Failed back surgery syndrome is a generalized term used to describe the condition of patients who experience continued pain after surgery. Sometimes caused by a buildup of scar tissue, FBSS doesn’t necessarily mean the operation was a failure.

FBSS is more prevalent in regions where spinal surgery is more common and the likelihood is increased with repeated surgery.

failed back surgery syndrome

Symptoms of failed back surgery syndrome are wide-ranging:

Continued chronic pain

Pain above or below the treated level of the spine

Inability to recuperate quickly or at all

Restricted mobility and flexibility

Sharp, stabbing back pain

Pain radiating from the back to the legs

Back spasms

Anxiety and depression

Potential dependence on drugs prescribed for pain treatment

Causes of failed back surgery syndrome may include:

An incorrect initial diagnosis of a patient’s original condition

Administering incorrect surgical treatment for the condition

Performing surgery at an incorrect level or location on the spine

Failure of spinal fusion surgery

Problems transferred to another level of the spine

Fragment of disc or bone still pinching a nerve

Scar tissue formation that impinges on a nerve root

Inadequate decompression of a nerve root

Preoperative nerve damage that does not heal after surgery

Because a cause of failed back surgery syndrome can be difficult to pinpoint, it can also be a challenge to treat. Successful treatment largely depends on an accurate diagnosis of the source of pain and the use of appropriate therapies to address it.

Conservative treatment of failed back surgery syndrome commonly includes the use of:

failed back surgery syndrome
  • Medications — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin can be very effective for relieving the pain.
  • Physical therapy — A physical therapist can recommend exercises designed to stretch, strengthen, and condition the muscles that support the spine.
  • Exercise and stretching — Low-impact exercises, such as resistance training, will help a patient strengthen the muscles that surround and support the spine.
  • Hot and cold compresses — The application of a heating pad or ice pack is a simple treatment that can help a patient feel better temporarily.
  • Chiropractic treatment — The goal of chiropractic treatment is to achieve better spinal alignment, which can sometimes reduce painful pressure on spinal nerve roots.
  • Epidural steroid injections — An epidural steroid injection can be administered to deliver medication directly into the surrounding area of an irritated spinal nerve.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) — A TENS device produces a pleasant tingling sensation that can reduce a patient’s perception of pain or stimulate the nerve in order to reduce the pain experience.

In some cases, adult stem cell therapy may be effective in treating the symptoms resulting from failed back surgery syndrome. To learn more about regenerative treatment, click on the button below.