Two new studies out Wednesday cast doubt on whether a common and costly operation used to relieve leg and back pain is always needed.

The studies found that the procedure, known as spinal fusion, wasn't any more effective at helping people walk or do daily tasks than a simpler surgery to relieve pressure on squeezed spinal nerves, a condition called spinal stenosis.

One study found fusion might improve a patient’s quality of life, though -- a result researchers say is important and should help guide people in their treatment decisions.

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