Failed back surgery syndrome is a condition in which the patient continues to feel pain after having back surgery. Spinal surgery is used to correct anatomical problems in the spine that cause pain with methods such as correcting deformed structures, decompressing pinched nerves, and stabilizing the spine for safe movement. Patients with failed back surgery symptoms may experience the same pain as before surgery and/or discomfort of a different kind (such as numbness, weakness, stiffness, sharper pain, or more diffuse pain) or in a different area of the body.

The causes of persistent pain may not be easily known -- it may be that the surgery was unsuccessful in decompressing the nerve, the cause of the original back pain was not addressed, there was unforeseen nerve damage, the patient has a recurring disc herniation, the spinal fusion failed, or the procedure was unsuccessful for some other reason.

Before moving forward with treatment, doctors will recommend a number of tests to pinpoint the cause of the persistent pain before recommending a treatment (and potentially another back surgery). According to the diagnosis, a physician may recommend any combination of anti-inflammatory medications, narcotics, neuromodulatory medications, nerve block injections, electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, and additional surgery.

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