Q&A: Is fibrous scarring around nerve roots likely to cause pain?

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I had a laminectomy (L5) in 1984 and it improved things greatly for me as I no longer had pain from walking. However, I continue to have quite a lot of pain in my low back, piriformis and leg/foot. An MRI in 1991 showed that I had "fibrous scarring around the nerve roots" and I was offered an epidural, which I declined. I am 99.9% convinced that I have TMS in that I have had occasional completely pain-free periods but I'm having a tough time getting rid of all the pain even though I'm doing all the journaling, talking to my brain etc. I just wondered whether some of it could have a "physical" cause in view of the "fibrous scarring"?

When I had the laminectomy it was done as an emergency but I persuaded the surgeon to give me time to get a second opinion from a neurologist as repeated visits to doctors and physios over the previous 15+ years had led me to infer that they all thought my pain was "in my head", though nobody suggested what I should do about it.

After the operation the surgeon made a point of reassuring me that he had removed some "quite large fragments" and told me that he was confident that this would improve my leg pain on walking but that I would probably always have some pain.

This turned out to be true so I assume that the surgery was actually necessary. I had heard that once a disc is removed, other discs would come under more pressure and that was why I had further MRI scans in 1991, the outcome of which was that there was no sign of further disc prolapse but it showed the "fibrous scarring" and, as I was offered an epidural, I made the assumtion that this was the cause of my continuing pain.

What I am trying to discover is whether this is likely to be true. I am totally convinced that there is a large psychological component to my pain and I am finding that quite strenuous activity actually does me good, whereas sitting and standing still seem to exacerbate the pain; but until I know about the "fibrous scarring", I can't wholeheartedly tell myself that my back is perfectly healthy and that all my pain is due to TMS.

Answer by Georgie Oldfield, MCSP

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Georgie Oldfield, MCSP

Georgie Oldfield's Profile Page / Survey Response

The fact that you have pain free periods yet the scarring is constantly there indicates that it is a TMS symptom. Also if it was scarring causing the pain you would expect that to hurt when it is being stretched during your "strenuous activity", rather than while sitting and standing.

I have had a number of patients like you who have been told their pain is due to the scarring, whether it is after abdominal or spinal surgery, yet their pain has resolved after following the TMS programme.

The answer to your pain lies probably in the 0.1% that still doubts that it is TMS, so I hope this helps!


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