Four out of my five closest friends have had a spinal fusion. We're all in our 70s with back pain. Should I have this done too?

It's true the longer we live the more likely we'll suffer from a degenerative condition in the spine. Spinal fusion has become a very popular way to treat the problem. Medicare reports a 57 percent increase in the number of enrollees who have had this operation in the last 10 years.

Spinal fusion accounts for 30 percent of all operations done on the spine. This is up from 23 percent 10 years ago.

Not everyone with back pain can benefit from a spinal fusion. And studies show about a 50 percent failure rate. The most common problem is increased motion at the next spinal segment. Ongoing research is underway to find a way to prevent this from happening.

There may be other ways to treat your back condition before surgery. See your doctor soon for an evaluation and find out what are your options.