The herniated disc, or bulge, can press on the nerves in the spine, causing pain. Some people can tolerate the pain with physical therapy, medications and steroid injections. But others choose surgery to remove that bulge that causes the pain.
In an effort to determine which approach is best, Dr. Weinstein's launched a major study of over 1,200 patients with back pain. He says he thinks that sometimes people are too quick with surgery. "I think that it be important for people to have good information," he adds.
Whether you have surgery often depends on where you live and what doctor you see. Earlier studies show that a patient is 20 times more likely to have surgery in Idaho Falls, Missoula and Mason City, as compared to Newark, Bangor and Terre Haute.
"It is so interesting that geography is destiny," Dr. Weinstein says. "It's not rational."
But no matter where you live, surgery is not necessarily the best or only option. In fact, Dr. Weinstein's findings, released today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, conclude that surgery is only slightly more effective in some cases than a non-surgical approach.