* Have surgery in a multidisciplinary setting combining medical and mental-health care, physical therapy and other treatments. Patients do better with such an approach and are also more likely to return to work (Pain, 1992; 49: 221-30).
* Only have the operation if you are under 60. A more advanced age is associated with a higher risk of complications (J Bone Joint Surg, 1996; 78: 839-47).
* Stop smoking, as this reduces blood supply and so impairs healing.
* Check out your surgeon - make sure he is experienced in the operation and has a successful track record.
* Consider taking homoeopathic Arnica before and after the operation to aid healing and minimise bruising.
* Tell your surgeon and anaesthetist about any medications - traditional or herbal - that you are taking.
* If your operation involves a prosthetic disc, it may include titanium to encourage bone ingrowth. But, as a result of normal wear, titanium debris eventually accumulates, stimulating a macrophage and cytokine immune response which may have adverse effects on spinal tissues (Spine, 1999; 24: 899-903).
* Lose weight before you go under the knife as obesity can increase the usual risks of surgery (Rev Chir Orthop Repar Appar Mot, 2004; 90: 5-15).