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Trauma, aging, improper body mechanics and normal wear and tear can all injure your spine. And damage to any part of your back — especially pressure on your nerves — can cause pain and other symptoms.

Most back problems respond to nonsurgical treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medication, ice, heat, gentle massage and physical therapy. When conservative treatments don’t help, back surgery may offer relief. But it doesn’t help every type of back pain, and sometimes, it can be detrimental. Around 2000 cases of failed back surgery syndrome are produced each year in the United Kingdom alone. It is unclear how many of those cases are actually malpractice in disguise.

Patients with failed back surgery syndrome live with the constant anxiety of relapse and steady deterioration of a range of neurological symptoms, yet current medical management focuses narrowly on relieving pain. This is another strand in the web in which patients are caught: good pain relief brings the illusion of improved physical ability. However, for many patients, after a brief honeymoon period pain, spasm and weakness appear at a lower activity level, and the web tightens to immobilize the ensnared nerve roots (and patients) even more.

Many of these patients are viewed as “fakers”, “whiners”, or just “greedy”. This is simply not the case. The real problem for victims of injury comes with distinguishing between failed back syndrome and medical malpractice. It has become all too common in cases of malpractice that surgical mistakes are lumped into the “catch-all” category of failed back surgery syndrome, and the patient is convinced that this was an accepted risk of treatment.

Be sure that your failed back syndrome is not actually a failed surgery. If the pain and symptoms increased, and you were told, “This was a possibility” or given the failed back surgery syndrome excuse, seek a 2nd and 3rd opinion. It just might be the case that your syndrome is acutally a symptom of a failed surgery.

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