Failed back surgery syndrome is a condition where patients have continued back pain after a spinal surgery. While spinal surgery is successful for up to 90% of patients, some people do not get the relief they were expecting.
What are the possible reasons for pain after a back surgery?
There are several reasons why people continue to have pain after back surgery. The formation of scar tissue is a normal part of recovery, and rarely causes pain since it has no nerve endings. However, scar tissue can be a cause of pain after surgery if it creates adhesions on the nerve root. In this case, symptoms are improved after surgery but recur slowly starting 6-12 weeks later.
Sometimes, the disc herniation was not the source of pain in the first place. More commonly, there is a secondary source causing pain that wasn’t identified previously. Finally, if pain returns quickly within the first three months after a back surgery, it can be due to a disc herniation either in the same location or a new one. In order to find this out, they typically use a diagnostic procedure called a discography.
What are the options for pain management?
There are an array of options for people to manage their pain, from self-care measures like using ice or heat, to interventional procedures. Physical therapy is frequently recommended to increase strength and mobility. Integrative therapies like massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture can help many people find pain relief. Some people use over-the-counter or prescription medications to manage their pain.
If these options are not providing sufficient relief, many people seek pain management specialists who can offer a range of medical interventions. By thoroughly reviewing patients’ medical histories and symptoms, providers are able to recommend treatment plans tailored to each individual. Nearly everyone can find a treatment option that will provide some relief from pain.
Types of Interventional Procedures Include:
Injections & Nerve blocks
An anesthetic or steroid is injected directly to the area of the affected nerve, joint, or disc space. The medical provider often uses an x-ray to place the needle in the correct location.
A small needle is placed near the targeted nerve. Radiofrequency waves heat the tip of the needle which ‘burns’ the nerves and interrupts pain signals to the brain.
These devices are placed surgically. Pain pumps deliver opioid medication directly around the spinal cord. A spinal cord stimulator sends the electrical pulses to disrupt pain signals.
What happens during the treatment?
Most interventions are done in a hospital, many take place in an out-patient or clinic setting. Depending on the procedure, patients will receive local anesthesia or a mild sedative. After a period of observation for potential side effects, patients are able to return home. Patients are not able to drive, so another adult must come with to the appointment.
With pain management interventions, most people experience noticeable pain relief. Results can last up to a year, and successful procedures can be repeated when the treatment wears off.
Contact The Pain Center to discuss treatment by filling out our contact form or calling (208) 342-9800!
Pain Management Idaho | Boise Pain Center