Postlaminectomy Syndrome

Facts about Postlaminectomy Syndrome

In order to have postlaminectomy syndrome, you would first have to have had a laminectomy performed. A laminectomy is when a piece of bone in the spine is surgically removed. The lamina is the bone that supports the spinal vertebra. When you have a herniated disk, the bulge or hernia, presses down on the spinal cord and/or nerves. The lamina is removed to open up space for the disk so it no longer presses on nerves.


When successful, a laminectomy will relieve back pain and stop sciatica, which is numbness and tingling that travels down a leg when a nerve is compressed. If the laminectomy is not successful you will continue to have pain and/or numbness. It can be in the back, leg or knee. It is these continued painful symptoms which constitute postlaminectomy syndrome.

The postlaminectomy syndrome diagnosis has become so widespread that today anyone who has back surgery and is experiencing continued pain is said to have postlaminectomy syndrome. Two tests are usually done to confirm the diagnosis. One is a physical examination of the spine, usually consisting of observation of the person while lying on their spine and an MRI or x-ray to see if there is anything still compressing the nerves of the spine.


Everyone will experience pain after a laminectomy, and sometimes the healing process is a long one. Usually physical therapy is involved and there is a very slow return to walking and daily activities. But after the body has healed, many people no longer feel any back pain at all.

People suffering from postlaminectomy syndrome have done through the whole healing and recuperation process and they still have considerable pain. The treatment for this syndrome is physical therapy and pain management. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often used because there is swelling. Sometimes a little battery-operated device is used to stimulate the spinal cord nerves.

The problem with any procedures dealing with the spine is that they are very tricky. You may have spinal surgery and return to your normal life with no pain at all. Or, you may have the surgery and still have the same pain. And, in the worst case scenario, you would have the back surgery and have more pain than you had when you started.

That is why that spinal surgery is always the last resort. Physical therapy and other treatments are always the first step. Many times manipulation of the spine can lead to less or no pain. These can be done by a chiropractor. Another alternative treatment that can be successful is acupuncture.

Young people have better results from spinal surgery than older ones. And, if you choose to have more than one surgery, your chances of success decrease with each one. Sometimes bleeding and infection can follow spinal surgery. If you have had surgery and develop a fever, see your doctor immediately. Depending on your situation, you might receive injections for spinal pain or be given narcotics if the pain is very serious. Narcotics are not usually given because you can easily become addicted. If the pain stays and turns into chronic pain, you are going to have to develop a pain management program that does not include addictive drugs.

Exercising through the pain can actually help you eventually overcome back pain, including postlaminectomy syndrome. Core strengthening exercises can take a lot of pressure off of the back and put it on other muscles where it belongs. Walking helps as does swimming and other kinds of aquatic exercise. Lots of people have success in aquatic exercise classes.

Just remember that is it possible to be pain free eventually even if you have postlaminectomy syndrome. For most people it is a very long process, but success can be the end result.