Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS) is a general term that is used to describe the condition patients suffer from when they have not had a successful result with surgery on the spine. FBSS describes the chronic back, neck, arm or leg pain that fails to respond to surgery or returns following a period of relief following surgery. Many factors can affect the results of spine surgery. It is possible that the “pain generator” addressed by your back surgery wasn’t the only one causing your pain symptoms and that other pain generators have not been adequately treated. Sometimes, surgery causes scar tissue which can entrap nerves at the operative site resulting in the return of arm and leg symptoms for which the surgery was originally performed. Fusion surgery where two spinal segments are fused together can, over time, cause painful degeneration at the disc levels above or below the fusion level resulting in the return of back and neck pain.
The most common symptoms of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome include familiar diffuse aching pain involving the back and neck that may be chronically dull with episodes of sharp stabbing, intense pain with activity. A throbbing ‘toothache-like’ pain in the arm or leg that is associated with tingling, numbness and weakness is common.