Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people will undergo the knife in attempt to correct some form of back pain or injury. The very real and unfortunate truth is that surgery may not fix the pain and turn into what is called failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS). It can be a devastating turn of events for anyone experiencing chronic back pain that imagined becoming pain free postoperatively. Many people in Phoenix are dealing with this very serious medical condition and countless people have found some approach to relief at our pain management clinic.

When it comes to failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), it is actually not a syndrome. It simply refers to a back surgery that did not result in the desired outcome of lessening or eliminating pain. The unique thing to FBSS is that it is only a term used for back surgery as there are no common failed heart surgery, failed knee surgery or any other type of failed surgery syndromes.

There are only two things that can be accomplished with back surgery. First, surgery can decompress a nerve root that is pinched and second it can stabilize a painful joint. What this means is that surgery cannot rid a person of pain, but only change the anatomy of the spine. The biggest reason surgery is not successful is because the area that was operated on was actually not the source of a patient’s pain.

FBSS can have many other causes. A buildup of scar tissue is just one complication that can cause a great deal of pain for patients having undergone back surgery. Pinched nerves can also be a factor. This occurs when pressure is put on a nerve within the spine, causing frequent bouts of pain and discomfort. A herniated spinal disc can also cause quite a bit of pain in the back, and in some cases may even affect other areas of the body.


The predictability for a successful back procedure depends completely on the type of pain being addressed. For instance, a spinal fusion for spinal instability can be relatively successful in many cases, whereas a fusion surgery for degenerative disc disease has a much lower success rate. The main thing here is to weigh the risks versus benefits. A proper exam and explanation of a patient’s exact situation is critical when discussing surgery with a physician. A patient must be sure that they know their risks versus benefits when attempting to get back surgery.


Not only can back pain be excruciating prior to surgery, but it can be a long road to recovery. If a patient opts for surgery, it is important to remember that healing postoperatively can be very intense. Some patients have found that the pain after surgery was more intense than prior to the procedure.

A big reason why pain can feel worse after the procedures is that nerves take a long time to heal when they are manipulated. Nerves can swell during this time, causing them to give off a ‘flickering’ type signal that is painful. The nerve root in the back can take a considerable amount of time to heal, which requires a lot of a patience to get through.


Additional surgical procedures may be called for to address post-surgery pain. For patients with less considerable pain, however, treatments such as stretching exercises and physical therapy can have quite an impact. It’s important that patients follow their pain management doctor’s recommendations when undertaking any sort of exercise routine. This is especially true for patients having recently undergone back surgery, so as to ensure they don’t do additional harm.


The best way to deal with back pain is to obviously avoid it altogether and to keep current pain to a minimum. Prevention is key and it looks something like staying in shape and being mindful of the back. People tend to avoid back problems by regularly exercising, maintaining a proper weight and lifting heavy objects with correct form. It is also important to always be aware of posture. Over time, posture can contribute to a painful back side, so it is vital to sit properly.

Other muscles can also contribute to the health of the back. The core muscles in the abdomen can help support the lower back and help to avoid injury. Tight hamstrings are another possible cause of lower back pain. Simple hamstring stretches done on a daily basis can also help keep the backside in tip top condition. Just be sure to have approval from a physician before attempting any type of stretch or exercise if pain is already present.

Failed back surgery syndrome is a very serious concern for those suffering from chronic back pain. It’s crucial that a patient is fully aware of the risks and benefits of surgery before making a decision. Anyone suffering from this condition can benefit from visiting a Phoenix pain management specialist to learn about non-surgical treatment options. For additional information about failed back surgery syndrome or to learn more about the treatments available at Summa Pain Care, call (623) 776-8686.

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