Back pain is often caused by simple things–poor posture, excessive sitting, excessive weight, or injuries from sports or repetitive movements. However, there is a category of causes that are a bit more ironic in their nature, but also possibly more dangerous. Back pain may occur after spinal surgery due to movements in the discs or muscles, or it can be caused by an infection.

Pain after back surgery is relatively rare, however, it is important to know the risks before undergoing surgery. 

Over 200,000 lumbar laminectomies and discectomies are performed every year in the U.S. While many patients experience pain relief following these procedures, others may have pain that persists after surgery. This pain may be dull or aching in the back, or sharp or stabbing in the back or extremities.

One of the more common causes for pain after back surgery is recurrent disc herniation. In this situation, removing one of the discs during surgery causes those around it to weaken. This can lead to another herniated disc in another portion of the spine. This pain is most often felt as a sudden return of pain after a period of relief following the surgery.

Likewise, the invasive act of surgery itself can lead to changes within the body that can lead to pain. Irritation from scar tissue after the surgery causes 20% to 36% of chronic pain after back surgery. Changes in the body’s muscular structures can lead to spinal muscular deconditioning in which certain weak muscles around the spine exacerbate pain. Other causes of pain from the surgery itself may come about from errors made during the surgery or continued smoking during the recovery period. If you experience pain after a back surgery, talk to your doctor.

Back pain after surgery combined with a fever, chills, or wound redness or tenderness may indicate a more serious spinal infection. 

Although many preventative measures are taken to prevent infections during surgery, there are certain risk factors that can make a person more susceptible. These include poor nutrition, recent surgeries, steroid use, cancer, obesity, diabetes, or an HIV infection. According to the North American Spine Society, approximately 4% of people contract an infection following surgery. If you notice any signs of fever, chills, wound redness, or weakness or tingling in the arms or legs following a surgery, call your doctor right away. They can do a series of tests to check for an infection and provide options for treating it.

Have you undergone back surgery? Did you have any pain following the surgery? 

Image by Phalinn Ooi via Flickr

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