Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: Non-Surgical Options Compared

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Michael Schneider DC, PhD Associate Professor School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences  University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Schneider

Dr. Michael Schneider DC, PhD
Associate Professor
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Pittsburgh

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is one of the fastest growing problems in the country due to its aging population. One third of Medicare users have the condition, and it is the number one reason for spine surgery in this population. Existing research evaluates the benefits of nonsurgical treatment options compared to surgery, but there was no existing research that compared the available nonsurgical options to each other to determine the best course of treatment for each patient.

We studied three nonsurgical treatments for LSS: medical management with medications and/or epidural injections, individualized care with a physical therapist or chiropractor, and group exercise. We assessed each of these treatment methods with a questionnaire, a walking distance test, and a physical activity monitor. 

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Physical Therapy May Equal Surgery For Spinal Stenosis, But Many Patients Don’t Complete Treatments

Anthony Delitto, PT, Ph.D, FAPTA Professor and Chair Department of Physical Therapy Associate Dean for Research, SHRS School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Pittsburgh,MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Anthony Delitto, PT, Ph.D, FAPTA

Professor and Chair
Department of Physical Therapy
Associate Dean for Research, SHRS
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Pittsburgh

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Delitto: I work with a team, many of whom were authors on the paper, and we see a lot of patients with lumbar spinal stenosis. Some of them did very well with Physical Therapy and avoided surgery. Some people didn’t do well and we ended up having surgery. We really wanted to do a study that compared, in a randomized format, doing surgery vs. a non-surgical approach to lumbar spinal stenosis. The idea we had was to really put the two approaches head to head – a randomized trial of surgery vs. physical therapy for people with lumbar spinal stenosis. We decided only to recruit patients after they had consented to surgery in order to avoid the pitfalls of previous studies where people crossed over after being assigned to a group, for example, being assigned to surgery and then deciding against having surgery.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Delitto: Probably the biggest point to put across to physicians, patients and practitioners, one of the things we realized was: patients don’t exhaust all of their non-surgical options before they consent to surgery. And physical therapy is one of the non-surgical options. The obvious finding is, when you compare the two groups, they seem to do the same. The results were equivalent at two years. Now, embedded in that, there are patients who did well in surgery, and patients who failed in surgery. There are patients who did well in Physical Therapy, and there are patients who failed with PT. But when we looked across the board at all of those groups, their success and failure rates were about the same. So it tells us that for the most part there were equivalent outcomes at two years.

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