Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Everyone goes into surgery expecting to feel better after all the healing is done, but that isn’t always the outcome. Unfortunately, for some people, back surgery does not result in the desired results, or worse, it can even lead to more pain than before surgery. There are several reasons this may occur, and some risk factors that make it more likely. Regardless, high quality chiropractic care, such as that given by Dr. Grant Lisetor at Greater Life Chiropractic, can help improve quality of life and lead to recovery from failed back surgery syndrome.

What is failed back surgery syndrome?

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) occurs when the expected outcome of a back surgery is either less than desired or worse than the original state. In essence, the surgery itself did not result in a reduction in pain, disability, or other symptoms. For some, the surgery may even make those things worse than before. There are many reasons this may occur, and some are factors that the practice member can control. For those that are not within control, the only option may be to seek alternative care with a skilled Charlotte chiropractor.

Why does FBSS happen?

FBSS tends to occur for several reasons:

  1. The individual had other conditions in the spine that were not recognized before or during surgery that were contributing to their symptoms. For example, the surgery may repair a single herniated disc, but there was actually another one or some amount of spinal stenosis that was leading to the dysfunction. Without those issues being repaired too, the symptoms persist.
  2. The post-operative rehabilitation was not completed for some reason. This is a complex factor, since attending regular physical therapy after a spinal surgery can be difficult, expensive, and painful. However, it is absolutely imperative to effective healing and good outcomes after surgery. During spinal surgery, large muscle groups are often pulled or cut, and those muscles need to not only heal, but also strengthen to support the spine well.
  3. The surgery wasn’t the right choice for the conditions the individual had to start with. Medicine is as much of an art as a science, and sometimes surgeries are done to try and help a person regain their health even when the outcomes are unlikely to be ideal. For some, risk factors cumulatively make a person a poor surgical candidate but desire to heal remains. FBSS occurs in roughly 20-40% of individuals undergoing spinal surgeries, which suggests that many individuals are not being adequately screened for risk factors of FBSS.

What are the risk factors for FBSS?

There are three different areas of risk factors for failed back surgery syndrome: psychosocial factors, physical conditions, and spinal diagnoses/treatment.

Psychosocial factors can include anxiety, depression, other psychiatric conditions, and smoking. Physical conditions may include old age or obesity. Spinal diagnoses and treatment can include a history of multiple prior back surgeries, co-existing stenosis and herniations, or a high complexity of the surgery.

How Can a Charlotte Chiropractor help with FBSS?

For those who cannot or choose not to have back surgery, or for those who have had FBSS, opting for chiropractic care instead can help improve quality of life in a gentle and non-invasive manner. Chiropractic adjustments can be used to help realign vertebrae to remove the pressure from herniated discs, improve flexibility and functionality of the spine, strengthen and support skeletal muscles, and more. Such techniques should be performed by a skilled and experienced chiropractor, such as Dr. Grant Lisetor at Greater Life Chiropractic.

Contact Dr. Grant and his team to schedule an appointment today to be fully evaluated after your failed back surgery.


Orhurhu, V. J., Chu, R., Gill, J. (2022). Failed back surgery syndrome. In: StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.