For many unfortunate people, the matter of non-surgical options after failed back surgery is a burning question. The reasons for failed back surgery, be it spinal fusion, disc replacement, or discectomy are multifarious - ranging from operating on the wrong level, operating on the wrong structure, poor surgical technique leaving behind too many adhesions - and poor post-operative management.
There's no doubt that manual treatment is an uphill battle after failed spine surgery. Having said that, and for reasons we don't quite understand, the effect of the laying on of hands can be quite profound, with gentle manual techniques to mobilise the tissues around the spine significantly reducing pain levels.
The small e-book Be Careful About Back Surgery will give you a lot of information on the indications for surgery with the different spinal conditions ~ with specific signs and symptoms you yourself can identify ~ the pitfalls with the surgical procedures and the most likely adverse outcomes.
All spinal surgery techniques - removing part or all of a disc (discectomy) and inserting metal hardware to stabilise (spinal fusion) - cause bleeding into the tissues that later organises into post-operative scarring, or adhesions. This living junk tissue shrinks and cobbles together over time which can trap the nerve, particularly if spinal movement stays restricted after the operation. Discectomy can also lead to instability of the spinal segment.
Hands-On Therapy With Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
The aim of a therapist doing treatment for FBSS is to mobilise the spinal soft tissues themselves. Particularly with spinal fusion, these cobbled-up spines benefit greatly from the tender handling of knowing hands. You have to remember that people with this problem are a conundrum for the medical profession and nobody, quite literally, wants to touch them. Even spouses are frightened to lay a hand on that scarred and bolted-together back.
Manual mobilising helps to soften the spinal tissues so the various structures (the nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, muscle, fascia and fat) can pull away from one another where they are glued together by the scarring and adhesions. This makes it easier for the tissues to move within the constraints of the spinal fusion and usually helps make FBSS pain levels more tolerable.
Hands tinkering gently can make a huge difference after failed back surgery
Self Treatment Hands-on With Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
In the Brief Back Pain Treatment Videos for the Time Poor, you can see a short video of Sarah mobilising her spine, with her own hands. This video is one of a group of 6. It is part of a really important body of information to make it so much easier to see what needs doing.
Getting Moving After Failed Back Surgery
Counter-intuitive as it may feel, if you have FBSS it's imperative you learn how to move normally again. If you stay locked and rigid you may develop
'central sensitisation' as your brain runs riot with images of what's going on. The muscular rigidity above the spinal fusion makes you as brittle as a pretzel, your balance impaired and you even become clumsy. You see danger at every turn. The mounting muscular tension causes rising pain messages, diluted by no other sensory input.
Trying to resume bending and moving freely is a challenge but it strengthens the deep spinal muscles and loosens nerves embedded in scar tissue
As all the spine's internal structures begin to stretch and pull away as they un-gum and untangle, there are often strange sensations during and after. Bear with this; keep calm and don't panic.
In re-learning how to move normally again, all patients of failed back surgery ~ both spinal fusion and discectomy ~ need reassurance that the back should feel various pulling sensations going on inside. People also need reassurance that it's normal to feel fleeting 'newer' pains, even transient leg pain, if they are to make progress out of the pain quagmire. And although many in this category are fed up being fobbed off with pills, it's as well to read about medication during rehabilitation.
NOTE: It is wise to get your treating doctor's approval before embarking on this.
Learning to bend and move normally strengthens the deep spinal muscles and prevents segmental instability. It's always frightening to begin with
Learning to move again when you've been literally rigid with pain is a challenge. You will need courage and confidence. Included in the video package below is a short video on 'learning to bend again'. This is important after both spinal fusion and disc removal (discectomy). Seeing it and hearing Sarah explain in depth, with pictures, is the safest way to go.
You can choose from many different videos and packages here.
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