How do I Know if I Need Back Surgery?
Treatment for back pain generally depends on what kind of pain you experience: acute or chronic. 1
- Pain that hits you suddenly—after falling from a ladder or
lifting a load that is too heavy, for example—is acute pain. Acute
pain comes on quickly and often leaves just as quickly. To be
classified as acute, pain should last no longer than 6 weeks. Acute
pain is the most common type of back pain.
- Acute back pain usually gets better on its own and without treatment.
- Chronic pain, on the other hand, may come on either quickly
or slowly, and can linger a long time. In general, pain that lasts
longer than 3 months is considered chronic. Chronic pain is less
common than acute pain.
- In the vast majority of chronic cases, back pain does not require surgery. Doctors will nearly always try nonsurgical treatments before recommending surgery.
1 Handout on Health: Back Pain. National Institute of
Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.