Most people choosing to undergo back surgery expect to reach a point where their discomfort is completely gone, minimal, or manageable. In many cases, this is the outcome most patients enjoy. Though some types of back surgery, such as spinal fusion, are reliable, there are times when pain returns, worsens, or develops in another location after back surgery. Here are 5 possible causes of pain following back surgery.
1. Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
After a reasonable period to allow for recovery and healing, back pain sometimes returns following surgery. Referred to as failed back surgery syndrome, it’s not necessarily due to a problem with the surgery itself. The mechanical issue the procedure was meant to correct, whether it was stabilization of the spine or removal of herniated disc, may be successful and renewed pain can still occur due to:
- Previously undetected sources of pain
- Instability in another part of the spine
- Unintentional injury from the surgery itself
2. Epidural Fibrosis
Scar tissue normally forms after Santa Monica back surgery and causes no pain at all. However, if scar tissue forms near nerve roots, it’s a fairly common condition called epidural fibrosis. If those nearby nerve roots are irritated, patients may experience recurrent back pain coupled with radiating nerve pain in the hips, thighs, or other parts of the leg.
3. Long-Term Nerve Damage
Nerve root damage sometimes takes a long time to heal following decompression surgery. When this happens, pain may remain even after initial physical therapy and rehabilitation. Patients who are starting to see improvement 3 months after surgery often continue to get better, and those who don’t may have more substantial or permanent nerve damage.
4. Failed Fusion
It can take up to a year following a spinal fusion surgery in Santa Monica for the fusion to form properly. If it doesn’t form at all or forms poorly, back pain can continue. The implanted hardware may also weaken or fall out if a fusion doesn’t form or the spine can become unstable in another area.
Trauma from back surgery may result in arachnoiditis, a condition that affects the arachnoid, a membrane around spinal cord nerves. Symptoms typically include burning sensations and severe stinging. Image testing and a special test called an electromyogram often confirm this condition.
To learn more about back surgery and possible pain during recovery, get in touch with Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons at The Spine Institute. Dr. Bae can diagnose the source of your pain and determine the most effective treatment to help you find relief. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.