Physical therapy and other nonoperative treatments are just as effective at reducing pain and disability as surgical spinal fusion for patients suffering from degenerative disc disease (DDD), according to a recently published study conducted at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
Results of the study, which were published ahead of print in World Neurosurgery, show that among 96 patients treated for DDD, there were no significant differences in outcomes between the 53 who were treated with lumbar fusion and the 43 who chose to pursue nonoperative treatment. Measured outcomes included pain, health status, disability, and overall satisfaction. All patients were cared for by the same physiatrist.
All of the subjects in the study received a diagnostic lumbar discography procedure between 2003 and 2009, and were offered fusion surgery based on the discogram and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results. Researchers found that while all patients reported significantly lower pain scores, data for the 2 groups "do not demonstrate a significant difference for standardized outcomes measures of pain, generalized health status, satisfaction, or disability."
Results from an APTA survey found that 61% of Americans experience low back pain, but only 4 in 10 seek relief through movement. The APTA patient-focused Move Forward website offers a host of low back pain resources for physical therapists (PTs) and their patients, including audio presentations and an e-book on low back pain and how PTs can help. Treatment of low back pain was the subject of a 2-day series of presentations at the 2013 APTA Conference in Salt Lake City in June, as well as the focus of several CEU courses in APTA's Learning Center.
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