The same day I saw the surgeon to schedule my surgery, I figured what the heck, I'll try anything before I get my back cut open. I went to a great, well-reviewed chiropractor, who gave me a thorough assessment and promised improvements in the next 2 months, such that I would not need surgery. I was very skeptical, but went along with it. Her adjustments and analysis did end up helping me a lot, and alleviated a lot of the pain coming from the sciatic nerve. But more than anything this bought me some time.
During this time, I read Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno . Many people recommended his work to me, but again, I was skeptical. I had an MRI scan showing very real structural damage to my spine and I truly didn't believe that thinking my way out of the pain would help. I read the book anyway, and I swear, the pain began dissipating. I began to adopt a new mindset -- my back is fine, the pain is arising out of my stress and awareness of the injury, not the injury itself-- and it truly worked. It's been over a year now since reading the book, and I feel leaps and bounds better. I'm back to doing the things I love (cycling, lifting weights, running), and I'm about 90% pain free. I still have some off days and I listen closely to my body when they happen. I stretch a lot, don't sit for hours at a time, and do basic mobility work every day -- these are things I want to be doing anyway, but my disc issue is even more impetus to do them.
If you're seriously considering surgery, do yourself a favor and read this book first. If you're anything like me, you'll be wildly surprised and completely grateful you did.