long to re-cooperate from.
    cweinbl responded:
    I'm a veteran of 40 years of stenosis, DDD, four spine surgeries and virtually every treatment. I had two lumbar discectomies (both failed) followed by two laminectomies, the last included multilevel fusion.

    Here are the facts. The success rate for spine surgery today is about 60%. That's for both discectomies and laminectomies. This constitutes one of the poorest success rates among all types of surgery.

    If you remove one disc, especially lumbar, it creates added pressure on the disc above. My dad herniated L4-5 ten months after L5-S1 was removed. I herniated L4-5 just four months after L5S1 was removed. This allpies to a lesser extent for cervical discs, where the pressure of body weight is substantially reduced.

    Your estimate of 4-6 weeks recovering from a discectomy is pretty accurate. I returned to work after three weeks with my first discectomy and I developed inflammation so severe that I ended up back in bed for the next four weeks. I returned to work eight weeks after my laminectomy, which was fine. I retirned to work 12 weeks after my laminectomy and fusion and it felo about right. To avoid a serious bout with inflammation, I recommend that you go back to work one week AFTER you start to feel well again.

    Here is the latest, greatest collection of double-blind control group research on all forms of spinal interventions:;12;699-802.pdf .

    Having tried most forms of pain treatment at two comprehensive pain management program, I urge you to do the same. I can reduce my pain by up to 20% with biofeedback alone. Some people benefit from acupuncture. Others swear by kinesiotherapy. If all attempts fail, the two last resort (before surgery) options are: 1) spinal cord stimulator (SCS) and 2) Intrathecal infusion pump (IT Pump). Both treatments offer a trail unit worn outside the body, before you have the primary unit surgically implanted. The success rates for those options (40% - 60%) are also explained in the research link above.

    I can be reached at . Best of luck to you.
    robcha replied to owood4's response:
    It took me more then 2 years to recover from 3/4 bilateral lumbar stenosis surgery. Sciatica nerve was worst pain ever! I am 74. My md surgeon that two years prior I should
    have had the surgery according to the first MRI 2 years prior. My primary did not tell me I needed it. When asked why, he replied well what would you have said? Good grief, he had decided that I would have said No! Yeah, right! That is Indian Health for you!
    79k96 replied to cweinbl's response:
    As a veteran of three back surgeries, my advice is to run, not walk, out of the hospital and seek less invasive means for relief. Surgery should, in my opinion, be the last resort after you have tried everything else.
    bingo35 responded:
    Hi An_244475, I had something similar plus I had spondy.
    After interviewing 5 neurosurgeons and ortho pods. I choose a great neurosurgeon who did the lamy first. Turns out I also had a cyst which hemorraged and became necrotic around nerves at l4-l5. You can imagine the pain.

    I was totally fine the next day but just took 3 days off work. I only stayed one night in hospital and was totally fine. I'm an IT geek so job wise sedentary as well. I'm at a loss why ur doctor would say 4-6 weeks for just a lamy assuming you are in otherwise good health.

    I subsequently had a fusion l4-l5 for spondy which took 6-8 weeks to become alive but that is a whole nuther discussion.

    I strongly urge you only do the surgery you absolutely must have (like spondy can only be fixed with surgery) because ANY back surgery can trigger more problems with other spine levels.
    jpinmiss responded:
    my back surgery was in 2000 for l2 to s1fusion.
    Istill have pains everyday , but is tolersbl e at alevel 4.
    am considering the fusion on tto L2 now due to sthritius degereation there.
    Find a good pain management practice

    good luck
    dianer01 replied to cweinbl's response:
    Thanks cweinbl,

    I have followed your posts for about 3 or 4 years and I appreciate your knowledge and candor. You add a lot to any discussion.

    You make me really appreciate my situation and abilities.


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