How Long Will I Be Out of Work After Spinal Surgery

Loss of productivity is a concern which prevents many people with chronic back pain from getting the treatment they need. Many patients require back surgery during their most critical working years; this is especially true for people with very physical jobs. In the past, spine surgery meant a long period of time away from work, and the lost wages that implies.

Fortunately, modern advances in laser surgery allow patients to return to work in only a fraction of the time of traditional surgery, while still receiving highly effective treatment for chronic back pain

Recovery Time for Different Procedures

The following groups are listed from shortest to longest time before returning to work after spine surgery:

  • Healthy patients with non-physical jobs who undergo laser back surgery usually return to work in one week.
  • Patients who undergo laser back surgery but have physically strenuous jobs usually return to work in 6 weeks.
  • Open spine surgery patients who have non-physical jobs generally wait 6 weeks before returning to work.
  • People with strenuous jobs who have traditional open spine surgery will be out of work for several months to as long as a year.

In addition, laser surgery patients do not undergo general anesthesia, allowing them to return home the same day. Hospital surgeries require a stay of 4-5 days for most patients.

If your surgery is on the cervical area of the spine, you will generally need to wear a neck brace for about a week after laser surgery, or several weeks after traditional surgery.

Of course, people are generally able to return to work before they have fully recovered. Most people fully recover from laser back surgery in 6 weeks or so, and can return to all of their normal activities. For traditional spine surgery, it usually takes several months to a year for a return to full mobility.

This wide discrepancy is mostly due to the fact that traditional surgery is very invasive, unlike laser surgery and other minimally invasive procedures. Without the assistance of lasers and endoscopes, surgeons previously had to cut away skin, muscle, connective tissue, and bone to perform procedures which can now be done in an outpatient setting. The resulting wound took weeks to months to heal, and caused pain which required narcotic pain killers for as long as a month.

Laser spine surgery eliminates most of these problems. Instead of peeling away layers of tissue to get to the spot being treated, one or two small needles are inserted into the spine. Through this needle, tiny cameras and tools are inserted, allowing the surgeon to see the area and treat the issue. It is performed with local anesthesia and a light sedative.

When to Seek Surgery

Laser surgery is a strong option for many patients with chronic back pain; however, only your doctor can tell you which treatment is right for you. Surgery is almost never the first option for treating back pain, because even the least invasive surgery does require downtime, and all surgeries come with risks, no matter how small.

For these reasons, non-surgical treatments will be attempted first. When conservative treatments fail, it is time to consider surgery as an option. Surgery is the strongest option for patients whose pain is severe enough that it has a significant effect on day-to-day life. It is also often considered for people who experience muscle weakness or neurological deficits, such as numbness or tingling in the extremities.

While some more rare or serious conditions still require open back surgery, most common spine conditions can be treated with laser spine surgery: herniated and bulging discs, stenosis, bone spurs, facet disease, and more. It can be performed on all sections of the spine - cervical, thoracic, and lumbar.

To talk to a leading expert in minimally invasive spine surgery, please call the Datta Endoscopic Back Surgery and Pain Center at 347-380-9138.

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