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Interactive Tool: Should I Consider Surgery for My Low Back Problem? - What does this tool measure?


This interactive tool will not diagnose a back problem, but it will tell you whether surgery might help reduce or get rid of symptoms related to your low back problem. There are always risks with any surgery, so most people don't want to have surgery unless there is a very good chance it will help them. Although research shows that surgery is very likely to be effective for some problems, it rarely helps with others.

This tool will help you find out whether your own low back problem might be helped by surgery. After you use this tool, you can show the results to your doctor when you talk to him or her about surgery and your other options.

This tool is not meant for people in emergency situations. Talk to your doctor immediately if you have any of the following problems:

  • Bladder and/or bowel problems, including not being able to go to the bathroom as you normally do or not being able to control bowel movements or urination
  • Loss of feeling or rapidly decreasing feeling over your feet and heels or in your "saddle area," which includes any part of your body that might touch a saddle if you were on a horse, including your buttocks, your inner thighs, and the backs of your legs
  • Increasing pain, weakness, numbness, or problems with coordination in one or both legs
  • A fever for 2 or more days
  • A serious injury, an accident, or a big fall in the last 2 weeks
  • A history of spinal stenosis
  • A history of cancer

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 20, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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