On my rehab unit, I often see patients who have a diagnosis of "intractable pain" - pain that simply doesn't respond to treatment. The cause of intractable pain may be known, but often (at least, in my experience) it isn't. Because of this, intractable pain is very frustrating.
We see a lot of people on our rehabilitation unit for intractable back pain. Often, these people have had to undergo extensive surgery in an effort to relieve what painkillers could not. Does surgery solve their problem? Yes, and no. Yes, because the problem itself - the cause of the pain - may have been removed. But the answer is also no, because these patients come to us in a de-conditioned state. They still have pain, not because their surgery was unsuccessful, but because the muscles in their back are sore from increased activity. Sadly, it can be hard to tell the difference between the old pain and muscle soreness, which is why we often use a different approach when treating patients with this particular diagnosis.
Some of the different techniques we use to treat post-surgical back pain: