Back surgery scar tissue is a potentially serious post-operative complication which is often implicated in causing ongoing pain, limited functionality and sometimes, even the dreaded failed back surgery syndrome.
There is no doubt that all manner of scar tissue in the back can be blamed for sourcing a variety of nasty symptoms, although in my own experience, many of these cases are misdiagnosed and usually used as excuses by care providers who can not otherwise resolve what should be a curable condition.
Personally, I am sickened by the number of patients who are dismissed by their surgeons after an unsuccessful procedure due to “scar tissue which will probably cause pain for life”. This is unacceptable.
Scar tissue is a broad term which can be applied to a variety of damaged anatomical structures. Scars form after many serious injuries and I can think of no injury more significant than that enacted by most forms of back surgery. Think about the trauma that many patients endure as they face the frightening reality of having a doctor cut them open and alter the anatomical design of their natural spines. It gives me the chills!
Scar tissue can form in the skin, in the deeper soft tissue layers, in muscles, ligaments and tendons, in bone and in nerve structures, among others. I have seen all of these present after spinal surgery, but fortunately, most are not the source of any serious or lasting pain.
In some instances, scar tissue can temporarily (almost always) or permanently (rarely) enact serious pain and functional limitations.
Getting back to failed back surgery… In the majority of cases, the reason the operations fail is because the diagnosis is wrong and the procedure is unnecessary to begin with. Of course they fail!
If the condition is misdiagnosed, then the operation is not even targeting the real source of pain! However, if you hear this admission from your surgeon, I will be shocked. Surgeons do not like to admit mistakes, diagnostic errors or iatrogenesis, although all are commonplace in the dorsopathy sector of medicine.
Instead, if all looks good on imaging studies, scar tissue is certainly one of the scapegoats which will likely receive the blame for the continuing pain. I see this illogical crutch used so often and wonder how these surgeons get away with it, when the evidence of scarring is minimal at best.
I must say that the majority of scar tissue cases diagnosed as the reason for severe chronic pain after surgery are definitely scapegoat conditions, rather than the reality that the original diagnosis was incorrect, the procedure unnecessary and the results... well, you get the picture.
For patients with actual scar tissue in the back which is causing pain, physical therapy is typically the best bet. There are also a number of non-invasive and minimally invasive scar procedures which can soften scar tissue and even help the body to absorb problematic scarring. I advise investigating these measures in depth.
For the rest of you, I advise that you learn a lot more about scarring and how it is used as an excuse for continuing pain, mostly by surgeons who should not have been allowed to perform the operation to begin with.
Whether you want to believe this happens or not, consider this…
If scar tissue has been blamed, yet physical therapy, scar reduction and a second opinion does not resolve the issue, then what do you think is going on with your original surgeon?
Maybe, just maybe, they goofed and are simply looking for an out.