Failed Back Syndrome (FBS) affects between 20-40% of patients who have undergone back surgery.

The condition can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. No one wants to live with chronic pain, disability, depression, and other psychological symptoms. Yet, many people who suffer from it know little about FBS and their treatment options.

Continue reading and you’ll soon know everything there is to know about failed back surgery syndrome.

What Is Failed Back Syndrome?

Failed Back Syndrome is a condition that occurs in individuals who have undergone spinal surgery. They experience persistent pain and discomfort in their lower back, legs, and buttocks. The pain may be located in the same area as the initial pain, or it may move to other areas of the body.

Diagnosing FBS includes a thorough physical exam and neurological examination. A doctor will carry out a detailed analysis of a patient’s pain, symptoms, and medical history.

Causes of Failed Back Syndrome

There are many factors that can lead to failed back syndrome.

The most common reason is improper preoperative patient selection. The patient may have been a poor candidate for surgery or they may have been misdiagnosed. That’s why it’s important to get a second or third opinion before undergoing back surgery.

FBS is often caused by nerve damage, spinal instability, a failed spinal fusion, and scar tissue formation.

Nerve damage can occur during surgery or as a result of the original spinal condition. This damage can cause nerve irritation and inflammation, resulting in chronic pain.

Spinal instability can occur when an implant migrates to another location after it’s been placed. It’s also possible that the surgery did not address the underlying cause of the instability. And this can result in persistent pain in the lower back and legs.

A failed spinal fusion can also lead to Failed Back Syndrome. A spinal fusion is a surgical procedure designed to fuse two or more vertebrae together. The intention is to create spinal stability. Yet, it can result in unyielding pain if the fusion fails to take or if the vertebrae do not fuse as intended.

In rare cases, scar tissue can develop as a result of the surgery. This can cause nerve compression and irritation that results in agonizing pain.

Symptoms of Failed Back Syndrome

The primary symptom of Failed Back Syndrome is pain and discomfort that perseveres in the lower back, legs, and buttocks. It’s pain that’s not associated with the healing process.

It’s often described as a dull, aching sensation. Meanwhile, some patients experience a stabbing pain that shoots down the back into the legs. This pain is known as Neuropathic Pain, or Nerve Pain.

Other symptoms may include back spasms, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs or feet.

Besides physical symptoms, FBS can also lead to emotional and psychological problems. It can be a significant cause of anxiety, depression, irritability, and insomnia. The persistent pain can impact an individual’s ability to work, socialize, and enjoy daily activities.

Five Popular Treatment Options for FBS

There are various treatment options that can help manage symptoms and improve a patient’s quality of life. Yet, treatment can be challenging, as the underlying causes of FBS are often complex and multifaceted.

Below you’ll find the five most popular treatment methods:


Pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants can help manage pain and discomfort associated with FBS. Injections of steroids or other medications can be administered directly to the affected area of the spine. And this is helpful for managing pain and reducing inflammation.

Yet, it’s essential to use medications only when prescribed by a medical professional. Some will have side effects and they may be habit-forming.

Conservative Therapies

Physical therapy is a popular route for improving strength and flexibility, which can reduce the FBS pain. A physical therapist can provide guidance on safe exercises and movements to help manage symptoms.

A physician may prescribe complementary therapies to help relieve the symptoms. This may include acupuncture, deep tissue massage, or chiropractic manipulation.

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Also known as neurostimulaton, spinal cord stimulation involves the use of a small device implanted under the skin. It delivers electrical impulses to the nerves in the spine, which can help reduce pain associated with FBS. Spinal cord stimulation is used to treat patients for a variety of back conditions that cause chronic pain.

Revision Surgery

In certain cases, revision spine surgery may be necessary to address the underlying causes of FBS. The procedure is especially useful if a ‘structural’ problem has been identified. It aims to rectify what was incorrectly or inadequately done in the earlier spine surgery.

Lifestyle Adjustments

A physician may recommend lifestyle changes to someone suffering from Failed Back Syndrome. This might include adjusting their sleeping position, wearing appropriate footwear, and undergoing regular massages. A patient will be encouraged to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle which incorporates exercise and ample sleep.

Let the Experts Help You

Patients who experience persistent pain after back surgery must speak with their healthcare provider and receive proper medical attention. It’s important to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Then, patients can manage their symptoms better and improve their quality of life

Do you suffer from failed back syndrome? At The Advanced Spine Center, we treat each patient based on their unique circumstances. Our patients have access to innovative, minimally invasive spine care. Contact us today to set up an appointment with our experienced specialists.