I have some problems from a ruptured disc in my neck that's putting mild pressure on my spinal cord. My doctor said I may need surgery but that I could just wear a neck brace instead. Am I better off deciding to have surgery right away?

Chances are, you have some time to make your decision. A recent study observed patients who had disc herniations that caused mild symptoms of spinal cord pressure. Ten patients had surgery right away. Twenty-seven patients tried conservative treatment instead. They wore neck braces and limited their activities for three to six months. Seventeen of these patients (63 percent) did well without surgery. The others didn't do as well and wound up having surgery.

Later on, all three groups of patients--those who had surgery right away, those who had surgery later, and those who didn't have surgery at all--had the same amount of function.

Patients who didn't have surgery and those who waited to have surgery were both satisfied with their results. In fact, patients who had surgery after trying conservative treatment were a little more satisfied (90 versus 77 percent).

These results suggest that you may get good results from conservative treatment alone. Be sure to talk more with your doctor about what you can expect from conservative treatment.