I had a supposedly simple back surgery for a herniated disc two months ago. The surgeon swooped in, cut a piece of bone to get to the disc, took the disc out, and that was supposed to 'fix' me. Well, it didn't and I'm pretty disappointed in the results. Can you help me understand why some people get better while others (like me) don't?
Even simple surgeries are still surgery and that is an invasive procedure to the body. After surgery, the body does its best to repair and heal. An amazing number of processes take place as the body sets up an inflammatory response. Chemicals known as neurotoxins enter the area during this healing response and scar tissue forms. Any of these things can irritate the already compromised nerve tissue resulting in more (not less) pain.
Of the more than 700,000 people who have lumbar spine surgery every year in the U.S., one out of five (20 per cent) will experience persistent pain. In some cases, the pain is gone for a short time but comes back. The mechanism by which this happens is understood but why one person develops this response while another does not remains a mystery.
And the list of possible adverse effects is quite long. Though not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, besides back and leg pain, headaches, dizziness, stiffness, muscle or joint pain, and sensory changes have all been reported. Patient satisfaction is lowest when the expectation and hope is for pain relief but the reality is persistent pain (and sometimes even a worsening of symptoms).
No one likes to think about having another surgery after the first but when reoperation is necessary, it usually happens in the first three months. If you have not been back to see your surgeon, now is a good time to arrange for a follow-up visit. There may be a simple solution to the problem that doesn't require further surgery. If a second surgery is indicated, it may be helpful to have it done sooner rather than later before any more scar tissue forms. Your surgeon will be able to advise you best on this.