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When Back Pain Isn’t Caused by a Problem with the Spine

When a patient suffers from back pain that does not respond to physical therapy, general consensus is that the pain must originate from some type of problem involving the spine itself.  However, another more likely cause may stem from peripheral nerve damage.

Just like many other parts of the body, there are many peripheral nerves in the back sacral area that can be the source of chronic pain. Sometimes these nerves can be damaged directly due to traumatic injury. Sometimes they can become irritated or damaged as a result of spine surgery itself.

In this photo, you can see the many peripheral nerves around the spine.

Peripheral nerve damage in the back/sacral area can be the explanation for chronic back pain where no cause can be identified on MRI imaging or it can be the source of lingering pain even after a spine surgery.

If the source of chronic back pain is one or more damaged peripheral nerves, then no amount of spine surgery will fix the problem. Conversely, spine surgery likely will make the pain worse. I know this because many of my patients endure back pain of undiagnosed origin for years. Very often they undergo multiple surgeries, none of which help and sometimes cause an increase in their pain by surgically injuring peripheral nerves.

Patients who suffer from chronic back pain where no cause can be identified or who experience persistent back pain even after spine surgery should undergo a peripheral nerve evaluation to see if peripheral nerve damage might be the source of their pain. If it is, then the pain can usually be eliminated altogether via an outpatient surgical procedure.

Here are a few patients of mine who presented with lingering or persistent back pain. I was able to eliminate their pain through surgical procedures I have created.

Robert – Persistent Pain After Spine Surgery

Frederick’s Story – Sciatica Pain Gone

Barry’s Story – Low Back Pain Gone After Two Innovative Surgeries by Dr. Tollestrup

The blue bands pictured here are called Vessel Loops. They are soft elastic rubber bands that you can place around delicate structures like blood vessels or nerves to hold and manipulate them so you don’t have to touch them with metal instruments that could otherwise damage them. So each of those blue vessel loops are placed around a damaged peripheral nerve in the picture.

If you are suffering from back pain where no cause can be found through an MRI or if you have lingering back pain after surgery, call my office at 702-666-0463. I hope I can help you like I have helped these patients.

Tim Tollestrup MD