Turning your back on back surgery

Men considering surgery for back pain relief may benefit from more conventional treatment methods.

Back pain remains one of the top reasons people seek medical care for pain. For many older men, the source of their pain is spinal osteoarthritis.

Finding relief is an ongoing struggle, but men should think hard before turning to surgery without first trying less invasive treatments. "No one ever goes from initial back pain to needing surgery, unless the pain is due to something like cancer or an infection," says Dr. Steven Atlas, an internist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "You can't fix arthritis. Surgery may help control the pain in some cases, so you can function better, but it won't cure your pain — no matter what doctors may promise."

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