View Full Version : Hello, from a newcomer! Question regarding sitting after surgery.

02-28-2014, 12:41 PM
Ok, here goes! Hope I do this right. Please bear with me as I learn the ropes of the forum. :)

I'm excited to finally be able to post to the forum. I've visited this forum as a guest throughout my recovery the past few months and I just wanted to say thank you! Thank you to the admins for providing this resource and thanks to all you posters for sharing your stories. You seem like a very kind and compassionate bunch.

I'll be 8-weeks post-op this Monday. I had a pretty standard fusion. I was on the fence about going for surgery as I had one of those curves that was slow to progress. But as I got older I experienced more and more pain and discomfort and I was tired of feeling like my scoliosis was always on my mind. Thought it would be good to do it while I was in decent shape.

I was very active before surgery (yoga, weights, cardio) and so my doctor and his team told me to expect a very quick recovery. He said my disks were in excellent condition which would hopefully bode well for the future. I think I went in naively overconfident and did not expect the drugs to do such a number on my system (realize now I should have expected this).

My recovery is going pretty well except for the fact it's coincided with a very terrible winter and so I've spent weeks pacing around the house when I should have been walking outside. I'm back to the gym now, though, and that's helped.

Sorry to be so long-winded!!! My question is regarding sitting. I am having a terrible time sitting! I'm back to work this week and if I didn't mainly work from home I don't know what I'd do. I realize it's normal to have problems sitting the first few months, but it seemed like most members of the forum, even those with lower fusions than mine, could handle it by 8 weeks. I have a ton of pain in my right butt and back (mainly the part of my back that was awakened by the surgery.)

Should I try practicing sitting longer and longer each day? Or should I avoid it until it's comfortable again?

Thanks so much!

02-28-2014, 01:42 PM
Hi Olivia and welcome. It is very impressive that you are back to work at 2 months postop. I am one year out and can sit for as long as I want, but I could not sit much at 2 months. I remember that I could sit for an hour at 3 months and then I had to take a brake. Sitting become better and better with time. You are still very early, take it easy! What type of work do you do?

02-28-2014, 02:43 PM
Thanks for the reply and the encouragement, Irina! I work in publishing and I'm hoping my supervisor will understand if I can't come in for a few weeks.

I would have liked some more time off, but it was hard enough getting a short-term disability extension from 5 weeks to 7 weeks. And my doctor seemed sort of cavalier about the recovery as well. I guess they are used to dealing with super humans? Or maybe a lot of teenagers? I figure my body had over 20 years getting used to one shape, so it was not too happy to have all its nerves and muscles moved around. I guess that's why I was confused and wondered if I was not healing as quickly as I should based on their expectations. I can't imagine sitting all day in an office!

02-28-2014, 03:02 PM
Wow! 7 weeks of disability only? I know disability laws vary by state. I am in California and we get disability payments thru state. What state are you in? Is your disability thru work or state? Companies don't like to pay disability and it's much easier to deal with the state.

02-28-2014, 05:53 PM
I'm in PA, but the insurance is through work. I am actually entitled to more, but it was a hassle getting it extended (to get it further extended I would need to start PT, get another doctor evaluation, etc) and since I could work from home I decided I'd be able to do it.

Today I tried to sit for a while and now I'm lying flat on my back again in a lot of pain. Patience is definitely key.

02-28-2014, 11:37 PM

Unfortunately, I think it's unrealistic to think you could sit for more than an hour or two at a time at this point. Think your surgeon didn't do you any favors by giving you that expectation.

I was essentially pain free by about 3-1/2 months postop, but I still couldn't sit comfortably for long periods of time. In my case, it was painful right over my sacrum after an hour or so of sitting. I found that using an icepack allowed me to sit considerably longer.

If you can't extend your disability, I'd recommend that you set an alarm to remind you to get up every so many minutes. (I understand that's much easier said than done. I did it when I went back to work, and I kept finding myself ignoring the reminder, thinking that I'd just get to a good stopping point, and then forget that I was supposed to get up.)

Take care of yourself. You probably can't do any permanent damage by sitting too much, but it would suck to spend all of the good hours working and all of the bad hours recovering from work.


03-01-2014, 02:17 AM
Olivia, I remember sitting on a not very fluffy pillow and leaning back into a pillow for many months after surgery for comfort. Hard surfaces were difficult for me. Susan

03-01-2014, 10:08 AM
Hi springchicken,

Welcome to the forum! You sound like you are doing great at 8 weeks post-op…however, I agree with Linda that your doc gave you an extremely unrealistic expectation of recovery. I think you are at high risk of overdoing things at the rate you are going, what with returning to work at this very early stage. I would just really caution you to take it easy. As someone pointed out above, I worry you will exhaust yourself at work and then spend your evenings recovering from working.

I had my surgery at age 42 from T8-sacrum, so mine was more involved with fusion to the sacrum and pelvic fixation, and I had extensive degenerative changes prior to surgery. I didn't start driving until 8 weeks, and at that point I definitely couldn't have returned to work. I have a very physically and mentally demanding job, I am a nurse in a busy cardiac catheterization lab. With great difficulty I was able to negotiate a return to work at 14 weeks post-op, with seated (computer) duty only until 6 months post-op. I returned feeling very unready although I was incredibly bored and tired of being cooped up at home. When I returned I had to get up and walk every hour because I was still experiencing very significant "aches and pains" and prolonged sitting was painful. I had a special office chair that I adjusted for myself, with the back very bolt-upright. Over time my sitting ability increased, but I really feel that I set myself back in my recovery by a month or more by rushing back to work at 14 weeks. I too had pressure to return, not only financial, but also because my FMLA had run out and cut-backs were being done. I feared that if I didn't return to work I would be laid off.

Please take it easy and take care not to overdo it, both at work and at the gym. Remember, you only have once chance to let your back heal properly from this huge surgery, and you want it to be right for the rest of your life. I am curious, what types of gym activities is your surgeon allowing at this point?

03-01-2014, 03:37 PM
Thanks so much for your suggestions and input Linda, Susan and Gayle. It's reassuring to be reminded of what a slow healing process this recovery is. I really am fortunate working from home in that I have a lightweight laptop that I can rest on my lap as I recline. Or I can work standing up. I guess I will continue to practice sitting but just keep listening to my body. And I'll just have to insist on not coming into office yet.

Gayle, my surgeon ok'd me for light weights and the elliptical and walking. He says the fusion is very strong so I am ok for light activities as long as I feel no pain. I have felt so much better since I've started back on the elliptical machine. That was one of the few things, besides yoga, that really alleviated my pain before surgery.

On a positive note, I feel this week has been a turning point for me. My pain has been in more acute spots rather than all over, if that makes sense. It feels more bearable like it did pre-surgery though I have a ways to go.

I also wanted to add, Gayle, your experience sounds like it was quite trying when you returned to work! You are a strong person surviving through that.

03-01-2014, 07:49 PM
HI springchicken,
You are 20 years younger at time of your surgery than I was at the time of mine---but don't push it. It is still very early and you will need more rest. I had to return to work at 7 weeks---way too soon. But I did have to drive and stand alot. I think it only made recovery harder, but my 1st surgery was done through workers comp and the dr was forced to return me to work with a whole lot of restrictions. It was hard and I did spend every moment at home resting up for the next day. Very hard for sure.
Now the sitting issue--it is 5 years since my fisrt surgery and I still find sitting hard to do. I can sit for a short time in the car--I can sit some to watch TV--but most of the time I stand or walk.If I sit back my neck hurts--if I sit up my leg goes numb. I just haven't found the right spot yet! And it is 5 years--and that seems long enough to me.

03-02-2014, 06:06 AM
Welcome to the forum. It sounds like you are doing really well in your recovery. Even though I was much older than you when I had my surgery, I was in decent shape. I couldn't wait to get back to my regular routine of exercising at the Y, but I was given extreme restrictions from Dr. Lenke's physical therapist for many months. While I felt at times that I was being held back from speeding up the process of rebuilding muscles and strength, I now truly believe that the conservative approach was responsible for my smooth recovery.

03-03-2014, 09:07 AM
Thanks for your message, Jackie! I am so sorry to hear you are still having pain sitting. And I read another thread that you are having insurance problems. I hope you are able to get the injection you need. It is so awful that we have to fight to get treatment when we are physically not feeling our best. I will take your advice and keep taking it easy.

And thank you too, Karen for your message! I'm trying to remember that I am essentially waiting for broken bones to heel. If you broke your leg, you wouldn't keep trying to lift a weight with it. So yes, it's very important to remember that getting in shape is not the same as it was before the surgery. I am definitely being very careful and listening to my body.

Yesterday was a bad day for me because the previous day I went to a store with my husband and then had a quick dinner at a diner. It depressed me that I was very achy the next day (from all the sitting). But I feel fine today. We were invited to go to dinner this Friday but I'm going to politely decline because I know I would feel pressure to socialize and sit for a long while even if I was feeling pain. It's so hard after two months because you look fine, and seem healed, and people expect that you must be recovered by then, but in reality you have a ways to go!!

03-03-2014, 08:24 PM

Just wanted to welcome you to the forum on a slow forum night......It seems that scoliosis forum posting could be related to the weather! Its been tough this last week and a half.....Some of us have this tightening in our thoracic spine after surgery, I call it the bear traps because it just grips and holds. It’s a weather related thing that many of us go through, you will see threads and posts here on this subject.

Your past the hardest part, congratulations, you made it. Now you just have to hang in there a while longer.

Try to take it easy with the working thing.....we have seen “posts of misery” of those that returned to work too soon. Remember that you only get one chance at this....so no bending, no twisting, no falling and no hula hooping for now. That has to wait

“Doc, with a full fusion, can I hula hoop?” They get asked this every day you know.....(smiley face)


03-04-2014, 10:41 PM
Hi Olivia,

I just thought about your sitting at work - can you ask your company to order a standing desk for you? Almost everyone at my work has a standing desk - its height is adjustable from a sitting to standing level by pressing up and down buttons. It's very nice! Even though I can sit for as long as I want, sometimes I raise the desk up and work standing up for a change.

03-05-2014, 10:19 AM
One word: patience! I was sitting at a doctpr's appointment yesterday and I realized that now at almost a year postop, unlike preop when I was in such severe discomfort after sitting for a short while that:
- I can sit in almost every chair there
- I do not have back pain after 5 minutes

The changes are so gradual over a year that I really did not notice them. I get flashbacks of times that I needed to lie on the floor or sit on the floor in the pharmacy line. It was not pretty! The pillow at my back was needed for me for about 6 months.

My PT told me that I was very flexible and that I would do very well postop. Yes, that did help, but there still is a time curve of the muscles that were suddenly (within a few hours at surgery) told to go in a very different direction.

Congratulations with your recovery! You seem to have such a great attitude, but have patience and realize that recovery is a forward and a backwards progression. Just when you think that all is going well, there is frequently a brief setback.

I am impressed that you are back at work so soon! Susan

03-05-2014, 02:25 PM
Hi all!

Thanks for the warm welcome, Ed! I've enjoyed reading your posts through all this-always positive and funny. :) Those "bear traps" do not sound fun. I'm fused pretty low so my thoracic hasn't been bothering me too much (not yet anyways). But I do believe the cold weather flares things up in general.

Thanks Irina and Susan, too, for your messages. Irina, a standing desk sounds great. Ive talked to my boss about this before. I can bring it up, but since I'm only in the office once or twice a week (when I go in) I'm not sure if it will happen. Luckily I can kind of move my lap top around and maybe stand at a counter if I have to.

Susan, that must have been the best feeling (being able to sit without thought)! It sounds like you're doing well one year postop. In general, I'm just tired of thinking about everything so much. I look forward to the day I'm not "thinking" about my back.

I was going to also pose a "physical therapy" question to everyone, but I will do that now in a separate thread...

03-24-2014, 07:50 PM
I spend my days propped up but reclined on the couch, standing up and working on a computer, and walking frequently in between. I still rarely sit. I thought since I will probably have to go into work in a few weeks (only one day a week, but a long commute on train) that I should practice sitting.

It is not only merely uncomfortable, sometimes it can end up being excruciating. I have to lie flat for a long while afterwards. Just recently, I tried to sit for about 10 minutes and I had a shooting nerve pain and it felt as if my back split in two. I almost laughed at how crazy it felt. I'm lying down now and feel fine. I have been able to sit longer but usually not at night.

I know it will take a long time to sit comfortably but I'm not sure if practicing will set back my recovery?

04-03-2014, 06:46 PM

Haven't been on forum for a while due to travel for work. I'm about 2.5 years post surgery--top to bottom fusion.

I had every plan to get an elliptical machine but my surgeon said absolutely not: no repetitive motion that would affect the fusion of the bones. It takes a couple years for fusion!

Just wanted to relay a different doctor's take on it--and he is pretty well known in this industry.

Regarding pillows. For my car I used a memory foam pillow for my back. I've used various pillows for sitting on the couch, chair, my office chair still has back pillow. It's getting better where I don't absolutely have something that confirms to how my back curves now, but there are some chairs that have too curvy of a back that I could never use. You can't expect to sit for very long for quite a while: besides, its good for you to get up and walk around. It's good for your body, good for your eyes, etc.

Best wishes in your recovery!

04-04-2014, 07:29 AM
Thanks for your message!

I actually stopped the elliptical because I felt like it was too jarring to my soft tissue. Just started PT which seems already to have been a very good idea. My physical therapist agreed that the elliptical might be too irritating at this point. Very interesting that your surgeon said no altogether! I do trust my surgeon as he too is top in the field, but at the same time, such disparate advice makes you wonder. I'll stick to walking for now.

I'm hoping sitting will get easier as I continue PT...

loves to skate
04-08-2014, 08:55 AM
Welcome Springchicken.
Just wanted to say that for me, it was well over a year before I could sit for extended periods of time without pain, but I was 30 years your senior at the time of my surgery. Ha ha! Also, my surgeon did not recommend PT until six months, but he did let me swim at three months in addition to walking.
You will do fine and patience is definitely the ticket. Best wishes.

04-08-2014, 12:14 PM
It will take time but you should be fine. As others have said,patience is the key


04-21-2014, 04:36 PM
Wow, Olivia, I am so impressed with how well you are doing! Everyone on the forum advised me to take it easy too, but I know it's hard. Sitting was and is still one of the most difficult things about my recovery. But I have a few tricks that are helping. (1) I lay down instead of sit, whenever possible. If you're working from home, you could try laying on the floor/bed/couch/whatever. It might be hard with the laptop, but maybe you could try using some kind of "breakfast in bed" type tray? I propped my head up on a memory foam pillow, and kept the rest of my body completely flat. I've also had good luck with the ipad on a little stand on the bed next to me. Maybe you could get a cordless keyboard to put on your lap, and view the screen sitting on the bed next to you. (2) I purchased a wedge-shaped donut cushion. And I no longer "sit" on a chair, I "perch." I keep my knees lowever than my hips, and I adjust my chair as high as I can and tilt the seat forward. I never lean back, except when I have visitors, because otherwise I think my body language makes them uncomfortable :) Perching and tilting forward keeps all the pressure on the bottoms of my thighs and off my spine. Of course I was unable to do any of this for a few months after surgery. It was only after PT loosened up my hip flexors that made it possible.

Sitting is crummy. But, ha ha, I used to not be able to stand, and only had pain relief when I sat! Now it's the opposite.

I went back to work at 4.5 months, and I think it was too early even though my dr recommended it. That, and doing too much pre-Xmas prep work, set my recovery back by about 2 months. Here's the best advice someone on the forum gave me: find something really great on Netflicks, get hooked on it, and spend a couple months chilling! Although I wish I'd never started watching Walking Dead. Gave me nightmares!

Best of luck,

05-01-2014, 01:26 PM
Hi Megan,

I just wanted to say thank you for your note and your encouragement. I've found that sitting IS finally getting easier, though of course still have a ways to go. I perch a lot, too! Seems to be the best way for me. I have long legs, too, so I sit on a pillow so I'm not too low.

I'm hooked on Mad Men at the moment-tv distractions are always good. :)

I am going to write you another message on another thread, Megan...had a question.


05-02-2014, 12:14 AM
Hi Megan,

I just wanted to say thank you for your note and your encouragement. I've found that sitting IS finally getting easier, though of course still have a ways to go. I perch a lot, too! Seems to be the best way for me. I have long legs, too, so I sit on a pillow so I'm not too low.

I'm hooked on Mad Men at the moment-tv distractions are always good. :)

I am going to write you another message on another thread, Megan...had a question.


Mad Men is such a good show! Enjoy your freedom while you can. I can't remember if you work and plan to return to work, but I am looking back at my 4 - 5 months postop as a wonderful time now. I took a nice and long brake from work and just took care of myself. Those were good days.