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Returning to work after broken back

Hi, I broke my back and had a "thoraco lumbar fusion for unstable L1 and L2 fracture" seven weeks ago. This resulted in having seven screws and two plates in my back. (I also broke my right collar bone, right and left 10th and 11th ribs, and had lacerations in my small and large bowel)

I feel my ribs have healed, but I'm having discomfort from my collar bone, back and stomach still. I've seen a consultant for my back and he said I can return to work, but only doing light duties.

I am still waiting, after seven weeks, to have physiotherapy. My question is, should I return to work before I have physiotherapy? My job involves being on my feet alot and heavy lifting. I am able to walk unaided, but have trouble bending/lifting etc. Would my local gp sign me off, again, if I don't feel ready to return to work?
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replied September 24th, 2011
Especially eHealthy
Sarah,

Since you job requires that you be standing for long periods, and do heavy lifting and bending, seven weeks is a little early to return to that type of work.

Bone heals in about 6 to 8 weeks, but the soft tissues that were damages also have to heal. It is the soft tissues that you have to get back into shape, to be able to do your daily activities and the requirements of your job.

You can start your own physical therapy, you do not have to wait to actually be seen in a physical therapy clinic. Walking is a great exercise. Swimming or water aerobics are also great. Yoga and stretching will get your range of motion back. You can also start with light weight lifting at home, using household objects.

The key in all therapy programs is to let pain be your guide. Any sharp, intense pain should be avoided. The discomfort you feel from stretching and light work-outs is okay. However, if you are too sore the next day, you may have done a little too much and need to back off just a little. But, it you do not push yourself just a tad, you will not improve and build the strength that you need to do the activities that are required for living.


Again, if you had a sedentary job, then going back for half days might be okay at this time. But, if you have to bend, lift heavy weights, stand for long periods, that probably will not be able to be done. Can you do that at home right now? If you can't do those activities at home, how can you do them at work?

If you employer cannot provide you with a sedentary job to your tolerance, then you should speak with your physician. Good luck.
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replied September 25th, 2011
Thank you for your reply. I wish someone involved in my care would be as helpful as what you've just been!!

Yes, I do try to do exercise at home, but I'm a little scared at how far to push myself. Hence why I would prefer to have physiotherapy before I return to work.

I walk for about 40 mintues every day, but find my collar bone gets achy afterwards. I tore the ligaments in my back also, so my back also gets achy. Standing for long periods of time is a no no too, as I feel I just seize up.

I know going back to work will be difficult at the best of times, I just want to go back when the time is right for my body.

Thank you for your reply. I will definately talk to my gp about this.
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