Although complications after spinal surgery are uncommon, post-surgical pain due to failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is possible. FBSS can severely impact your physical health and can cause persistent pain after specific kinds of spinal surgery. This includes procedures like laminectomy, spinal fusion, or decompression procedures.
Some common signs include chronic neck, back, leg, or arms pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and limited mobility.
Some of the multiple causes that could lead to its development include nerve damage during the surgery, post-procedure infections, or pre-existing conditions.
Living with FBSS can severely impact your quality of life as the ability to perform daily activities becomes hindered. If you are dealing with post-surgical pain, we recommend seeking professional health to avoid further complications.
The following factors can cause pain after a spinal surgery procedure or FBSS:
- Incomplete decompression of nerves: A spinal procedure aims to relieve pressure accumulated in the spinal nerves. When this is not done correctly or completely, the remaining nerves send pain signals to the brain.
- Recurrent disc herniation: In some cases, new herniations can happen post-surgery due to disc tissue sensitivity.
- Scar tissue formation: Although scar tissue after a surgical procedure is normal, an excessive amount could end up causing nerve damage.
- Persistent or recurrent spinal stenosis: Even if the surgical procedure is performed to reduce the symptoms of spinal stenosis, sometimes this condition may reappear, causing pain in the lumbar area.
- Spinal instability or deformity: Surgical procedures can cause spinal instability, leading to pain.
- Misdiagnosis of the original problem: If the original spinal issue is misdiagnosed, further complications may appear after the surgical procedure.
The following symptoms can be used to identify failed back surgery syndrome:
- Chronic back and leg pain
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Weakness in the legs or feet
- Difficulty standing or walking for extended periods
- Decreased range of motion and flexibility
Since post-surgical pain can have multiple causes, the best treatment option will depend on the degree of pain and its correlated condition.
Compared to traditional surgery, minimally invasive interventions offer smaller incisions, minimal risk of complications, and a faster return to regular activities. These procedures aim to restore mobility without involving complex recovery.
For example, minimally invasive lumbar decompression (MILD) helps to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves by removing a small portion of bone or tissue through a small incision.
Pain management uses techniques that interfere with the nerve signals sent to the brain to help reduce your pain symptoms. Some of the most common pain management procedures to treat FBSS include:
- Radiofrequency ablation uses heat from radio waves to help reduce nerve irritation.
- Facet joint injections target the joints on the vertebra, which could cause nerve compression after a surgical procedure.
Neuromodulation focuses on stimulating the nerves responsible for the pain signals sent to the brain, reducing the discomfort. For example, a small implant is placed near your spine during spinal cord stimulation. It sends electrical impulses to modify the nerve activity in the spine, stopping pain from being felt.
Epidural steroid injections involve placing anti-inflammatory medications into the epidural to help reduce nerve compression. They target the nerves that send pain signals into the brain, almost instantly blocking them, providing temporary relief to pain.
Non-opioid medications avoid the usage of opioids to help alleviate pain symptoms and reduce the risk of developing an addiction. Some of the best non-narcotic medication options for FBSS include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, topical analgesics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants.
Therapies and alternative conservative treatments can be used along with other minimally invasive intervention options or non-opioid medication. Some alternative conservative treatments that may help reduce post-surgical pain due to FBSS may include:
- Massage therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Low-impact exercise
- Keeping a healthy weight
- Following a healthy diet