Physical therapy may achieve the same symptom relief as surgical decompression in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Some 170 stenosis patients aged 50 or older who were candidates for surgery were randomized to surgical decompression or physical therapy (2 PT visits per week for 6 weeks). About 2% of the surgery group crossed over to PT, while 57% of the PT group crossed over to surgery.
Physical function, as measured by the Short-Form 36 Health Survey, improved to a similar extent in the two groups. Intention-to-treat analyses showed no significant differences between the groups at all points of follow-up, from 10 weeks through 2 years.
An editorialist concludes, “Patient preferences should weigh heavily in the decision of whether to have surgery” for lumbar spinal stenosis.