5 Ways to Minimize Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

One of the biggest worries for most people considering back surgery is whether or not the surgery will actually work.

When back surgery doesn't successfully alleviate the pain, it's known as failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS).

See Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS): What It Is and How to Avoid Pain after Surgery

Sciatic Nerve Pain
Discectomies for sciatic nerve pain
are often successful surgeries.

Improve your chances of having a successful back surgery by following these five tips:

  1. Be confident in your diagnosis
    Spine surgery is only indicated when there is an identifiable anatomical cause of spinal instability or a pinched nerve.

    See What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc...?

    The number one reason back surgeries are not successful is because of a misdiagnosis of the cause of back pain. Obviously, with a wrong diagnosis, a surgeon operates on the wrong part of the spine.

    Ask your surgeon how confident they are about their diagnosis of the source of your pain and about the specific area they will be addressing during the surgery.

    Also, ask your surgeon what the alternatives are to surgery and what would happen if you choose not to have surgery.

    If your surgeon is not confident with your diagnosis, or if they don't answer your questions to your satisfaction, consider getting a second opinion.

    Getting an Accurate Back Pain Diagnosis

    Remember, if you are going to have surgery, you owe it to yourself to know that you're doing it for the right reason.

  2. Trust your spine surgeon
    A good surgeon will be happy to answer any questions you have. If they seem irritated by your questions, this is a sign to reconsider allowing them to operate on you.

    See 40 Questions to Ask Your Surgeon Before Back Surgery

    Ask your surgeon these questions:

    • How many times do you perform this particular type of surgery each year?
    • How have your other patients fared in the past following a similar surgery?
    • Do you have any patients who have had the same surgery and who would be willing to talk to me about their experiences?
    • Who would be assisting with the surgery?
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  1. Know the percentages

    Even in the best circumstances, spine surgery is not 100% guaranteed to be a success. Some surgeries are known to have more predictable outcomes than others.

    For example, discectomies and microdiscectomies are both used to treat lumbar herniated discs that are causing pain.

    See Microdiscectomy (Microdecompression) Spine Surgery

    Before the surgery, if the pain from the herniated disc is felt in the legs (known as sciatica), the surgery is known to be more successful than if the pain is felt in the lower back.

    See What You Need to Know About Sciatica

    Also, spine fusions for spinal instability from spondylolisthesis tend to be more successful than spine fusions for multi-level lumbar degenerative disc disease.

    See Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery

    Knowing the success rate of your specific back surgery can provide you with a better idea of what outcome to expect.

    See What to Expect from Spine Surgery for Low Back Pain

  2. Commit to a successful rehabilitation
    The second most common reason a back surgery does not succeed is because of improper or inadequate rehabilitation after the surgery.

    Before you decide to have back surgery, make sure you understand all aspects of what your rehabilitation program will entail. A good way to gain a deep understanding of the projected schedule and timing is to speak to a physical therapist.

    See Rehabilitation and Exercise Following Spine Surgery

    Once you know all the details of your rehabilitation plan, ask yourself if you are dedicated and self-motivated enough to stick to it.

  3. Feel confident in your decision and have a plan
    By preparing thoroughly for back surgery beforehand, you'll have an easier recovery.

    See Essential Items for Back Surgery Recovery

    Having confidence in your decision, making accommodations at work and in your family, and truly understanding the rehabilitation program will all help minimize the stress of having back surgery.

    Extensive research has shown that back patients' overall experiences and ultimate outcomes from back surgery can improve significantly with psychological preparation.

    See How to Prepare Psychologically for Back Surgery

Consider joining our Surgery Buddies forums for psychological and emotional support before and after your surgery.

Was your back surgery successful? What factors do you feel contributed toward your positive outcome? Let us know on our Facebook page.

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