Failed Back Surgery Syndrome Treatment

FAQs on Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Spinal stenosis, disk herniation, vertebrae damage, radiculopathy and other injuries to the spine force about 600,000 Americans to undergo laminectomy or back surgery every year. However, about 20 to 40 percent of these patients suffer from failed back surgery syndrome. Also known as post-laminectomy syndrome, it is marked by worsening pain and increased use of medication to relieve persistent pain. With the latest advances in medicine offered at the best Chicago pain management centers, patients suffering from failed back surgery syndrome have more and better treatment options.BackPain

What is failed back surgery syndrome?

Failed back surgery syndrome is an umbrella term use to indicate continued or new pain in patients following an unsuccessful back surgery. There are many patients who do not experience significant relief after undergoing back surgery. The existing symptoms persist with negligible improvement and worsen after a few weeks or new conditions emerge.

Thus, failed back syndrome or post-laminectomy syndrome covers a variety of persistent or recurring painful conditions affecting the lower back after the spinal surgery. The pain impacts the back and legs.

What are signs and symptoms of failed back surgery syndrome?

A patient is said to be experiencing failed back surgery syndrome when

  • there is no significant relief as expected after the back surgery
  • there is minor improvement after back surgery and that too is temporary
  • old pain symptoms persist or new pain conditions emerge
  • there is aching pain radiating to legs or extremities

How does failed back surgery syndrome occur?

The back surgery focuses on accomplishing two objectives – treat a painful joint or release a squeezed nerve root. However, these two objectives achieved through anatomical changes often fail to address pain symptoms effectively. Scar tissue development following the surgical intervention and inability of the surgery to make adequate changes due to delicate spinal structure play a role in causing pain new conditions and continuation of the existing pain. Intervention also irritates nerve and damage tissues that help to build up new painful symptoms.

What are the causes of failed back surgery syndrome?

  • Failure of back surgery to provide expected relief
  • Development of epidural fibrosis or scar tissues adjacent to the spine and nerve roots
  • Wrong surgery or intervention at wrong spinal level
  • Failure to remove the lamina completelySpinal-fusion-300x212
  • Arachnoid membrane or spinal cord inflammation
  • Improper rehab and recovery process due to physical and psychological problems
  • Nerve root irritation and compression following surgery
  • Pain due to new or recurrent disc herniation
  • Failure to fuse the spine
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Joint hypermobility with instability
  • Failed spinal implant
  • Post-operative pressure on a spinal nerve
  • Spinal muscular deconditioning
  • Lesion transfer leading to pain from another area of the spine
  • Post-operative infection

Who is at increased risk of failed back surgery syndrome?

Those suffering from diabetes, depression, sleep apnea, peripheral vascular problem and autoimmune diseases are at increased risk of suffering from the failed back syndrome.

What are complications associated with failed back surgery syndrome?

The condition may lead to chronic and debilitating back pain adversely impacting quality of life and ability to work. Patients are also at the risk of spinal problems and paralysis.

How is failed back surgery syndrome diagnosed?

The first step in the diagnosis of failed back surgery syndrome is the screening of physical symptoms and medical history. Doctors try to recognize a pattern of pain traced to poor healing, failed surgery or improper rehab. Patients may be asked to undergo laboratory or imaging tests to discover structural deformities, inflammation, stenosis or other problems in the spine.

What are the treatment methods for failed back surgery syndrome?

  • Conservative Treatment: Rest, physical therapy, ice therapy, massage, flexibility exercise and stretching techniques help relieve pain to some extent.
  • Medication: Both narcotic and non-narcotic pain killers are used to treat failed back surgery syndrome. In Lumbar Transforaminal Epiduralsome cases, antidepressants are also suggested based on patient condition.
  • Pain Management Treatments
  • Epidural steroidal injection: Steroid injected with or without numbing medication to the epidural area soothes the nerve irritation and provides long-term spinal pain relief in up to 90 percent cases.
  • Facet joint injection: Local anesthesia is injected along with corticosteroid into problematic facet joints to treat inflammation of joint cartilage, irritated nerve roots and inflamed tissues that radiate pain.
  • Spinal cord stimulation: The spinal cord stimulator device implanted emits electrical pulses that stun nerves inhibiting the pain signal transmission and perception and thus, ensures relief from pain.
  • Intrathecal pain pump: Implanted pain pumps administer morphine or similar pain medication to the pain spot on regular basis and keep the pain suppressed without the need to have oral pills.

The top Chicago pain doctors at Premier Pain & Spine offer comprehensive treatments for failed back surgery syndrome. This includes both medication management and interventional procedures along with chiropractic and additional options.

Call the location closes to you today for the top pain management doctors in Chicago!


Hussain A & Erdek M (2014). Interventional pain management for failed back surgery syndrome. Pain Practice, 14(1), 64-78.

Rabb, C. (2010). Failed back syndrome and epidural fibrosis. The Spine Journal. Vol 4(4), 486-488.

Lee PB, Kim YC, Lim YJ, et al. (2006). “Efficacy of pulsed electromagnetic therapy for chronic lower back pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study”. The Journal of International Medical Research 34 (2): 160–7.

Slipman CW, Shin CH, Patel RK, et al. (Sep 2002). “Etiologies of failed back surgery syndrome”. Pain Med 3 (3): 200–14

DePalma MJ, Ketchum JM, Saullo TR (May 2011). “Etiology of chronic low back pain in patients having undergone lumbar fusion”. Pain Medicine 12 (5): 732–9

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