What kind of work will I be able to do? I am fused from c3 to t1.

I am about to have my 5th neck surgery. I have degenerative disk disease. I started having symptoms when I rolled my car in an accident. I had my first surgery at 30. I had a non-union at c5 c6 and had to more surgeries to stabilize it when I was 39 and 40. I am now 46 and I had to have another surgery because the disk above my fusion was bulging and pressing on my spinal cord. Now I need to have another surgery to stabilize c7 to t-1 because I can't hold my head up. My doctor told me I won't be able to look up or down only side to side. I lost my job because I was missing so much work because of my neck pain. I had a desk job sitting in front of a computer all day it made my neck pain unbearable. I wasn't allowed to take the Oxycodone while I was at work. I know I won't be able to do a desk job in the future. Does anyone have an idea what kind of occupation I could do?   


  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,052
    edited 05/12/2016 - 1:10 PM
    I'm about to have my 4th cervical spine surgery at age 49, a PCDF, on 6/3.  I've previously had a C5-C7 ACDF in 2006, a C5-6 Posterior foraminotomy and fusion without hardware in 2008, and a C4-C5 ACDF in 2013. (Also had L5-S1 PLIF in 1987, L4-S1 PLIF in 1993, and L3-S1 Posteriolateral LIF in 2010).

    If you are unable to work

    Does your current employer offer Short Term Disability and/or Long Term Disability?
    If you'll be unable to return to work you'll want to apply for SSDI-Social Security Disability Insurance ASAP

    When healed from surgery you should contact your state Vocational Rehabilitation Services.  Some states call it the Division of Vocational Rehab (DVR), some call it Department or Bureau, etc. 
  • Welcome Irongirl
    SpineAz has a very good idea.
    My entry here in Tx was the DARS program.
    Diability and rehabilitative services.
    I was retrained and transitioned to a different work area.
    Desk work isnt easy, is it possible to teach your particular set of skills?
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  • SooveritSooverit Finger Lakes region of NYPosts: 397
    Just echoing the suggestions the others have made...apply for SSDI and call up your local division of vocational rehabilitation.

    You can start your own SSDI application online. Or, if you would prefer to have professional help, call the social security office and let them know you intend to file and you want to be "date stamped" (which will begin your application process and increase any retroactive benefits you are awarded). Once they date stamp your case, you have 90 days to complete and submit the application. That 90 days gives you time to get your medical documentation and any other needed information together. A visit to voc rehab during this period would be super beneficial.

    I was a disability advocate, so here are some tips:

    * Have your doctors write up a synopsis of your medical problems, including diagnosis, prognosis, and physical limitations. Medical notes are often illegible or incomplete- or it takes a long time for SS to get the records. Having this quick explanation to submit to SS right away is very helpful.  

    * Have your last employer write a letter explaining your job duties, if/how they needed to be modified to accommodate your limitations, and the reason you had to be let go (missing too much work, etc.).

    * Find a friend or family member  (not your spouse) who can fill out some forms for you that describe how they have witnessed your medical problems disrupt your "activities of daily living." Make sure that person understands not to answer with guesses or assumptions. Only things they are certain of or "I don't know." 

    * Do not be late with paperwork or other info they request.

    * At all future medical appts, let your providers know you are applying. Ask them to be sure to document your symptoms and other things you discuss. On your part, mention ALL your symptoms clearly  (even if they don't seem that important or relevant to that visit. I promise, this is super important!). 

    Sorry so long. I wanted to put this out there for the benefit of anyone who is considering applying.

    Feel free to ask me any questions. I'm happy to share the knowledge I gained from doing that work!

    Best of luck to you :)

  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,052
    After you've had your next surgery contact your state Vocational Rehabilitation services .  Some states call it Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or Department or Bureau, etc.  They can help immensely int his area.  In the meantime consider applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) . Check your eligibility on   

    If you are a Facebook user there are some helpful forums on Social Security Disability (SSI and SSDI).

    I'm 49 and about to have my 4th cervical spine surgery, a posterior cervical fusion (PCDF) with hardware, levels to be determined once he opens me up. This will be my 7th overall spine surgery:  Unfortunately I'm no  longer able to work but was awarded SSDI. 

    C4-C5 ACDF 2013
    C5-C6 Posterior foraminotomy and fusion with bone only 2008
    C5-C7 ACDF 2006

    L3-S1 Posteriolateral LIF 2010
    L4-S1 PLIF 1993
    L5-S1 PLIF 1987

  • ironGirliironGirl Boise, IDPosts: 6
    Thank you very much Sara.
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  • I have also had 5 surgeries, fusions up and down, plus the C7-T1, which was the  final surgery.  I have only one disk, a lumbar, that is NOT fused, with rods and hardware, bone growth hormone replacement for crumbled cartilage . I hope no one else has all this.
    Before the surgery you are facing, I could not hold up my head.  There was serious pressure on my spinal cord, lots of pain. I had to bend at the waist and look up-- frightening to others, desperate feeling for me.  I, too, was forewarned of future limitations, so I was really frightened.  
    After the surgery, it's not that bad. I am able to look to the left or right only 30 degrees. I drive, wearing a neck support pillow ( like people use on airplanes), but backing up is very difficult because I can't twist to look over my left shoulder.  I had to get a new car with a backup screen, which is perfect. I was told I wouldn't be able to see my feet, but  I can see them.
    It's  still difficult  to hold up my head for more than an hour; then I look for high back chairs or a pillow to prop my head up. The most bothersome neck problem is that I cannot turn to speak with a person sitting beside me; I have to turn my chair.  I don't think these limitations are very noticeable, but I try to explain.  
          I do live with chronic pain.  I am virtually disabled, can only stand about 8 minutes. Can't do any household tasks, I grocery shop with a scooter.  I can't exercise because I also have psoriatic arthritis and I can't stress my joints . Of course, I've gained a little weight, because I sit a lot.  

    I DO work, but part time, and on my own schedule, about 4 hours a day.  I'm a defense  attorney working on sentencing issues.  It is very hard to sit at the computer for the hours required.  I am a Type A personality, so I am driven to work, but for me, work is a tonic.  I can stop the self pity and try to help someone else.

     I have severe chronic pain, go to a pain clinic, take oxymorphone and morphine, but it doesn't interfere with working or driving, dulls my memory a little. The drugs enable me to LIVE.  I really hope I'm the only one in this condition.

    I just joined this forum, because some days are awful, and I need support. Good luck on your 7th. I hate that you've gone through so much.  I, at least, am 69. I have never applied for disability, but if it's available, you are entitled!!. BTW, as an attorney, I advise you to appeal every denial.  They count on slackers to give up, but the truly disabled need to persist!   All the best to you on your upcoming surgery. 
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 4,299
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM
    hello susala !
    Welcome to Veritas Health Forumplease click on link for helpful information!
  • ironGirliironGirl Boise, IDPosts: 6
    Thank you for your answer. i can't hold my head up for more than an hour right now. I have filed for disability and am on my 2nd appeal. I am trying to get my doctors to properly document everything they say to me about my limitations, pain level, side effects of medication and what I tell them. Do you have any advice regarding this?
  • ironGirliironGirl Boise, IDPosts: 6
    What are my chances of being approved at the reconsideration stage? I literally can't hold my head up for more than 2 hours. I know I will not have a life worth living if I have to go back to work. It's really hard to survive while waiting for ssdi
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 809


    I also struggle with psoriatic arthritis like you... To help cut back on the symptoms/pain I take a weekly Enbrel injection which doesn't 100% resolve the problems/pain... but it help a LOT.    I also swim 4-5 times a week as a form of good exercise that doesn't stress my joints... I really like it a lot.  I feel better both physically and emotionally after swimming... try it you will like it.

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