View Full Version : surgery recovery time for those over fifty

07-06-2008, 01:06 PM
I am 56 years old and getting worse all the time. I have a desk job that allows me to sit most of the day. Other than the back pain I'm in good physical shape with no high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes type issues. How long did it take (those of you of similar age) take to get back to work at a sedentary type job. I'm very happy for you younger folks, at how quickly you healed, but it is of little help to me. Thanks in advance for your responses!


07-06-2008, 01:21 PM
Hi Tommyo! I've seen your name in older posts, but not since I've been a member (I think!).

I'm a year older than you-- had surgery at 56. I think I would have been able to return to a desk-type job by 3 months, especially if I could have eased into it a little. My job is much more active and physically demanding, so I ended up taking the whole year off. I am so glad that worked out for me! ;)

A lot also depends on the extent of the fusion, what other procedures may be done, and just how your body reacts to it (the trauma of the surgery and all). I can honestly say that in my case, even at 14 months post-op, I certainly don't feel recovered yet. But that doesn't mean that I don't get quite a lot done and I do feel pretty good most of the time. When I overdo, I do feel the consequences.

I have heard and read that with some of us older folks the recovery time is often 1-2 (or even 3) years. But others -- even some older ones-- recover much quicker. See Ginger's blog for an entertaining and enlightening look at her surgery and very quick recovery. (Of course, I am sure she is not feeling totally recovered yet, but still... she is able to do much more than many in that time frame.) So-- it's really hard to say. But I think I would have been ok at 3 months for a desk job, especially if it were possible to do it part-time for a little bit.

Best wishes-- feel free to PM if you want more info! :) Susie

07-06-2008, 07:21 PM

I had my surgery 1 month shy of 55. I returned to work at 10 weeks post op. I am a clinical dietitian. I see patients in the hospital setting and spend lots of time charting on the computer. So my job allows me to be "up and down" and changing positions is good. For a while - sitting was the most difficult position. By the time I went back to work - sitting not so bad. Funny, but my neck hurt from the computer work. The first couple of weeks I would come home from work and crawl into bed. Now, at 7 months post op I really feel fine most of the time. I even traveled to England for 2 weeks last month - no problems. Friends say I look great, carry myself well, etc. Of course, I still do not bend, twist or lift more than 15#. If your job allows you to get up and down and change positions thats the best senario.

Good luck!

07-06-2008, 07:43 PM
I'm 7 weeks out from surgery, planning to return to desk-type job in a month or so. I will have to start gradually and build up to 8-hour days.

Right now I'm also having neck issues... looking down at a table, preparing food at a counter, or any computer work brings on a neck spasm in just a few minutes. Have been told this is typical of back surgery recovery? Sitting is not my best position either. I've found it's best to change postion frequently, and keep my head up, wear the right reading glasses, etc etc. No one ever said this would be easy... sigh.

07-06-2008, 08:08 PM
Kim Hammerberg is my doctor also!

07-06-2008, 09:08 PM
Tom-- I sent you a PM. :)

loves to skate
07-07-2008, 01:33 PM
Hi tommyo,
I had my surgery at age 67 and am 7 months post-op. I am doing great, very little pain now and probably could have returned to my job, part sitting , part standing at about 4 months post-op, part time, if I wasn't already retired (hallaluiah) :D . My posterior surgery was 12 hours and the anterior surgery was 7 hours, two weeks apart. So you can see that age isn't necessarily a limitation for a good recovery time. I am sure that age is a big factor, but not the only one. Being in good physical shape is important as well as a good immune system. Also, Susie B is right about the length of the fusion making a difference and the skill of the surgeon has to be on that list. You will probably make out just fine. Sally

07-07-2008, 10:34 PM
Thanks for all the responses! I'm hoping to hold out until I'm 62, and retired, to do the surgery. I have been experiencing significant pain lately, but some PT has been helping alot. I hate stretching! I love to do REAL excersize like weightlifting, but I know this stretching is important.

Ginger W.
07-11-2008, 07:32 PM
I'm three months shy of 56 and just had scoliosis surgery. Susie Bee mentioned my blog, and so I thought I'd pass along the address. http://gingerinrecovery.blogspot.com/

Susie says I'm on the fast end for recovering. However, I still keep up my drug regimen, as you can see by my last post! I'm like Pam. Drugs don't make me loopy. They just help me to function.

Also, I'm totally flattered, Susie, that you called my blog entertaining!!!

In the next day or two, I'm putting up a video of my very first steps in the hospital. Some of my videos are already on YouTube, but need better titles so you can find them. Actually, they are all on the blog, if you look at the older posts.

Best Wishes,

07-12-2008, 01:03 AM
Also, I'm totally flattered, Susie, that you called my blog entertaining!!!

Oh Ginger, she's absolutely right! I LOVE your blog, and it is VERY entertaining!!

Also, your recovery amazes and inspires me. Thanks for documenting all of this. It is really good for those of us who are scheduled and anxious.

07-12-2008, 09:03 AM

You appear a young looking 55 year old! I am in a lot of pain daily where you looked like you had little pain before your surgery. Is that correct? My curve does not appear to be progressing very much but the pain and inability to do things I want to do is becoming difficult to deal with. The 12 months recovery really worries me. At 56 I'm worried I'll never regain my prior strength and endurance levels, although I'm losing them now as I find more and more things I cannot do! My doctor, Kim Hammerberg at Rush in Chicago, wants me to wait until the pain is intolerable. I am confused as to what is the best plan of action. Did your insurance cover surgery out of state/ I'd love to go to Dr. Boachi.


07-12-2008, 10:54 AM
Hi Tom,

If it were me, I'd rather have the surgery in my 50s than my 60s. I was a very young 52 and in great shape when I had the surgery, and it has certainly taken a full 12 months to recover (and then some...I'm still working on it). I'm not a wimp, but this surgery knocked me on my a**.

As far as returning to prior strength and endurance levels, I would say that I have plenty of energy and stamina now, but I can't do everything I did before, mostly due to limited mobility. I went through a bit of a self-pitying stage of wishing I could do more, then started to deal with reality and adjust my life to what I still CAN do, which is a lot. But there's no question that for many of us, life is quite different afterwards.

07-12-2008, 11:52 AM
Tom-- does he really want you to wait that long? I know you said that before, maybe in a PM, but it seems so funny to me. I suppose it may be the difference of how he views his patients, our individual cases, etc., because he cautioned me (plenty) about not waiting TOO LONG-- but maybe it's for different reasons and all. I think my lateral listhesis/severe lumbar stenosis could have caused major problems if not dealt with and maybe that's the diff. Regardless, he also left all the decision making up to me about whether to have surgery or not, as some people prefer to live with their present problems rather than go through the surgery. Dr. H said when my quality of life was affected enough, I would know it was time. You said before that he didn't want you limited in what you could do until it was absolutely necessary, but it sounds like the pain you're having is too much for you to handle. It's hard to second-guess so it would be better to just ask him why he thinks it would be better for you to wait, in light of the pain. Does he realize how much pain you are in?

I'm with Singer on this one-- I'm glad I had it in my 50s rather than in my 60s... I can't imagine recovering any older than this, although I know it's been done-- and with good results. But this laid me low enough for awhile that I wonder how it would have been for me at an older age. My muscle strength is really pretty good right now because of all the PT I've been doing, but (unlike Singer) I still lack some in stamina/endurance. I'm hoping that will change when I start back to work in a month! (Or I'll have a problem! :eek: )

Maybe that will work out for you to see Dr. Boachie, which would be very interesting, as from all I hear he is top of the heap. I felt very confident with Dr. H and so glad to have someone of his caliber. I am very pleased with the outcome-- no problems that I can foresee unless they are ones that develop that I knew were a possibility due to my age and the condition of my lower lumbars-- so I know I'm sort of "at risk" for failed fusion (25%) or the levels above and below (especially below-- @ 20% chance) my fusion needing further work... Time will tell.

Best wishes in your journey!

07-12-2008, 01:33 PM
Tom -

For me it was a quality of life issue, and I was 62 at time of surgery. Dr. B. told me he could not achieve as good a correction as we would like because, at my age, there was a lot of calcification. My recovery time was impeded by other issues, which set me back about 3 months, but at almost 7 months, I am doing great, all things considered.

I also have dessication in the cervical spine and spondylolisthesis at L5-S1; it's a wait & see re these problems. If I do need further surgery, it will be more of a challenge than the first one because of further deterioration. Had I known that such surgery was possible, I would have had it done years ago.

As to Dr. B's insurance, he and all the doctors who were involved in my surgery & care at HSS do NOT contract with any insurance companies, so they are paid as "non-participating" doctors. Your insurance would have to be "portable" to New York. Dr. B's insurance point person is Theresa, and she really knows how this all works. If you do decide to have him operate on you, be prepared for battling your insurance company - mine (Blue Cross of CA) has paid about 7 % of his fees, so I will appeal. Also, he no longer accepts Medicare.

I think Dr. B is now booked for consultations thru at least mid-September - Sept. 15 is the earliest I could get in for my post-op.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

Ginger W.
07-12-2008, 04:27 PM
Dear Tom,

I may look young on my blog, but check out the earlier shots while I was in the hospital: http://gingerinrecovery.blogspot.com/ You need to click "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page.

Actually, my pain was QUITE SEVERE . . . enough to stop my 20 year career as the director/owner of a large child care center. I couldn't even sit through a one-hour teacher training meeting. Because of my condition, I did something drastic . . . I sold the center and the accompanying real estate and started working intensively on strategies to reduce my pain. That was four years ago.

I learned modified yoga with an experienced practitioner in therapeutic yoga and worked on it daily. I also learned Pilates from a licensed teacher who had done both exercise therapy and massage therapy in a pain clinic for several years. She was able to start me with the easiest exercises and massage me if my pain got out of control. These strategies helped enormously. (BTW, even though it was helpful to learn them under the guidance of experts, it's also possible to learn them from yoga and Pilates DVDs from your local library.) So, Pilates & yoga helped decrease the pain, but they didn't stop the curve from progressing which eventually caused me more pain!!!

I also took drugs for three years before my surgery. Six Ultraset daily and Lortab for break-through pain. I couldn't have done all the Pilates without the pain meds to help. Eventually, I built up some amazing core muscles. I can't wait to get back into it. But I'm giving the P.T. a first run at dealing with my post-surgery recovery. Pilates, next.

ABOUT INSURANCE: My Blue Cross policy is covering 80% after a pay-out of $1600 ( Deductible = $1000 and $1600 until I reached the $10,000 mark of expenses. ) Dr. Boachie does not work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah, but the Hospital for Special Surgery does cooperate with them.

That being said, I think you already have a great surgeon from reports on the forum. Perhaps he doesn't understand the level of pain you are experiencing and you simply need to say "I'm ready!" and go for it.