In a recent article published by Reuters Health, a research team from the University of Pittsburgh completed a study to find out what methods are better in helping with symptoms for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. They started with a research group of 481, surgery approved, patients. They had the option of joining in a study to see if surgery or Physical Therapy provided better rehab potential in symptom relief. After asking the patients and ruling out complications with previous underlying conditions, they ended up with 169. Though this is a small research group, it provides great information for those considering having surgery for their spinal stenosis.
The majority of patients have mildly active lifestyles with general weakness. Fifty percent of the group were chosen to do surgery right away. The other half were required to go to 6 weeks of Physical Therapy, twice per week, in which they could opt for surgery at any time during the study. Two years later, the outcomes were the same whether the patient had surgery or did Physical Therapy.
Most doctors require their patients to attend Physical Therapy even after a successful surgery. Recovery may be slow. Dr James Weinstein, not involved with the study, reports both options are appropriate and have the same outcomes. He feels surgery should always be the last option after trying Physical Therapy.
Though the two outcomes were the same, Physical Therapy and Surgery are two completely different options. Things to consider is the cost and time away from current recreational or work related activities. Also, the surgery has a 15% chance of complications, half of which are life threatening. Physical therapy is recommended prior to surgery as well for general strengthening to be able to recover following surgery better and faster.