Back pain is one of the most common reasons for visiting a health care professional. And, as we age, back and neck pain can increase the narrowing of the spinal canal, putting pressure on the spinal cord and the adjacent nerves, causing spinal stenosis. Primarily a degenerative condition, it is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 50 and frequently affects the lower back.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons there are approximately 1.2 million Americans with back and leg pain related to any type of spinal stenosis, whether it is cervical spinal stenosis or lumbar spinal stenosis. It is also one of the most common back surgeries for people over the age of 65. Symptoms include: low back pain, pain radiating down the leg, numbness and tingling of the leg.

New study shows similar long-term outcomes for spinal stenosis comparing conservative care and surgery. 

A much-anticipated study published in the journal SPINE, concluded that after eight years, patients who had surgery and those that opted for conservative care, including physical therapy and medications, had similar outcomes and there was no significant difference with regard to pain, functioning, or disability between the two groups.

The study, did, however, find that patients who had surgery did better in the first few years, and over the eight-year time span, 18% required a second procedure.

Most patients respond well to physical therapy 

This is an important study and confirms what we see on a regular basis,” said Michael McKindley of Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation. “The majority of stenosis patients do NOT need surgery and respond very well to physical therapy. Specific manual techniques are used on the individual joint(s) that has stenosis.  In addition, we educate and teach our patients core strengthening and stretching exercises that help stabilize and support the spine. Designed to be performed at home, these personalized programs can easily be incorporated into daily routines.”

Good News! If surgery is needed “rehabilitation” will help the recovery process

After going through a physical therapy program, if a patient eventually has surgery, there is good news. All the hard work essentially becomes “prehabilitation,” and will aid the post-surgical rehabilitation process, generally with a quicker and less painful recovery. In fact, Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation highly recommends any patient undergoing orthopedic or spine surgery, if time permits, to go through  “prehab” to ensure the best possible surgical outcome and recovery.

We understand the decision to have surgery is very personal between the patient and surgeon, with many factors involved. However, this evidence-based study validates the long-term benefits of treating spinal stenosis with physical therapy, and may be worth considering in the decision making process.

All adults have some form of spinal stenosis; most are not symptomatic. Regardless, everyone, no matter the age, should make a commitment to focus on core strengthening for general good health.

We are Here to Help. Contact us Today.

Orange Office: 714.547.1140

Costa Mesa Office: 949.631.0125