Three years ago I had surgery for low back pain. I had a good recovery but reinjured myself last month. I'm looking at having another operation. Can I expect the same good results I had the first time after surgery?

You didn't say what kind of surgery you had in the past or plan to have in the future. Results do vary depending on the type of operation. For example, a recent study of over 3,000 patients who had back surgery did better when the operation was a spinal decompression instead of a spinal fusion.Decompression takes the pressure off spinal nerves.

Studies show that most patients do better after their first back operation. A second or third surgery doesn't have the same chance as the first one for an equally good result. In fact less than half the patients who've had surgery before report improvement after the second operation.

This information doesn't mean you shouldn't have the operation. Research shows that patients who have good rehab have the best results. Your rehab program should include management of your physical, social, and psychologic well-being. Talk to your doctor about getting a referral to a rehab program after your next operation.