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What is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?

Back Pain Caused by Failed Back Surgery

Failed back surgery syndrome (also called FBSS, or failed back syndrome) is a generalized term used to describe ongoing pain after back surgery. After going through a spinal surgical procedure, of course both you and your surgeon desire your complete painlessness.  But, even with the best spinal surgeon and the best indications for your spinal surgery success, there is always a small chance that back pain may continue after surgery and recovery (studies report continued back pain after 5% of all spinal surgeries ).

What causes Failed Back Surgery Syndrome? There are many reasons why a back surgery might not result in a completely pain-free existence, partially owing to the fact that spine surgery is only able to accomplish stabilizing a painful joint and decompressing a pinched nerve. If your back condition involves more than these two pain-causing situations, your spine surgeon will need to continue your care and explore additional solutions to your back pain condition.

Back surgery is reported to be 95% successful at changing anatomy that causes pain and correcting the physical results of a back injury.  But it’s also important to realize that back surgeryisn’t a cure-all for every type of back pain-causing condition. Since the spine is a very complex part of your anatomy, with many vertebrae, nerves, and cushioning between your discs, it can be a complex process to get to the root of what’s truly causing you pain.

Your back surgeon will thoroughly assess your back pain condition, and use top technology to diagnose your back pain causes, but it’s important for you to have realistic expectations of what back surgery can and cannot accomplish for you. If you experience Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, your skilled physician will then conduct additional tests and map out a plan of action to remedy as much of your back pain as possible. All valuable things take time, so don’t set yourself up for possible disappointment by expecting a quick fix to any back pain. It may take an extra procedure or extra treatment after your back surgery to get you feeling much better.

If you do have great success after your back surgery, then you’re in that fortunate 95% of back pain patients whose symptoms lessen and whose lifestyle will very soon be active and more comfortable again.

What Is Back Strain?

What Is Back Strain

Hearing “It’s just a back strain” may not be very comforting when you’re experiencing severe back pain. While back strain may sound like a minimal back injury, it can cause you a great deal of discomfort, perhaps sleepless nights, back spasms that can cause severe lower back pain and in some cases, immobility. Many people with back strains go to the emergency room for relief.

Most lower back pain episodes are caused by damage to the muscles and/or ligaments in the lower part of the back. When you have back strain, you may have one or both of the following:

  • muscle strain, caused when a muscle is over-stretched or torn, resulting in damage caused to the muscle fibers (also called a pulled muscle).
  • lumbar sprain, caused when ligaments – the tough fibrous tissues connecting the muscles to the bones and joints — are stretched too far or torn.

Strain and sprain are often used interchangeably, since the treatment and prognosis for both of these are the same. So one is not worse than the other, although the amount of pain you’re experiencing may make you think that what you have is indeed the worse of the two. Especially since you cannot see inside your back, your imagination may conclude that you have something much worse than a back strain or sprain. Patients experiencing pain can often jump to dramatic conclusions and envision difficult treatments ahead.

It can calm your worries to understand what a back strain is. When the muscles or ligaments in the lower back are strained or torn, the area around the muscles will likely become inflamed. That back inflammation leads to back spasms that can cause your severe back pain and immobility.

“How did this happen to me?” is likely the next question on your mind. Back strains are often the result of a movement or movements that put undue stress on the lower back. Motions like lifting a heavy object, lifting multiple heavy objects (such as with landscaping using large rocks or bricks,) lifting and twisting, a sudden and single twisting motion (like your last golf tee-off of the day,) or a fall are just some of the movements that can cause back strain.

Symptoms of back strain may range from a mild ache to sudden, debilitating pain often localized in the lower back. The pain of a back strain is likely to be located in the low back, and not radiate down your leg (as with sciatica.) Your back may be sore to the touch, pain comes on suddenly and strongly, you may have those muscle spasms in your lower back, and you might find standing or walking to be more uncomfortable than resting.

With a doctor’s care and pain-reducing medications, you may find your back strain’s worst pain subsiding quickly, but with back strain, you may experience a lower level of pain, or flare-ups of pain, for a few weeks to a few months, depending on how severe your back strain is. And how well you rest after being diagnosed. Self-care is essential with back strain, so that those stretched or torn muscles of ligaments can heal well. Most back strains and sprains are much better after 3 to 4 weeks, since the large muscles in your back have a good blood supply, which delivers healing nutrients and proteins to your injury site for healing to take place. You might not be able to see that happening, but as you heal from your back strain, that’s what’s happening beneath the surface.

Who Can Get Back Pain?

back pain

Back pain is not just a symptom of aging. Anyone, of any age, in any physical condition, can and will likely experience back pain at some point in their life. So if you are experiencing back pain, don’t think that you’re alone. There are plenty of seventeen year-old athletes who experience back pain and thus seek the same medical care that you do for your own back issues.

While getting older can be a cause of back pain, as your body’s discs, joints, muscles and ligaments carry you through your life for a longer amount of time, and while many people experience their first back pain episodes while in their 30s and 40s, there are other top causes of back pain:

  • Being overweight. When you’re carrying extra weight above your ideal body weight, that can put extra pressure on your spine, muscles and joints, leading to back pain.
  • Not being physically fit. People who do not exercise on a regular basis, and thus lack good muscle tone and bone strength, often experience more back pain.
  • Heredity. Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, can have a genetic component.
  • Your job. If your job requires you to lift heavy boxes, or push or pull heavy loads, you might experience greater back pain.
  • Lifting heavy items. Or people. Like grandchildren who may be growing and getting heavier, yet you still want to lift them. And if you’re a caretaker of an ill relative, lifting them can aggravate your back as well.
  • Sitting too much. If you sit at a desk or worktable for too many hours in a row, with poor posture and without getting up to stretch and walk around a bit, you might experience back pain.
  • Smoking. If you’re a smoker, you may experience back pain, because your body might not be able to get enough nutrients to the discs in your back. You might also have a smoker’s cough that puts pressure on your body and affects your back. And smokers are also slow to heal, so your back pain might be longer-lasting.
  • Other diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can cause back pain.

In short, anyone can get back pain. And perhaps you see yourself in several of the above causes, so take steps now to help prevent back pain or help lessen your back pain symptoms.