What is back surgery?

Different surgical procedures to remove or repair worn or damaged bones      (vertebrae) or discs in your spine. Back surgery may also be used to relieve pain due to pressure on nerves (sciatica).

The type of surgery recommended depends on the cause of your back pain.

Causes of back pain

A common cause of back pain and sciatica is a slipped disc (herniated disc), where a spinal disc presses down on a nerve.

Back pain can also be caused by spinal stenosis, narrowing of the spaces in your spine, which puts pressure on a nerve, or cauda equina syndrome, a rare and severe form of spinal stenosis. Back surgery may be used after a spinal injury, a fracture due to osteoarthritis or to repair a displaced bone in your back (spondylolisthesis).

Cancer can also cause back pain needing surgery. This is called metastatic spinal cord compression, where cancer from one part of your body has spread into the spine and the mass of cells presses on the spinal nerves.

Back surgery can relieve back pain and aims to let you move more freely without pain. Surgery can also help you become more active, improve your mood, reduce your need for pain medication and may get you back to work if you’ve had to take time off. But for many people, it may not be necessary. Your doctor will usually recommend it only after you’ve had back pain for some time and have tried other treatments that haven’t worked for you.

Non-surgical treatments

These treatments include:

Gentle exercise



Psychological therapy

Spinal injection therapy

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and will probably recommend an X-ray, a CT scan or an MRI scan. Our fast diagnostic service means you won’t have to wait long to find out if back surgery is right for you. At this appointment, your consultant will discuss which back pain treatment would be best for you and your lifestyle, so it’s a good time to talk about what you want.