Failed Back Surgery

Patients often seek our treatments for their failed back surgery.

failed-back-surgeryPatients whose problems were not answered by surgery sometimes call upon chiropractors for help. It is unfortunate they did not consult with a chiropractor before surgery to determine whether their pain or other symptoms would be addressed without drugs or surgical intervention.

That said, as many as 50% of the 200,000 people who have lower back surgery each year do not attain their desired outcome. Some of them are even in worse condition following surgery.

This condition is what is referred to as “failed back surgery syndrome,” a general term for a host of problems that may be related to the surgery.  People with failed back surgery syndrome often complain about unrelenting pain or physical impairment.

Spine surgery is only basically able to accomplish two things, decompress a nerve root that is pinched, or stabilize a painful joint.  Unfortunately, back surgery or spine surgery cannot literally cut out a patient’s pain. It is only able to change anatomy.

By far the number one reason back surgery is not effective is because the lesion that was operated on is NOT THE CAUSE of the patient’s pain.

Some types of back surgery are far more predictable in terms of alleviating a patient’s symptoms than others. For instance,

  • A discectomy (or microdiscectomy) for a lumbar disc herniation that is causing leg pain is a very predictable operation. However, a discectomy for a lumbar disc herniation that is causing lower back pain is far less likely to be successful.
  • A spine fusion for spinal instability (e.g. spondylolisthesis) is a relatively predictable operation. However, a spine fusion for multi-level lumbar degenerative disc disease is far less likely to be successful in reducing a patient’s pain.

There are several other potential causes of a failed surgery, or continued pain after surgery, including:

  • Fusion surgery considerations, such as failure to fuse and/or implant failure, or a transfer lesion to another level after a spine fusion, when the next level degenerates and becomes a pain generator.
  • Lumbar decompression back surgery considerations, such as recurrent stenosis or disc herniation, inadequate decompression of a nerve root, preoperative nerve damage that does not heal after a decompressive surgery, or nerve damage that occurs during the surgery.
  • Scar tissue considerations

Postoperative rehabilitation, continued pain from a secondary pain generator. If you are suffering from a failed back surgery, call our office today for a consultation to find out if Sheridan Chiropractic can help your specific case.