Failed back surgery syndrome is a very generalized term used to describe patients who have not had a successful result with back surgery or spine surgery and usually have experienced continued pain, despite having surgery to alleviate pain.
There are many reasons that a back surgery may or may not work, and even with the best surgeon in the world and for the best indications, spine surgery is no more than 95% predictive of a successful result – however, I’ve heard of back surgery being no better than a 50/50 shot at “fixing” the condition.
Patients that decide on back surgery have hopefully tried as many conservative options as possible, including a chiropractic care program. Many times, patients will go into a conservative care program with the idea that “if this doesn’t work, I’ll just go get surgery.” That attitude can quickly fade if significant progress does not occur within the first few weeks of therapy.
Spine surgery is an attempt to decompress a “pinched” nerve root, or stabilize a painful joint, but the surgeon cannot “cut out the pain.”
Great care must be taken pre-surgery to accurately determine the cause of the patient’s pain. A trial of treatment along with MRI studies will pin point likely causes of the patient’s symptoms, but only treatment will determine if the problem is helped by treating that area.
One reason why back surgeries are not effective is that the area operated on, was not, in fact, the reason for the patient’s pain and symptoms.
By far the number one reason back surgeries are not effective and some patients experience continued pain after surgery is because the lesion that was operated on is not in fact the cause of the patient’s pain.
You can’t have Failed Back Surgery Syndrome if you never have back surgery, so try everything else first. There are indicators that the problem has simply gone on too long and that surgery is required, but that is not the case for most patients.
Make a strong effort with chiropractic care and rehabilitation to see if you can avoid surgery all together. If surgery is needed, don’t be shy about getting a second opinion or a second consult with qualified surgeons. Most importantly, make sure it’s very clear what’s causing your pain so that you can increase your chances of having a successful result.