I'm not sure glucosamine/chondroitin works. My wife used it for her knee and it didn't help her. She eventually had a knee replacement and is doing fine.
Are there any large controlled studies that show that glucosamine/chondroitin is effective? What are it's side effects?
Surgery is not necessarily the last resort. Find a surgeon that does nothing but the surgery that you need and find out (independently if possible) what his/her success rate is. Often at large medical school hospitals doctors publish the results of their work. The peer review that the article goes through makes the published results more reliable. You can usually find this research on the Internet.
I had a major procedure done a few years ago at The Cleveland Clinic. Before I visited the physician I new what his success rate was by reading his research articles on the Internet. But, I still asked him what his success rate was on the first visit. What he told me was the same as in the published research.
When you visit a physician do your home work using the Internet beforehand. Learn as much as you can about your condition. For many common conditions there are web forums specific to a single condition. Reading these with a critical eye can help find treatments, physicians, etc.
Write down a list of all the questions you want to ask the physician. Take someone with you on physician visits. Four ears are better than two.
From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution. Charles Koch