Chiropractic Care May Help After A Failed Laminectomy

If you had a type of back surgery known as a laminectomy and it didn't work to stop your chronic back pain, no doubt you're feeling frustrated and maybe even depressed. Although your doctor probably warned you back surgery isn't always successful, it's still troubling to go through the operation and not feel much better. A chiropractor may be able to help relieve some of that chronic pain, since these practitioners specialize in treating problems with the musculoskeletal system.

Failed Back Surgery

During a laminectomy, the surgeon removes part or all of a bone that helps supports the spine. The intention is to take pressure off the nerve that is being irritated and causing pain. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the surgery doesn't always work. A patient can expect some pain during recovery, but it should dissipate after a few months.

Medically, when a patient continues to have pain for months after this type of operation, the problem is known as post-laminectomy syndrome. The condition also can cause muscle weakness, tingling, numbness and hypersensitivity in an area of the musculoskeletal system. Some individuals develop worse pain than they had before the operation.  

A Chiropractic View

A chiropractor may agree with the surgeon that the back surgery failed. However,, he or she may also believe that the surgery was not necessary in the first place and so was the wrong treatment for the problem.

Either way, this practitioner will want to provide nonsurgical and non-pharmaceutical pain treatment, and also move the spine back into proper alignment to resolve the underlying issue and the resulting pain. 

Possible Treatments

Spinal Decompression

The surgery you had done was intended to decompress the spine. Chiropractors use a nonsurgical technique known as flexion-distraction for spinal decompression. This is a specialized form of traction that gently and repetitively stretches and releases the spine, allowing bulging discs to gradually move back into place and to regain their normal hydration. It also takes pressure off irritated nerves when vertebral bones press against those nerves. 

You might need this type of treatment on a weekly basis for a few months. You're likely to see substantial improvement in your symptoms.  

Electrical Stimulation

Chiropractors, like physical therapists, sometimes use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, to relieve back pain. Years ago, people had to come to the clinic for this treatment, but portable models are available now.

During your evaluation, the practitioner will determine whether TENS therapy would be useful for you. If so, you can choose to have the therapy performed at the clinic or you can buy portable equipment and have the chiropractor teach you how to use it. 


In addition to these treatments, your chiropractor can recommend an exercise program that will help your back to heal. Activity that does not put jarring pressure on the spine is ideal. Instead of jogging, for example, take a casual walk instead. Swimming and biking tend to be good activities for patients at this stage of the healing process.

The chiropractor can also give you information on different stretches and other exercises you can do at home that are good for your back. 

Chiropractic Effectiveness For Post-Surgery Pain

A study published in 2011 found that for patients with low back pain in particular, chiropractic care -- including flexion-distraction -- was notably helpful in reducing post-surgery pain. 

Consult your doctor or your surgeon for a physical exam to make sure your back has fully healed from the surgery. You'll want to know this before you seek chiropractic care. Next, contact a chiropractor in your area and explain the problem you are having. Make an appointment for an evaluation and a discussion about your treatment options. After you begin therapy, you can look forward to feeling better again and returning to activities you used to enjoy.