The body produces scar tissue in response to some type of trauma, which can include spine surgery. It’s actually something that happens for protective reasons. However, the scar tissue that forms around wound sites tends to be thicker or more fibrous than what normally forms around a scrape or cut, which is why it can become a problem if it develops near spinal nerves. Here’s what you need to know about this type of scar tissue and how it can be treated and prevented.
Normally, scar tissue that forms after surgery isn’t too much of a problem. It often attaches itself to nerves and other structures in a way that allows them to function as the body heals, so it’s protective. But there are times when scar tissue can affect circulation and irritate nerves if it becomes too thick. Scar tissue related to spinal nerves typically becomes a problem if you’re noticing:
• Pain associated with various movements
• Discomfort that comes and goes in waves
• Pain extending to nearby areas along the irritated nerve’s pathway
To rule out other possible reasons for your discomfort, such as issues with spinal hardware if you recently had fusion surgery, an examination is usually done to make an accurate diagnosis. This process often involves image tests and may include specialized nerve tests, such as an electromyography, to identify the specific affected nerve.
Treatment will depend on the extent of the nerve irritation and the amount of scar tissue present. Options typically include:
• Medication to ease discomfort and reduce inflammation
• Physical therapy to increase range of motion and flexibility
• Nerve stimulation to block pain signals
• Minimally invasive surgery if conservative treatments aren’t effective
It should be noted that many patients respond well to nonsurgical treatments for scar tissue problems affecting spinal nerves. Surgery usually becomes an option only if the discomfort is getting worse or not going away.
Ideally, you should be as proactive as possible to prevent scar tissue from becoming an issue as you heal. However, you can also take preventative steps if you’ve already had a second operation because of scar tissue. The most effective way to do this is to actively participate in your post-procedure physical therapy sessions, which includes being diligent about any exercises or stretches you’re asked to do on your own between sessions. Movement in general is what tends to break up scar tissue as it’s forming. Being as active and mobile as possible can also prevent scar tissue from gradually trapping or irritating spinal nerves.
Your best bet for preventing scarred spinal nerves is to stick to your recommended therapy routine after you’ve had spine-related surgery. Also, report any unusual discomfort or an uptick in pain associated with movement to your Los Angeles spine surgeon. It’s best to have any possible issues with scar tissue and spinal nerves diagnosed and treated before nerves become severely compressed, irritated, or impaired.
Whether they need artificial disc replacement or spinal fusion surgery, Los Angeles patients should make sure to take care of their bodies and prevent scar tissue from forming. Get in touch with the experts at The Spine Institute for additional tips on achieving a scar-free recovery. If you’d like to schedule an in-person evaluation, please call 310-828-7757 today.