What is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?
The complex system of vertebrae, ligaments, joints and cartilage known as the spine or “backbone” is susceptible to a number of injuries and disorders, especially as we age. If the symptoms of a spine-related condition become debilitating, conservative treatments typically do not provide sufficient relief. If there is a threat of future complications developing, an individual may choose to undergo corrective surgery.
Generally, spine surgeries are highly effective and minimally invasive surgeries, in particular, have lower risks of post-surgical complications and are lauded for significantly less pain involved. In fact, many minimally invasive operations are even performed as outpatient procedures that allow patients to return home the very same day! For a small amount of patients, however, post-surgical pain and discomfort may arise. The term “failed back surgery syndrome,” known as FBSS, is an all-encompassing definition that refers to patients who have experienced consistent pain after their back surgery. Sharp or aching pain may develop gradually after the operation or be continually present from the moment the procedure concludes.
A surgery may fail for a wide variety of reasons. In order to achieve relief, it is important to obtain an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the complications behind your chronic back pain. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our experienced spine surgeons can evaluate your symptoms and medical history to determine if you might be suffering from failed back surgery syndrome.
Failed Back Surgery Causes
By definition, failed back surgery syndrome is pain that resurfaces or remains after a spine-related surgery. There may be many underlying causes for a patient’s symptoms, including:
- Undergoing a spinal operation that, statistically, doesn’t offer a high success rate
- Implant failure or failure to fuse after spinal fusion surgery
- Scar tissue formations (known as adhesions) around the nerve root
- Damage incurred during spinal surgery
- Inaccurate pain diagnosis, leading to ineffective surgery on an area that was not the actual cause of the patient’s pain
- Post-operative infection
- Excess weight or obesity
- Bone spurs
- Lack of exercise after healing has completed
- A subsequent injury or manifestation of a degenerative condition
If you suspect you may be at risk for failed back surgery syndrome, schedule a consultation with one of our experts to discuss the best ways to prevent this complication and improve your quality of life.
Failed Back Surgery Symptoms
The most obvious symptom of failed back surgery syndrome is continuous back pain after spinal surgery that doesn’t lessen throughout a patient’s recovery process. This pain can be acute and is sometimes equal to or worse than the pain experienced prior to the surgery. Additional symptoms include:
- Newfound, noticeable pain that develops post-surgery
- Limited mobility and difficulty standing, bending or walking
- Dull, aching pain radiating through the neck, back or legs
- Sharp or stabbing pain
- Inability to recuperate post-surgery
- Muscle spasms
Because these symptoms can be evidence of a wide range of spine-related conditions, it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis from one of our knowledgeable spine specialists. By identifying the source of your pain, it is possible to treat you complication and rule out dangerous or life-threatening concerns.
If you or a loved one experience fever, bleeding or incontinence of the bladder or bowels in conjunction with back pain, call 911 immediately as you may be encountering a medical emergency.
Our Minimally Invasive Approach
You do not have to accept pain from a previous back surgery as an unalterable part of your daily life. If you are experiencing post-operative discomfort, we are here to help. From consultation to treatment, your health and quality of life are our team’s top priorities.
During your initial appointment, one of our acclaimed spine experts will carefully and compassionately identify the source of your pain. To ensure the highest standards of accuracy and efficiency, your doctor may implement a physical exam, state-of-the-art pain-mapping procedure or an imaging test, such as a CT scan, X-ray or MRI. After ascertaining the underlying cause of your symptoms, our team will construct a treatment plan designed around your unique needs and health history.
The components of your treatment will depend almost entirely upon the root cause of your symptoms. Generally, we encourage exploring conservative treatment options before considering a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The following non-surgical methods of care can sometimes relieve any pain and inhibition caused by a previous back surgery:
Exercise: Contrary to popular belief, long periods of bed rest are rarely beneficial for patients suffering from spine-related difficulties. Targeted physical therapy and low-impact exercise can strengthen the abdominal muscles, improve flexibility and relieve some of the weight placed upon the back.
Medication: Over-the-counter medications and localized injections containing advanced pain-relieving substances can greatly reduce the discomfort associated with failed back surgery syndrome. With some medications relieving pain for up to 6 months, patients often find the respite they need to implement long-term recuperation strategies, such as physical therapy.
Additional Treatments: Purchasing proper footwear, undergoing therapeutic massage, maintaining proper posture (even while sleeping) and making other adjustments to daily life can often reduce the pain and inflammation caused by failed back surgery syndrome. The location and severity of your complication will determine the additional treatments used.
Conservative treatments help many patients find the healing they need after a failed back surgery. For some individuals, however, the underlying cause of their pain cannot be addressed without corrective surgery. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® we specialize in performing minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries that are tailored to individual patient needs. When compared to traditional open surgeries, minimally invasive surgeries generally allow for the following benefits:
- Shortened recovery times that ensure patients to return to work, school and daily life faster
- Less post-operative pain
- Fewer potential complications
- A reduced risk of scarring or high volumes of blood loss
- Minimal trauma to muscles and surrounding soft tissues
If a patient is suffering from obesity or has significant scar tissue from a previous surgery, minimally invasive surgery may not be an option. Our surgeons are experienced in both traditional and minimally invasive procedures, which allows us to provide whichever surgical approach will best address your case of failed back surgery syndrome.
To learn more about failed back surgery syndrome, Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® or the dozens of other back-related conditions we treat, please do not hesitate to get in touch by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the form on this page. We look forward to helping you find long-term relief from your spinal issues!