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Failed Back Syndrome


doctor examining a patient with Failed Back Syndrome

Failed back syndrome is a relatively general term used to explain the condition of patients who have experienced a failed spine or back surgery, such as a laminectomy. Those suffering from this condition commonly experience chronic leg and/or back pain. Even with the best pre-op indications and surgeons, spine surgery is no more than 95 percent predictive of a successful outcome. In general, spine or back surgery is designed to accomplish two outcomes:

  • Stabilize a painful joint

  • Decompress a pinched nerve root


Common symptoms associated with Failed Back Syndrome include

  • Dull, aching pain involving the back and/or legs
  • Sharp, pricking, burning, or stabbing pain in the extremities


Contributing factors to pain that returns following spine surgery include but are not limited to recurrent disc herniation, further degeneration causing pressure on a spinal nerve, altered joint mobility, scar tissue around or within the nerves, muscle de-conditioning, facet joint degeneration, or sacroiliac joint degeneration.


The treatments of Failed Back Syndrome include medications, physical therapy, injections, nerve blocks, and an effective pain management program. Patients who experience pain from their sacroiliac or facet joints may be referred to chiropractic care. The surgeon will typically look to identify and address any correctable structural problems through sacroiliac joint or facet joint rhizotomy. In instances where no correctable cause is identified, the physician may utilize narcotic pumps or spinal cord stimulation to manage the pain.

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