jarbaby, my sympathies on your back pain. However, I’m with the other folks who’ve said surgery is not necessarily the answer. It might not completely resolve the problem, and it could well make the pain worse. (I researched the topic of back pain a while back for my mother, who has chronic pain and a host of other symptoms from a long-ago injury, exacerbated by both the corrective surgeries and my birth.)
It sounds like you don’t have a lot of faith in your doctor. (And who can blame you?) But when you’re dealing with an issue like chronic pain, you need to be able to communicate with your doctor, and trust that he’ll listen to you. I realize how hard it is to find an orthopedic surgeon who will listen - why are so many orthos jerks? - but it is usually possible to force a doctor to listen, to a certain extent.
When you see your doctor, start out in a non-confrontational way, asking what the next step is now that the MRI looks fine. (He may well have a next step; he certainly should. Lots of people have pain with clear MRIs.) If he’s got a next step, all is well and good.
But if he belittles your problem, blows you off, or doesn’t make any real effort, make his life difficult. Say you are in pain, point out that pain and pathologies that show up on film are not necessarily correlated, and then ask him how he intends to solve your medical problem. If he says that you don’t have a problem, remind him that the pain is your problem. And don’t let him tell you it should improve, or that you shouldn’t be feeling pain - if he does either one of those things, you say “But I am feeling pain. It isn’t improving. It is interfering with my quality of life and my ability to work. Something needs to be done.”
Act calm but determined. Don’t let him leave the room. Keep talking. Make it clear that you will not go away without an answer.
Sooner or later, he will come up with something, just to get rid of you. It might be another referral, which is fine - the new doctor may be smarter or more communicative or more willing to treat than the old doctor. It may also be a new med, a new idea, whatever. Try it, and if it doesn’t work, make another appointment and do the whole thing again.
The time factor is the key to forcing a doctor to listen. If you take up enough of his time, the pressure will temporarily switch from you to him. He’ll be thinking of his waiting room filling up, his lunch hour disappearing, the rounds he still needs to do over at the hospital, the calls he still has to make, and every minute that passes will make his problems worse. This is true of virtually all doctors.
The only problem with this method is that sometimes, by the time it’s come to this, you’re too depressed and exhausted from being in pain and coping with your problem to be able to do it. So if you don’t think you can do this, take someone with you who can. You’re allowed to have someone in the examining room with you. Pick someone who knows how bad the problem is, is very stubborn, and is not impressed by doctors.
Again, my sympathies. Here’s hoping you feel better soon.