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Q. How will I know whether surgery is needed?
A. The first decision that must be made is whether your problem is very serious, or less serious. Some problems need immediate attention - possibly even surgery. For example, if you have significant muscle weakness or have nerve pressure that is affecting your bowels or bladder, you may require immediate surgery. If you have pain that cannot be tolerated or you are unable to gain reasonable function for daily activity, surgery may be suggested.
The good news is that the majority of back problems do not require surgery. Once the most likely cause of your problem has been determined (once your diagnosis is made), you and your doctor can decide on a plan for taking care of your back now and into the future. A variety of treatment options exist for different types of back pain. In most cases, conservative therapies such as mild pain medications and rest are effective in relieving the immediate pain. The overall goal of treatment is to make you comfortable as soon as possible, design a program to reduce further pain and injury, and get you back to normal activity as soon as possible. The more you know about how your back works and what you can do to prevent further injury, the better your program will work.