Patients who face failed back surgery syndrome, or FBSS, often report that it can be more frustrating than the original source of back pain. This is even true in cases where the pain itself is less severe. Dealing with the frustration of going through spine surgery and the recovery and rehabilitation process, only for it not to fix the pain, or have new problems develop altogether, can be downright devastating.
There is no all-encompassing definition for failed back surgery syndrome, but it generally refers to symptoms and complications developing from an unsuccessful or ineffective spine surgery. One study estimates failed back surgery syndrome to affect as many as 20% of patients who undergo lumbar surgery. Symptoms include chronic back pain, numbness, tingling and cold sensations.
While everyone experiences some degree of pain and discomfort during recovery and rehabilitation from spine surgery, including decompression and spinal fusion procedures, you should speak to your doctor or surgical provider about any abnormal or persistent pain. If you do have some form of failed back surgery syndrome, diagnosing your condition and seeking treatment as early as possible can give you the best chance of achieving long-term relief.
Here are five failed back surgery syndrome treatments that are recommended by the experts here at Spine Center Atlanta and that anyone with this difficult condition should pursue. We’re here to help. If you would like to learn more or have any questions about your treatment options, please reach out today.
1. Physical therapy and aquatic therapy
Physical therapy often plays a critical role in the health of the spine and can be a major benefit to patients dealing with chronic back pain and other symptoms after a spine surgery. Even if you completed a course of physical therapy before attempting surgery, doctors will often recommend patients attempt it again.
Frequently, patients with chronic back pain and spine conditions deal with muscle atrophy and limited mobility due to years of decreased activity. It can take time to regain this function after surgery and these factors contribute to FBSS pain in a number of cases. Working with a physical therapist to strengthen back muscles and increase mobility can be a highly effective treatment step for failed back surgery syndrome.
Aquatic therapy is a commonly used form of physical therapy for FBSS patients. The combination of reduced stress from buoyancy with the high resistance of water makes it a preferred choice for chronic back pain sufferers.
2. Therapeutic Massage
In cases where FBSS symptoms are related to muscle tension and myofascial pain, massage therapy can help. A trained massage therapist knows how to carefully deliver this hands-on treatment for patients with spine conditions and back pain related to surgical complications. The stimulation provided by a therapeutic massage helps to relax tense muscles, increase blood flow to the area and break up bundles of painful tissue known as trigger points.
There are also potential psychological benefits to massage which can be very helpful to people with failed back surgery syndrome symptoms. Patients report therapeutic massage can help them deal with anxiety and promote calmness.
Acupuncture is a treatment rooted in Eastern medicine that helps a large number of patients manage pain, including chronic back pain and other spine-related symptoms. Although medical researchers are still working to understand the mechanisms, there is evidence that acupuncture can be effective in achieving pain relief. A trained acupuncturist carefully places thin needles into pressure points, helping to stimulate blood flow, relax muscles and release endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.
For patients looking to overcome failed back surgery syndrome pain, acupuncture can often be an effective part of a holistic treatment plan. As with any other medical or therapeutic profession, make sure your acupuncturist has received thorough education and training as well as any necessary licensing.
4. Spinal Cord Stimulators
A spinal cord stimulator is a small device that sends a gentle electrical pulse to painful nerves in the spinal column. The stimulation helps to relieve pain and other symptoms, and the device can be implanted on an outpatient basis and controlled remotely by the patient.
Spinal cord stimulators can help relieve a wide range of chronic back pain and other symptoms of spine conditions. For patients looking to overcome failed back surgery syndrome, spinal cord stimulators can be a highly effective treatment worth pursuing.
5. Knowing When to Explore a Revision Surgery
Similarly to other spine conditions, a revision or followup surgery for failed back surgery is usually seen as a last resort treatment option. Patients should plan to thoroughly explore nonsurgical, conservative therapies before consulting with anyone for FBSS surgery. It is also important to ensure that an operable condition has been identified by your prospective surgeon.
The right procedure and surgical approach will depend on the specific underlying causes of a patient’s failed back surgery syndrome. In many cases, a spinal fusion may be the necessary course of action. This is often true for patients who initially undergo an unsuccessful spinal fusion surgery.
One very important consideration is to work with a spine surgeon or surgical practice that has extensive experience in treating failed back surgery syndrome with follow up spine surgery. Although it may make sense in some cases to undergo the revision with your initial surgeon, you should also pursue all available options.
With a Multidisciplinary Approach, Spine Center Atlanta are Your FBSS Experts
No two cases of failed back surgery syndrome are the same, and determining the appropriate course of treatment for FBSS requires highly specific expertise and experience. This is why patients from all over the United States and Canada consult with Dr. James L. Chappuis and the caring team at Spine Center Atlanta.
We have decades of combined experience and are specifically trained in helping patients develop a personalized treatment plan for FBSS. If you have fully exhausted conservative therapies, our surgical team has extensive experience performing revision procedures for failed spine surgery at our state-of-the-art facility.
For more information about diagnosing and treating failed back surgery syndrome, please contact us today at 404-351-5812.