I hurt my back at work six months ago and still haven't been able to go back. After going through rehab, I'm no better than I was at the time of the injury. I think I need surgery. How do I get this while in the workers' compensation system?

Each state has its own workers' compensation (WC) system. This means the ways things are done may vary. Contact your case manager and bring this question up. Most WC systems require two levels of medical tests to make a diagnosis. From there, the right treatment is prescribed. The conservative approach is usually followed.

Many times, surgery isn't considered until rehab has been completed and all other treatment has failed. The doctor's goal for the patient is to get the most medical improvement possible before treatment ends. Since most injuries heal within four to six weeks, any symptoms beyond the three-month mark are considered chronic.

Treatment of chronic pain can be different than treatment for an acute problem. Surgery isn't advised unless all tests show the patient is a good candidate. If you haven't seen a doctor for a second opinion, ask your case manager about this option. You may have to be prepared to accept what you hear, even if it's not what you want.