Post Laminectomy Syndrome

Helpful Information About Post Laminectomy Syndrome

Post laminectomy syndrome, otherwise referred to as failed back syndrome is characterized as a condition where you experience persistent pain after having back surgery.  There are many factors that can contribute to this such as recurrent disc herniation, spinal nerve pressure, joint hypermobility, altered joint mobility, depression, scar tissue, sleeplessness, anxiety and spinal muscular deconditioning.

Although spine surgery is typically performed to reduce or eliminate pain or correct a problem, sometimes it will fail resulting in post laminectomy syndrome.  This is incredibly frustrating as well as uncomfortable for the sufferer.  If you are one of these individuals, you should know that there actually is hope.  Most post-surgical pain can effectively be managed when there is an accurate diagnosis.

Understanding Post-Surgical Pain

In the United States alone, at least half a million spine surgeries are performed every year, yet even with all this practice, many people suffer from post laminectomy syndrome.  In fact, it is reported that at least 20 percent of individuals who undergo spine surgery have some level of persistent leg or back pain afterwards.

There are various reasons for this. Quite often, the spinal nerve root does not recover fully from its prior trauma.  When this is the case, it continues to provide sciatic or chronic nerve pain.  In others, their body produces scar formation as part of the healing process which can form around the root of the nerve and cause chronic pain.  Another fairly common cause is due to the structural changes that the spine develops below or above the site where the spinal fusion took place.


Symptoms of post laminectomy syndrome vary significantly from person to person.  Some people simply continue to experience the same exact pain that they were plagued with prior to having surgery.  Others will complain of an achy and dull pain located primarily in the spinal column.  It is not uncommon to experience stabbing, pricking and sharp pain radiating from your back and down your legs, referred to as neuropathic pain.

This neuropathic pain is the result of a nervous system injury.  In post laminectomy syndrome, sometimes the injury to the root of the nerve is due to a spinal disorder.  It is commonly associated with an abnormal sensitization of the nerves in the spinal cord which is where initial pain signals are received.

Smoking Association

Recent studies have suggested that a high percentage of cigarette smokers will fail in spinal surgery.  Nicotine interferes with proper bone metabolism because of induced calcitonin resistance as well as decreased osteoblastic function.  Additionally, it is suggested that it may restrict the diameter of small blood vessels, which leads to an increase in scar formation.


In a study performed in Denmark on 426 patients, smoking had a negative effect on overall post surgery satisfaction.  Also, smoking in adolescence is proven to lead to back pain when the individuals become young adults.

Returning to Work

A primary cause of post laminectomy syndrome is due to returning to work too quickly.  This is especially true in workman's compensation cases or single income households.  Many people simply do not have the time to allow their back adequate time to heal, which will often result in additional surgeries being needed at a later time.