There are numerous causes of why a back surgery fails. Sometimes, it is successful while at other times, it can lead to more complications and results in a painful post-surgery reaction.

Causes of Failed Back Surgery Pain

Failed back surgery pain is an outcome of an unsuccessful back surgery that is common in conventional open back and neck surgeries. Some of the major causes of pain that arises due to a failed back surgery are listed below.

  • Scar tissue
  • Rejection of hardware
  • Nerve damage
  • Remaining disc or bone fragments pressing on tissues or other nerves
  • Wrongly diagnosed condition
  • Treatment by an unprofessional doctor
  • Wrong surgery
  • Spinal fusion failure

Signs and Symptoms of Failed Back Surgery Pain

The most obvious sign is, of course, the pain itself. There is a constant and persistent pain that never goes away even after you have tried several remedies. Other symptoms or signs can accompany failed back surgery pain, such as:

  • Pain at a different spot from the location treated
  • Confined mobility
  • Stabbing and sharp back pain
  • Inability to recover
  • Pain that radiates into the legs
  • Back spasms
  • Sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression
  • Dependence on pain medication


There are many options to treat failed back surgery pain. Oral medications that address failed back surgery pain include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In a few cases, doctors also recommend the use of a nerve-blocking anesthetic or local corticosteroid injections to reduce the intensity of pain.

Some doctors also recommend transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS as a treatment for failed back surgery pain. The stimulation is supplied through a specialized device and depends on electrodes placed over the affected spine area to deliver low-voltage pulses. They give electrical energy to damaged nerves and relieve pain.

Another treatment method that is recommended to treat pain due to a failed back surgery is physical therapy. Exercises done under the supervision of a qualified physical therapist can strengthen the muscles that make up the spinal region. There are also many exercises that are recommended to patients and the intensity can vary for each individual.

Other treatments include the following prescription drugs:

  • NSAIDs
  • Muscle Relaxers
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Neuroleptics
  • General Pain Medications
  • Opioids

When to Request an Evaluation

All patients who continue to experience pain even after a healed back surgery can be suffering from failed back surgery syndrome. The pain can interfere with your daily activities and should be treated if it prolongs for an unexpectedly long period. You should contact your doctor immediately before any other complications arise.

Preparing For an Appointment

Patients are thoroughly evaluated so that the underlying cause of the pain can be detected. The doctor may recommend a few tests and X-ray scans to know whether the pain is due to reasons other than a failed back surgery. Patients must discuss their symptoms and pain intensity. This will help the doctor prescribe suitable treatment methods and medications to the patient. Moreover, you should also inquire about what kinds of medications and treatment methods will be suitable for your individual case.