Back pain is a common problem, especially in the lower spine. More than 80% of people will have a major episode of back pain at some time during their life. Sometimes surgery is “needed”, but often it is not. Back pain is a chronic condition much like high blood pressure and diabetes. We can treat and manage these conditions, but we do not cure them - not even with surgery. Often times back pain requires a continuum of treatment modalities. Sometimes surgical intervention will provide relief and sometimes it will not. Unlike a knee or hip with arthritis that can be replaced - we only get one spine.
Many patients turn to surgery hoping for a “cure”. However, up to 40% of these patients continue having problems after a procedure — a condition known as failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS). This does not mean the surgeon did a bad job. The diagnosis simply indicates that the surgery failed to provide relief of the back pain and/or sciatica. Back pain and sciatica can have many causes and the nervous system of the spine is very complex.
At Glaser Pain Relief Center in Encino, California, our team regularly sees patients with FBSS. We also offer state-of-the-art treatment options for chronic pain conditions, including those that disrupt or limit daily life.
If you had back surgery, here are three early signs of failed back surgery and how our team can help.
One of the most obvious signs that your back surgery didn’t go according to plan is continued or even worsening pain. While it’s normal to have some discomfort and stiffness following a surgical procedure, experiencing pain that’s unrelated to the healing process or your original injury site is a red flag.
When you have FBSS, it may seem as though your symptoms temporarily improve after surgery before worsening again or never improve at all. It’s even possible to have surgery only to find that your pain seems worse afterward or that the pain moves to a different area entirely.
2. Numbness or weakness
Several factors can lead to FBSS, such as:
- Procedures that aggravate existing symptoms
- Surgical changes in spinal tissue that create new issues
- Failed implants or fusions that lead to ongoing pain, lost function, or new symptoms
- Treatments that put additional stress on tissue in the area
As a result, it’s common for people with FBSS to experience physical and sensory symptoms, like numbness, weakness, sharp or stabbing pain, and spasms. It can also cause radiating pain into one or both legs.
3. Inability to recover from the procedure
Every patient and case is different, but back surgeries usually come with general timeframes for recovery. If you don’t find yourself recovering as outlined by your surgeon, it could indicate a problem.
Additional signs of poor recovery include:
- New, ongoing, or worsening pain
- Numbness, weakness, back spasms, or radiating pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Depression or anxiety
- Problems moving
- Dependence on pain medications
If your recovery seems delayed, don’t ignore it.
Finding relief after failed back surgery
Fortunately, you don’t have to despair if your surgery leaves you with FBSS. Instead, our team can help connect you with effective treatment options to manage your symptoms.
We perform a comprehensive examination to determine the source of your discomfort, including trying to isolate why your procedure didn’t solve your issue. We work to create a personalized strategy to address it, such as:
- Physical therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Medication management, including oral prescriptions, topical ointments, and pain pumps
- Injection therapies, like nerve blocks, facet blocks, and epidural steroid injections
- Radiofrequency (RF) ablation
- Stimulation therapies, like spinal cord stimulation
- Alternative therapies
Psychological therapy with a psychologist skilled in treating chronic pain patients can also be a valuable tool because it provides mental and emotional coping skills to help you deal with chronic pain.
Have you been disappointed with the results of your back surgery? Are you concerned that you have FBSS? Contact Glaser Pain Relief Center in the San Fernando Valley to learn about your treatment options today.