Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

9 Treatments for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Nearly 10% of people worldwide suffer from lower back pain. While there are various nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available to help manage your lower back pain symptoms, no treatment is 100% effective.

Unfortunately, some patients who undergo surgery to treat their back pain continue to experience pain even after surgery, otherwise known as failed back surgery syndrome. This can not only be frustrating but also make patients question if they’ll have to learn to live with their back pain symptoms forever.

However, treatments for failed back surgery syndrome are available to help patients better manage their symptoms. From medications to injections, exercises, and more, several options can help reduce your failed back surgery syndrome symptoms without needing to undergo revision surgery which is oftentimes ineffective at long-term treating your pain symptoms.

If you suspect you may be suffering from failed back surgery syndrome, read on to learn the many treatment options available to lead a healthier, happier life.

What is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is when a patient continues to experience pain even after undergoing spinal surgery to better manage their pain symptoms. In other words, FBSS occurs when a patient’s surgery to treat their lumbar spinal pain is unsuccessful.

While a majority of patients who undergo surgery to reduce their back pain are successful, there is a relatively high range of patients, an estimated 20% to 40% of patients, who continue to experience pain even after one or more surgeries.

Not only can persistent pain post-surgery be extremely frustrating physically, mentally, and financially, but it can make a patient question whether any treatment can treat their pain. Or, if they have to accept their pain symptoms for the rest of their life.

Fortunately, treatments for failed back surgery syndrome provide patients hope to reduce their pain once and for all and finally restore their quality of life.

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome Symptoms & Causes

Your doctor will first have to diagnose and assess your failed back surgery syndrome symptoms to be able to devise a treatment plan right for you.

Patients tend to experience the same pain symptoms they felt before surgery and may even experience numbness and tingling post-treatment.

Therefore, if you underwent spinal surgery to better manage your back pain symptoms, and didn’t experience any improvement in reducing your pain, this is a key sign that you have FBSS.

Various causes can contribute to developing failed back surgery syndrome. Some causes like uncontrolled diabetes, a surgery that wasn’t performed properly, and a patient not following post-surgical instructions are some common causes that can contribute to surgery being unsuccessful. 

Understanding the cause of a patient’s failed back surgery syndrome symptoms can help a doctor better devise a tailored treatment plan to effectively treat a patient’s symptoms. This is because each patient and the surgery they had to treat their back pain in the first place differ. Thus, the treatment options for failed back surgery syndrome inevitably can differ on a patient-by-patient basis.

What is the Treatment for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?

Failed back surgery syndrome can be physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially frustrating. Not only have you likely invested adequate time and money into your original back surgery to relieve your pain, but your quality of life continues to suffer from the persistent pain felt from the unsuccessful surgery.

However, tolerating your back pain and modifying your life around your pain symptoms isn’t your only choice when it comes to treating failed back surgery syndrome.

There are several failed back surgery syndrome treatment options available to help better manage a patient’s pain symptoms from medication to physical therapy exercises, minimally invasive procedures, and more.

While medication management and physical therapy are two primary treatment options, minimally invasive procedures may also be used to better manage your pain, especially if medications and physical therapy are ineffective.

A combination of treatment options may also be used to effectively treat your pain. For example, taking NSAIDs in conjunction with practicing physical therapy exercises may be recommended by your doctor.

While the success of revision/reoperation surgeries is limited, sometimes revision surgery may be required if there are signs of impairment of bowel or bladder function, motor weakness, etc.

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome Treatment Options

If you are struggling with failed back surgery syndrome, here is a list of 9 failed back surgery syndrome treatment options from medications to physical therapy, injections, and more that can be used to better manage your pain.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are over-the-counter drugs that can provide back pain relief by decreasing the inflammation in the nerve roots and spinal joints.

Common types of NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. While NSAIDs can be a great first step to reducing your back pain, if these medications are ineffective at managing your pain, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication to manage your pain.

Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants, as the name suggests, work to relax your muscles by reducing the activity of the central nervous system. Back surgery can sometimes cause muscle spasms during surgery when the muscles become bruised, moved, or cut, causing pain and discomfort.


Neuroleptics are a type of medication used to stabilize overactive cells in the spinal cord. These medications can help better manage pain caused by nerve compression.

Pain Relievers

In severe pain cases, your doctor may prescribe opiates for a short period to help relieve your pain symptoms. While pain relievers are not a long-term solution as they are highly addictive, pain relievers can help relieve your symptoms over the short term, especially if taking them before or after surgery to treat your failed back surgery syndrome.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may recommend certain physical therapy exercises to reduce your pain symptoms by strengthing the muscles that support the spine. Overall, physical therapy can help improve your posture to create more space in the spinal canal which can ultimately reduce pressure and pain on the spinal nerves.

Epidural Steroid Injections

Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are a type of injection that delivers anti-inflammatory steroids directly to the epidural region of the patient’s spine to reduce pressure and inflammation in the back. This type of injection ultimately helps to prevent pain signals from your spinal nerves from reaching your brain.

Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) involves delivering targeted radio-frequency energy to specific nerves to help reduce those nerves from sending pain signals to your brain. During treatment, the physician will use a small needle to “burn” certain nerves to prevent those nerves from sending pain signals.

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation is a procedure that involves using a small device called a spinal cord stimulator to attach it to your spine. Once attached, the spinal cord stimulator can then deliver electrical impulses which can help mask the patient’s pain. Using a small remote controller, patients can signal to the stimulator to deliver these electrical impulses to their spine to mask their pain.

Trigger Point Injections

Trigger point injections (TPIs) involve directly delivering medication to trigger points in the body to reduce inflammation and spasms that can cause pain and discomfort. A failed back surgery in some cases can cause tense muscles which can heighten the pain experienced. Therefore, trigger point injections help to relieve those muscles and treat the pain and discomfort linked to your tensed muscles.

Final Thoughts

The above 9 treatment options are some of the many different treatment options available to treat FBSS. While no one treatment option is necessarily “better” than another, your doctor will thoroughly examine your history and look for potential causes for your FBSS to understand which treatment option(s) may be right for you.

Depending on the severity of your pain, most patients will first undergo various nonsurgical treatment options (i.e. medications and physical therapy exercises) to better manage their pain. If various nonsurgical options prove ineffective, your doctor may recommend surgical treatment options to help relieve your pain.

Top Doctor for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

If you’re struggling with persistent pain following spinal surgery, you shouldn’t have to continue to tolerate your pain symptoms all on your own. A doctor for failed back surgery syndrome can help minimize your pain so you can get back to leading a normal life before your back pain.

At Pain and Spine Specialists, we offer failed back surgery syndrome treatment in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Our team of advanced pain specialists provides comprehensive pain management treatment so each patient can receive tailored treatment plans to effectively treat their unique pain needs.

From medication management to a series of minimally invasive procedures and more, we offer a wide range of safe and effective treatment options for failed back surgery syndrome to help minimize your pain for good.

If you need pain management for failed back surgery syndrome, contact us to learn more about how we can help you better manage your pain symptoms.