Herniated disks can cause excruciating pain in the back and leg.
Back surgery to repair a herniated disk is one of the most common surgeries performed in the U.S.
However, some patients have recovered well without surgery with physical therapy and other treatments.
Now, a new study compared the two, and found that surgery was only slightly better than non-surgical treatment.
The study included more than a 1000 patients from 13 sites across the U.S.
Patients agreed to be assigned to have one treatment or the other.
Researchers compared surgery to non-surgery, tracking both treatment groups' recovery for two years.
"What patients need to do is be empowered with their doctors, to be knowledgeable about the risks and benefits of surgical or non-surgical treatment and take their preferences and their values into account when making these decisions with their doctors," explains Dr. James Weinstein at Dartmouth Medical School.
Again, both surgical and non-surgical patients improved over time.
However, the patients who opted for surgery improved a little more than the non-operative patients.