At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Also known as Post-laminectomy syndrome, failed back syndrome is a collective term for lingering and persistent pain that occurs after any type of back surgery is performed. While some degree of pain and discomfort is common as a patient heals, pain of this type is considered beyond normal limits in terms of degree and duration. Depending on the factors that are behind the chronic pain, several different courses of treatment may take place.
For the most part, failed back syndrome focuses on persistent pain that is concentrated in the back or legs after the surgical procedure is completed and the healing process appears to be progressing within acceptable limits. In spite of outward indications of healing, the patient continues to experience nagging pains that seem to continue without beginning to weaken. Physicians tend to take a backache or pain in the legs seriously, as they could be indicators of something that could complicate the post-op recovery period.
One possible reason for failed back syndrome could be lingering inflammation of some type. For example, there may be some pressure on one or more nerves along the spinal column. When this is the case, the attending physician can often use medication to reduce the pressure and thus ease the discomfort.
Failed back syndrome may also develop due to some unrelated health issue that complicates the post-operative period. Autoimmune disorders and diabetes are two possible conditions that could interfere with the healing process and result in the chronic pain experienced by the patient. Temporary nerve blocks may be utilized, or medication to alleviate the pain may be an option if the medication will not have a negative interaction with other prescription drugs the patient is currently taking.
Smoking is another factor that can increase the chances for failed back syndrome. The use of tobacco may slow the ability of the body to heal from the surgery, resulting in prolonged periods of pain. Choosing to reduce or even eliminate smoking before the surgery will help to lower the chances for problems to occur during recuperation from the surgical procedure.
There are other potential solutions that may be necessary to address a contributing factor. Spinal stimulation treatments, the administration of antidepressants, pain killers, or various types of anti-inflammatory medicine may prove effective in alleviating the pain involved with failed back syndrome. In order to ensure that the patient receives the most viable treatment or combination of treatments, it is imperative to be as open with the attending physician as possible. With more information at his or her fingertips, it is easier to identify the origin for the discomfort and treat it effectively.