One of the most common myths about spine surgery is that you will not be
able to work after a back operation. In the Scientific American journal,
Richard Deyo discussed a series of myths about back pain. Other myths
- if you have a slipped disc, you must have surgery
- x-rays and other tests can always locate the cause of the pain
- if your back hurts, you need bed rest; and
- most back pain is caused by an injury.
Most back pain is caused by wear and tear, not injury. Doctors call
this “arthritis” and some is normal. If you don’t have any, you haven’t
worked hard enough.
If you have back pain, you should avoid bed rest. Most back pain will
improve with exercise. Strengthening back muscles decreases the stress on
For many with back pain, a specific cause is never found. The “wear and
tear” cannot always be seen by x-ray or MRI. Even if you see arthritis,
you cannot be sure that it is causing the pain.
Surgery is not needed for most patients who have slipped discs. Most
slipped discs will heal in time with exercise, medications, and other
Finally, even if you need a surgery, you will not likely be disabled.
Most return to their original work. After surgery, for most people, only
very heavy lifting and impact activities, such as jogging, are precluded.
If someone wants you to rush to surgery, common sense would say that
you should get a second opinion.