Failed Back Surgery Syndrome Treatment

Failed Back Surgery Treatments

Failed back surgery syndrome treatment options for symptoms that linger or arise after an open spine procedure

Failed back surgery syndrome treatment options are measures prescribed by physicians to help ease the pain and other symptoms that traditional open spine surgery has either failed to address or created anew. The failure of neck or back surgery can be frustrating and disappointing for a patient. Patients who undergo traditional open spine surgery rightly expect to experience relief from pain, restored mobility, enhanced flexibility and a return to regular daily activities. However, a highly invasive spine procedure does not always provide the anticipated outcome and, in fact, can sometimes even exacerbate a patient’s discomfort. For instance, in some cases, the spinal nerve root that was surgically decompressed does not fully recover from its prior trauma and continues to be a source of chronic discomfort. Or, as part of the healing process, the body may form scar tissue that crowds sensitive neural tissue and causes pain. In other cases, structural changes in the spine, spinal ligament instability or recurrent disc herniation may develop after surgery.

Common failed back surgery syndrome treatment methods

Because there is no single cause of failed back surgery syndrome, the condition can be challenging to treat. The likelihood of successful treatment is largely dependent on an accurate diagnosis of the underlying source of the pain and the use of appropriate therapies to address it.

Some of the treatment options commonly prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of failed back surgery syndrome include:

  • Medications — Each person responds differently to medication, so a physician will usually recommend a variety of drugs and dosages for a patient to try before identifying the regimen that provides the best result. For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, can be very effective for relieving the pain associated with spinal inflammation, sometimes to the point that a patient is able to begin a physical therapy or exercise program. The ultimate goal of pharmacological treatment is to ensure that the patient receives the maximum benefits of pain relief and inflammation reduction with the lowest dosage possible.
  • Physical therapy — A physical therapist can educate a patient about basic anatomy and physiology, provide instruction on proper body mechanics and recommend exercises designed to stretch, strengthen and condition the core muscles that support the spine. Typically, a patient’s physical therapy program will be designed to provide a gradual increase in activity level. Then, as the core muscles become stronger and more developed, those muscles can slowly begin to support some of the weight that was previously placed on the spine, and thus help a patient find lasting pain relief.
  • Exercise and stretching — A physician can recommend targeted, low-impact exercises, such as resistance training, to help a patient strengthen the muscles that surround and support the spine. Also, any form of physical activity can help a patient reach and maintain a healthy weight, which can reduce stress on the spine and help alleviate back pain.
  • Hot and cold compresses — The application of a heating pad or ice pack is a simple treatment that can be conveniently performed virtually anywhere to help a patient feel better right away, although any degree of relief achieved should be expected to be temporary. Therefore, this modality is best used as a supplement to other forms of treatment.
  • Chiropractic treatment — A chiropractor can utilize a variety of methods to manually adjust the spine. The goal is to achieve better spinal alignment, which can sometimes reduce painful pressure on spinal nerve roots. Some chiropractors successfully incorporate other therapies into a patient’s treatment, such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation and diathermy (the delivery of electrically induced heat).
  • Psychological therapy — Counseling can be effective for long-term pain and stress management by helping a patient to develop new ways to think about pain, which can provide a beneficial level of distraction and also alter the patient’s perception of pain sensations.
  • Epidural steroidal injections — Before considering surgery to address acute pain, a physician may recommend an epidural steroidal injection to deliver medication directly into the area surrounding an irritated spinal nerve. While the initial relief can be relatively long-lasting, it’s important for a patient to understand that these effects are inherently temporary, and also that repeat injections will likely produce less favorable results because the medication loses effectiveness over time. Also, a physician will usually limit the number of injections that a patient can receive due to the potential side effects, including headaches, nausea, muscle weakness, weight gain, hypertension and osteoporosis.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) — To address persistent pain that does not respond to standard treatment options, neuromodulation treatment may be considered. A TENS device, which has small electrical contact points, is placed on the skin in close proximity to the affected nerves to provide therapeutic stimulation. The device produces a pleasant tingling sensation that can reduce a patient’s perception of pain or stimulate the nerve at a level that cannot be felt in order to reduce the pain experience.

Symptoms of failed back surgery syndrome

Rather than being a syndrome in and of itself, failed back surgery syndrome is actually a general term that is often used to describe the symptoms that remain or arise following highly invasive neck or back surgery. These symptoms can include:

  • Persistent pain in the area treated
  • New pain that develops in an area of the spine that was not surgically treated
  • Prolonged or incomplete healing
  • Restricted mobility
  • Back spasms
  • Radiating pain and numbness in the extremities
  • Joint instability
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Sleep disruption
  • Dependence on pain medications
  • Pain from postoperative scar tissue formation

Failed back surgery syndrome treatment at Laser Spine Institute

If conventional treatment options for failed back surgery syndrome have not provided the relief you need, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our skilled surgeons perform more minimally invasive, outpatient procedures each month than any other spine surgery provider in the nation. This advantage grows every week, leading to a higher level of expertise, as we help thousands of patients get their lives back.

The experts at Laser Spine Institute can answer your questions, review your recent MRI scan and determine whether you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.