Every year upwards of 3 million visits to US emergency rooms occur due to back pain and in fact, at one time or another in our life most of us will need treatment for back pain. And not only do we know that people needed treatment for back pain thousands of years ago, but we also believe that animals experience back pain, for example, -horses and dogs develop spinal disc degeneration and spinal arthritis.
Only a very small percentage of individuals with back injuries or pain truly require spinal surgery and in many countries the rate of spinal surgery is much less than in the U.S. There are many reasons to be cautious with spinal surgical approaches, with some surgical procedures having low success rates. Unfortunately the success rate of spinal surgical procedures is far lower that that of more common procedures such as hip or knee replacements, for example.
In most instances spinal surgery should be postponed until AFTER conservative measures are wholeheartedly attempted, but unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. There are exceptions where immediate spinal surgery may be immediately warranted, such as with an unstable spinal fracture.
When possible, the wisest approach to most spinal problems is to exhaust non-surgical approaches first because most spinal conditions will respond as well or better to these less invasive approaches than to riskier surgical approaches.