Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) who followed an evidence-based, standardized physical therapy (PT) regimen achieved similar symptom relief and improvements in physical functioning as those who underwent surgical decompression, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

LSS is an anatomical impairment characterized by narrowing of the spinal canal or nerve root foramen that causes pain, weakness in the lower back, buttocks, and thighs.

LSS is the most often cited cause for lumbar surgery in the United States and studies comparing surgical with nonsurgical treatment of LSS have been done but outcomes are unclear.

Patients with LSS who were surgical candidates and who provided consent for surgery were randomly assigned to either evidence-based, standardized PT two times per week for six weeks or surgical decompression.

After treatment, no differences were detected between the two groups with respect to relieving symptoms and improving function.

Both groups began to show improvement at 10 weeks and continued to improve through 26 weeks.

Improvements were maintained for both groups through the two-year follow up.