Weighing the Decision: When to Consider Back Surgery and When to Steer Clear

Back surgery can be performed for different reasons, including tumor removal, nerve decompression, or spinal stabilization. However, it isn’t a light decision to make because it involves a key body part.

To help you make better choices, this article discusses when you should have back surgery and when it may not be necessary.

Why You May Want To Avoid Back Surgery

Back surgery may look like the quickest route to recovery when dealing with chronic pain.
However, there’s more to consider than just surgical recovery time. Other important considerations include side effects from surgery and the possibility that your symptoms might get better or even worsen.

Bryan Hathaway, a physical therapist certified in mechanical diagnosis and treatment, said most surgeons will inform people that any surgery is commonly the last option. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, back surgery is more risky than other surgeries because of how closely surgeons work to the central nervous system.

Can Surgery Make Symptoms Worse?

Back surgery manipulates soft tissue, nerves, blood vessels, and bone. Any trauma caused by the procedure to these body parts could worsen your pain or introduce new symptoms.

What Is The Back Surgery Success Rate?

While each type of back surgery has its success rate, the procedure has an overall 40% failure rate. This happens so often that the cluster of symptoms experienced after the operation is known as “failed back surgery syndrome.”

Who Is Not A Good Candidate For Back Surgery?

Your doctors usually determine surgical candidacy and involve a review of individual factors such as your overall health and pre-existing conditions. For example, you may be disqualified from having back surgery due to severe osteoporosis or increased infection risk.

Who Is A Good Candidate For Back Surgery?

Common conditions that could qualify you for back surgery include:
● Spinal tumors
● Herniated disk
● Scoliosis

When Is Back Surgery Necessary?

Undergoing back surgery might be necessary if you’re:

● Experiencing unmanageable, burning pain
● Living with a potentially life-threatening condition
● Diagnosed with severe spinal instability

What Can You Do Instead of Back Surgery?

Generally, Hathaway said you should focus on healthy living practices that can improve your well-being. He also said you can try conservative care, such as:

● Physical therapy
● Yoga
● Massage therapy
● Pain management treatment


Back surgery can be important and necessary for many people. However, the risk of surgical complications and low success rate means it should be avoided when possible.
Alternatively, you can make healthy lifestyle changes and try alternative treatments such as physical therapy or yoga, which can relieve symptoms while your back heals naturally.