“When it comes to treating lumbar spinal stenosis in the lower back area, physical therapy can be as effective as surgery, a University of Pittsburgh study has found,” the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports.

“And it might be the best option to try first.”


“The University of Pittsburgh study, published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found nearly equal success between physical therapy and decompression surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis, a degenerative condition that commonly occurs as people age. Narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar region from age, arthritis or many other factors can compress the spinal cord or the nerve roots exiting the spine to form large nerves. Resulting compression of these nerves can cause pain, numbness and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, thighs and legs. Decompression surgery is now the fastest-growing intervention in the older population.”

“Although proportions of successes were similar” between those who had surgery versus physical therapy, “there also were similar proportions of patients (in each group) who did not achieve a clinically meaningful level of improvement,” the study said.