One medical lexicon defines conservative treatment as “a course of therapeutic action designed to avoid harm, with less possibility of benefit than more risky options.” What’s that mean to you? At the heart of it conservative treatment is an effort to make you better without taking drastic, immediate steps like surgery. Yes, a surgery could possibly make you much better than can physical therapy but PT is a lot less risky than surgery. And if PT fails surgery is still an option. Every doctor is a little different in their view of how much non-invasive treatment needs to be attempted before considering surgery.
Note, however, that the notion of conservative treatment as a potential cure fits like a hand in the glove with an adjuster’s mentality of not paying for anything expensive right away. As a practical matter, what conservative treatment will mean to you is that your doctor and your adjuster will likely go with x-rays well before they do an MRI. Likewise, they will opt for physical therapy and epidural steroid injections before they suggest surgery. Each of these is intended to help you heal and does so while putting you at less risk than with a surgery. And coincidentally they cause the insurance company less money.