Physical therapists now have serious ammunition to prove that physical therapy can be a better option than surgery.
The Harvard Health Blog, recently released an overview of a study released in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which states that for lumbar spinal stenosis, physical therapy works just as well as surgery, and has few complications in many situations.
Comparing surgery vs. physical therapy
The study was conducted with 169 Pittsburgh area men and women who all had agreed to an eventual laminectomy to correct the narrowing of their spine that was causing low back pain. However, 50 percent of the participants underwent surgery immediately, while the other half went through a specific physical therapy program and only had surgery if it was still necessary after therapy.
The results prove success with physical therapy
According to the study, in both groups, all participants saw improvement after 10 weeks, and after 4 months they felt their physical function improve and their pain go down. What is most exciting for physical therapists, however, is that even after 2 years, those who had received only physical therapy had just as much relief from pain as those who had received the surgery.
In addition to having no difference from the participants who received surgery, they also did not have as many complications as those who had received surgery. Twenty-five percent of the surgery group reported complications, whereas only 10 percent of the physical therapy group reported any issues.
Why have surgery if you don’t need it?
This study gives physical therapists quite a bit of persuasion when it comes to convincing patients to try physical therapy first. Traditionally doctors thought that surgery was the logical next step after conservative treatments like injections and pain medicine. With this study just released, and also various other studies, including one on rotator cuff tears, the power of physical therapy as an alternative to surgery is obvious.
Educating patients and doctors is key!
Convincing Doctors to prescribe Physical Therapy First, as a logical step before surgery, requires getting the word out about great studies like this one. The American Physical Therapy Association has an awesome blog that helps patients, therapists and doctors to find studies and become educated about treating specific types of pain and injuries. These articles can be a springboard for conversations with patients and doctors. Physical Therapy offers less expense, less complications, and more patient empowerment, and now there are studies to prove it!