According to ESPN.com, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said in August that the injury could keep Zetterberg out for the whole 2018-19 season and potentially force him into retirement.
Despite dealing with the back issue, the 37-year-old Zetterberg played in all 82 games last season and finished with 11 goals and 45 assists for 56 points.
Per ESPN.com, Zetterberg discussed the deteriorating condition of his back Tuesday:
"Every time I try to amp up my workouts, I get symptoms again. Surgery is not an option. Since February, it has slowly gotten worse—things like nerve pain down your legs, disk-related issues. I was able to find a way to get through it, but it has slowly gotten worse. I need someone to tell me I can't play hockey anymore."
Zetterberg played 15 NHL seasons, spending all of them with the Red Wings.
In 1,082 regular-season games, the 1999 seventh-round draft pick registered 337 goals and 623 assists for 960 points.
He also racked up 57 goals and 63 assists for 120 points in 137 playoff games.
The Njurunda, Sweden, native was named to two All-Star Games, won the 2007-08 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and won the 2014-15 King Clancy Memorial Trophy given to the player who "best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice."
Zetterberg was key in the Red Wings' Stanley Cup triumph in 2008, tallying 27 points in 22 playoff contests.
He was named Detroit's captain in 2013 following the retirement of defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and held that honor until bowing out.
In addition to his NHL accomplishments, Zetterberg won gold with Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympics and 2006 World Hockey Championships.
He was also a silver medalist at the 2014 Winter Games.
Zetterberg ranks fifth on the Red Wings' all-time scoring list behind only Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Alex Delvecchio and Lidstrom.