Post-Laminectomy Syndrome: What Is It And What Next?

If you’re having reoccurring back pain the outlook can be frightening, but post-laminectomy syndrome is a common diagnosis for back pain sufferers. 

What is it?

Post-laminectomy syndrome, also called “failed back syndrome”, is a diagnosis describing recurring back pain in a patient when they have previously had a surgical procedure on their back. Laminectomy specifically is a surgery involving cutting out abnormalities to relieve pressure on the spinal cord, sometimes used in herniated or bulging disc treatment, for example. The name ‘post-laminectomy syndrome’ can be a bit misleading though, as it can occur and be diagnosed even if the previous treatment wasn’t actually a laminectomy — hence the “failed back syndrome” alternative. 

Why does it occur?

There are many reasons your back pain may reoccur even after you’ve had a corrective procedure. The procedure may not have worked as intended, or a complication such as an infection or nerve injury might have occurred. You might have developed a totally new problem, unrelated to the problem you initially had a procedure to treat. For some people on long-term pain management drug regimens after their procedure, such as opiates, they might be experiencing something like opioid-induced hyperalgesia, where their sense of pain is warped.

Do I have it?

Post-laminectomy syndrome is only diagnosable by a medical professional, but you should recognize important symptoms that could prompt your doctor to confirm a diagnosis. Low back pain or neck pain are common symptoms, as are muscle spasms, arthritis, and signs of bleeding or infection. It’s easy to write off aches and pains as nothing. About a quarter of Americans have suffered pain lasting longer than 24 hours. It’s especially advised for pain sufferers who have already had a diagnosis and treatment to pay attention to new pains. If something feels off to you, tell your specialist right away so they can determine the cause of your pain or discomfort and avoid potential damage. 

What now?

If you’ve gotten an official diagnosis of post-laminectomy syndrome from your doctor, they’ll likely do a thorough exam to determine the cause of the pain. Because of the diversity of the causes of “failed back syndrome”, there is no one treatment. Your doctor may see fit to plan a simple exercise regimen for you to retrain certain muscles, or they may consider a whole new surgical procedure. It’s important to keep a level head and work with your doctor to come up with the best possible recovery plan for you.

Did you know there are whole practices of physicians and professionals who focus on pain treatment and management? Pain is a very individualized experience, and pain-focused practices have the advantage of being able to create individualized care plans for each patient. Contact us and check out other resources if you’re interested in a solid plan for managing your post-operative pain. 

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