Physical Therapy Equal to Surgery for Spinal Stenosis

By: Laura Wenger, PT, DPT

The public website for the American Physical Therapy Association, MoveForwardPT.com, recently published an article that is important for anybody with lumbar spinal stenosis to pay attention to.1 The article highlights a recently published randomized control trial (the gold standard of clinical trials) that compared function in patients two years after being randomized to either surgery or physical therapy treatment for their lumbar spinal stenosis related back pain.1,2 This study found significant results that are of benefit for anybody considering decompression surgery for their low back.

Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a condition in which the space where the nerves exit the spine becomes smaller, usually due to boney growths and other degenerative changes.2 The participants in the study, who had all been diagnosed with LSS and were aged 50 or older, were randomized to either undergo surgery or participate in 12 physical therapy visits at the frequency of twice per week for six weeks.2 After two years, the patients followed up with a survey regarding their overall function, and no significant difference was found between the two groups.2

This information is important because when one is deciding between surgery and physical therapy to deal with back pain due to LSS, surgery is proven to be more risky and costly.2 If there is equal success in functional improvements achieved by attending a regimen of physical therapy, the choice is obvious.1,2 If you have recently been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and want to find out more about how physical therapy can help improve your function, contact us to set up an appointment today.

  1. Physical Therapy Equal to Surgery for Spinal Stenosis. Move Forward PT. May 2015. Available at: http://www.moveforwardpt.com/DidYouKnow/Detail.aspx?cid=457c02af-e7ca-4515-9d98-d51c9a5805d1#.VVyeDkYrYxd. Accessed May 20 2015.
  2. Delitto A, Piva SR, Moore CG, et al. Surgery versus nonsurgical treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis: a randomized trial.